Today marks fifteen years since Geoff and I married!
Geoff and I met at church. Not a bad place to meet someone. I had just moved to London, Ontario to study business at the University of Western Ontario. I had visited London a couple of years before, when my brother was attending UWO, and, during my visit, I attended church with him and my sister-in-law. So, when I later moved to London and wanted to attend church somewhere, I gravitated to the church I'd gone to with them. On my first Sunday in London, I walked through the front door of West London Alliance Church, accompanied by two other UWO students in my class. The first person we met was a guy who introduced himself as the person heading up the programs for university students; his name was Geoff Branson. He invited us to a bbq that was happening that Friday. I didn't learn until later that he never thought I'd come; I think he thought that I was some high-falutin (to quote Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables) masters student who would never deign to come to a church bbq (talk about making snap judgments...I mean, really).
Surprise...I showed up. I remember getting out of my little red Ford Tempo at the back of the church and seeing Geoff right away, grilling something at the bbq and laughing with someone who was standing there with him. My first two thoughts happened pretty much simultaneously: first, that he was wearing the most god-awful shorts I'd ever seen (skimpy little white and tight tennis thingies); second, that, if nothing else, his hideous shorts highlighted great legs! (Incidentally, he still has good legs...they're just showcased a little better nowadays.)
That fall, Geoff and I became friends, fairly quickly and easily. We went out for breakfast or to a movie occasionally; I saw him at church regularly; and I helped him organize some of the events that he had scheduled for the church's student rec programs. Over a short period of time, we got to know each other quite well and I enjoyed his company. In an effort to avoid any misunderstandings, I told him once when we met for breakfast that the summer before moving to London I'd ended a disastrous relationship with someone, and that I'd resolved to have no further interest in dating or marriage. Geoff seemed a bit shocked by my pronouncement but seemed otherwise fined with it.
Nonetheless, at some point in December, I noticed with some anxiety that he seemed to be interested in more than a friendship; this was confirmed when he asked me to attend a performance of Handel's Messiah with him shortly before Christmas...somehow it seemed more formal and date-like than our previous arrangements. I agreed to go but then regretted it, fearing that I was conveying a message that I didn't intend to. Sigh. Here's the part where, not knowing how to handle the situation, I ended up doing something rather nasty. The night before the performance, in a state of frantic misgiving, I phoned up another student in my UWO classes (who I knew was interested in Geoff), and asked if she was interested in going with Geoff to the concert. She immediately said 'yes,' so I phoned Geoff and told him that she was interested in going instead of me. I shake my head at myself in hindsight - I mean, really, that was neither a kind nor an appropriate thing to do. I can't believe Geoff didn't just toss me to the curb after that. The ironic part of it was that the next day, the day of the performance, I was in a pretty crappy mood all day, thinking about the concert and what I'd done. My disposition got even worse the following day when I found out that Geoff and 'the other woman' had had a really good time together at the concert - they'd even gone out for coffee afterwards! I was not pleased...with myself, most of all.
Almost to my surprise, when I returned to London in January after spending Christmas with my family, Geoff again asked me out...very clearly a date. Persistent fellow, he was...or brave! Because I felt badly about what I'd done at Christmas and because I recognized that some part of me was interested in him, I went out with him. But I was still anxious...when Geoff told me later that evening that he found me to be a delight, I just remember staring at him with a big, fixed smile glued onto my face, not sure what to say...or feel.
Over the next few months we continued to relate pretty much as we'd done the previous fall; I still wasn't interested in a relationship beyond that. Then, on April 01, I went out for coffee with a girlfriend who told me that Geoff was a really great guy and that I was crazy for not being interested in him. She actually cut our coffee time short and sent me home to think about it...him. I did just that, and ended up making a list (which I wish I still had). The list had two columns on it:
1. Qualities that would attract me to a man, IF I were interested in a relationship.
2. Qualities that I'd observed in Geoff.
The second column was longer than the first. Shocked, I sat in the living room of my tiny-but-cute apartment, realizing that perhaps my friend was right about this guy. List in hand, I phoned Geoff and told him that I'd changed my mind about him (not knowing until some time afterwards that he didn't know what I meant by that - did I hate him now? he wondered). He came over the next evening and we talked about it further. That evening we officially began dating.
Three weeks later, I left London for the summer months and didn't return until classes started in September (though Geoff came out for a weekend to spend time with me and meet my family). By October, we knew we were in love. On December 24, 1993, in front of an outdoor nativity scene in London's Victoria Park, and under the canopy of snow-encrusted trees, Geoff proposed. It was a lovely moment. Thus, when I started my final term at UWO in January, I was an engaged woman. Almost a year later, on December 17, 1994, surrounded by friends and family and thousands of tiny little white Christmas lights, we were married in my home church in the city where I grew up.
Happy Anniversary to Us! I love you Geoff!
To be continued tomorrow...