This was originally published in 2016, and it’s suuuuper long. But in honor of my 18th (EIGHTEENTH!!!) anniversary yesterday, I’m sharing it again.
Kids, I’m going to tell you an incredible story, the story of how I met your father…
My family moved right before my junior year of high school. Your Grandma and Grandpa (My Mom and Dad) were thrilled with the new place, and your aunts (my sisters) were too young to care, but for me it was The Worst Thing Ever. Cancelled plans, loneliness, depression, blah, blah, blah. It was a real bad time there for a while. But as I’ve said before, I eventually made friends and things turned out just fine. More than fine. Great, actually. I met life-long friends; teachers and church leaders that would have a profound affect on me; and your grandparents, aunts, and uncles (the other ones: my future in-laws); and eventually I was also able to meet your father.
In 1998 I was a senior, ready to graduate from high school. I knew your father’s family through church, school and their catering business (just pray YOU never have to scrape burnt chili out of their ginormous 6,000 gallon
cauldron pot). I knew they had a son out on a mission because I saw his mission plaque with his picture in the hallway at church. I thought he was cute, but since I was only 16 and still in high school and he was 19 and on a mission, I didn’t give him much thought in the almost two years we’d lived there. One night his stepdad was driving his sisters and I to a (sadly disappointing) swing dance lesson, and was telling us that I would be perfect for his stepson who was coming home from his mission soon. It wasn’t the first time someone had suggested this: in the past couple weeks 2 other people had brought up the same thing. I was becoming very intrigued by this mystery missionary and I started looking forward to the day he would get home so I could meet this “perfect for me” guy. The more I heard about him, the more I just so happened to walk by the plaque in the hallway at church (there was no Facebook stalking way back in the 20th century). Eventually, I started literally counting down the days til his return.
I had obsessed over many a guy since first grade when I had my first “boyfriend,” I even kept a constantly changing list in my journal of a dozen or so guys that I just “LOVED”! But I rarely had a guy I liked actually like me back, even though guys liked me that I didn’t like back (life is so cruel), so I had no reason to think that meeting him would lead anywhere. Plus, c’mon, he was an actual adult and I was just a teenager. But, being as obscenely boy-crazy as I was, the closer it got to his return, the more excited I became. Contributing to my hysteria was the fact that in the three days between his arrival home and the following Sunday, which I assumed would be my first opportunity to get a glimpse of him in person, I ran into multiple people who said they’d already met him. I could not believe this. Who WAS this guy that everyone in the surrounding community had met him except for me? Extremely melodramatic, I know, but at the time this situation was a twist of irony so puzzling that I JUST KNEW The Fates must be conspiring against me ON PURPOSE.
That Sunday I made for dang sure that I was sufficiently fluffed, primped and polished for church. And would you believe it, that punk didn’t even show up? What kind of returned missionary doesn’t go to church, I ask you? Well as it turns out, a returned missionary who hasn’t seen his family in two years and after spending some time with his mom and stepdad wanted to spend time with his dad (alright, I’ll allow it).
The following Monday, my family met with two other families we were friends with for a joint “Family Home Evening.” As we ate dinner I must have been telling them how a friend and I were complaining about finding dates for prom. It was only two weeks away so we were considering taking drastic measures and asking guys ourselves.
“Guys are so stupid,” we lamented, “we’ll probably even have to do the asking when we get engaged someday.” We bitterly laughed at that pathetic statement.
The matriarch of the household, who also happened to be my Sunday School teacher, tried to convince me to call the aforementioned returned missionary and ask him to go with me to prom. The idea was so ludicrous that I wouldn’t even entertain it. Ask an adult on a blind date to a high school dance? Absurd. Unthinkable. I may have been looking forward to meeting this guy, but I wasn’t going to call him. No. Absolutely not.
After trying to convince me all night, she finally took matters into her own hands. This exasperating woman, bless her little heart, had the audacity to actually pick up the phone and, get this: CALL HIM HERSELF!
I. Was. Mortified.
His mother answered the phone and said that he was busy giving someone a priesthood blessing or something spiritual like that. Whew! I was off the hook. That was a close one. I’m not gonna lie though, the fact that he was busy serving people and being all righteous and whatnot was certainly impressive.
“He’s going to call back in a minute,” She said.
“Don’t worry, he’ll call back.”
I sure hoped not. But sure enough, a few minutes later he did call back and told her that he would go with me if I would call him myself.
Pssh. Not happening. Not a chance. Never in a million years.
And yet…this was an interesting development. He was willing. Committed, even. But I just Could. Not Even. I sat at the head of the dining room table for what seemed like hours while every female in the house; including various mothers, friends, and sisters; sat around trying to convince me to call him. I don’t know what finally did it, but it may have been something along the lines of, “You won’t be allowed to leave this table and none of us can have dessert until you call him.” Dessert, you say? Fine then.
I went downstairs with the cordless phone and shut the door behind me. I called his number and a guy answered. I was literally shaking and with heart pounding, I mumbled as fast as I possibly could, “hithisisCrystalCollettewillyougotomypromwithme.”
“Sure, I’d be thrilled!” he said, sounding a little too chipper, but it made me feel better anyway.
I heard giggling on the phone. My friends were on the other line upstairs listening to the whole conversation. Oh well, I would have done the same thing.
“Can I meet you first?” he asked.
Whoa, how did I not see this coming?
“OK,” was all I muttered.
We set up a date for the next night. He picked me up in his mom’s white minivan. It was pouring rain but he got out of the car and ran all the way around to open the door for me anyway. Every time. He was a very sweet gentleman all night, and I had a good time. But he was still very much a missionary. He’d only been home for 5 days so he hadn’t quite adjusted to life “on the outside.” He asked every single person we encountered if they were interested in learning about Jesus Christ. Pretty adorable, actually. His love of the gospel is definitely one of the things I love most about your father. But on a date, it was weird. He was a little weird. But that didn’t stop me from going out with him again. And again. And about every other night over the next two weeks.
The night of Prom he picked me up in his dad’s car: something red that was supposed to be really cool (I still know nothing about cars). We hung out with my friends and as he recalls, I abandoned him for way too long fixing wardrobe malfunctions with them in the bathroom. Poor guy, it’s not like he knew anyone there. Although he did see someone there from his graduating class, which is even more awkward. We had fun dancing and I was nervous taking pictures with him because he held me so close! On the way home from the dance we went to return his dad’s car to him and pick up his dad’s friend or something. We had to sit in the back where there wasn’t enough room for our knees so we sat sideways, facing each other. Our hands were on our knees and when they brushed he took my hand. I felt a shiver go up my spine and I thought, “OK, I definitely like this guy.”
To this day we still argue about the first slow song we ever danced to. He says it was “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic, which was a huge craze my Senior year of high school.
But the way I remember it, which is of course how it really happened, is that the song from Titanic was the last song of the night. But right before that they played a different slow song and THAT is the first song we ever slow-danced to. That song, which is infinitely better than “My Heart Will Go On,” is “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers (I still love you though, Celine).
Sigh. What a great love song.
After that, we kept dating. I graduated from high school and left for BYU. He followed me there but after a little while I got freaked out about seriously dating a guy ready for marriage when I was still only 17 and fresh out of high school.
We semi-dated here and there, still wanting to date each other, but giving ourselves the option to date other people. Hint: that never works. I wanted him to ask me to the homecoming dance, but since he was not yet a student at The Y, he didn’t think he was allowed to. Someone else did ask me, so I went with that guy. It was fun and I started hanging out with him more, but I still really liked your father and spent much of my time trying to get him to ask me out.
I got tired of waiting and finally called him to ask him to some basketball thing. I guess I was afraid of being too obvious about my feelings and wanted this outing to NOT seem like a date so I invited a few friends to come along. As we came downstairs, my date from homecoming was in the lobby. He somehow joined us too and our group just kept growing. We all piled in your dad’s car and I ended up sitting in the back with the other guy and your poor father was in the front, chauffeuring us all around. At the event I was sitting between the two of them. Your dad was sitting as far away from me as was humanly possible, while this other guy was practically on my lap. My attempt to date your father without really dating your father was backfiring (go figure). The one I liked thought I was “friendzoning” him and the one I did want to “friendzone” thought I was on a date with him. Your dad started to leave, and seeing everything blow up in my face, I jumped up and followed him. I explained to him that he was the one I liked and the one I was trying to be on a date with, which made him feel better. Honesty: who knew, right?
Though still not “officially dating,” he later invited me to a Halloween dance. We had so much fun and it just felt so comfortable to be with him. On Halloween night he came with my roommate and some friends trick-or-treating (no extra guys this time) and we had a blast. I went back to his apartment afterward and we watched Singin’ in the Rain (still one of my favorites) and cuddled on the couch.
After Halloween we started dating for real. We both realized we just didn’t like anyone else nearly as much as we liked each other. We were definitely falling in love. One night, right before we went to the preference dance (where girls are supposed to do the asking) we sat in his car and talked for a really long time. As we discussed the possibility of marriage I was overwhelmed with a feeling of love. Not just for your father, but from God. It was the message from The Spirit I needed to know that even though I was only 18 and still a freshman in college, I had found my future husband.
We got engaged after Christmas and were married exactly one year and 2 days after we’d met.
And that, kids, is how I met your father. And how we fell in love. It’s scary to take those chances that could easily turn out either to be death by humiliation or your Best Decision Ever. But as Ted Mosby once said, “If you’re not scared, you’re not taking a chance. If you’re not taking a chance, then what the hell are you doing?” Life and love require a little risk, a lot of faith, and sometimes even plotting and manipulation from your Sunday School teacher who knows best.
Your father and I were married young, while still in college, and next year I will have been married to your father for half of my life. I will have spent as much time being married to him as NOT being married to him. Since that includes being a baby, which I don’t remember, most of my memories include your father. And there is not one person in the whole wide world that I would rather spend that life with. Not one man that I would consider the complete package of a perfect man for me. Obviously neither one of us is even close to perfect (you kids can attest to that), but who else would be the one to help me strive for better, be the perfect complement to my strengths and weaknesses, and be so patient, forgiving, sacrificing, loving, and thoughtful? 16 years and 5 kids later we’ve had many (many, many, many) trials, heartaches, and arguments; but we’ve had even more (way, way more) blessings, adventures and accomplishments. Life has ups and downs and is full of surprises. It’s a mixed bag. But there is no one else I’d rather pull surprises out of the bag with than him.
I absolutely love Lily and Marshall from, How I Met Your Mother. They remind me of your father and I because they’ve been a couple for like, forever. Like everyone they have issues. But they are perfect for each other. I love this interchange between them as they renew their marriage vows. They decide to rewrite them because it’s impossible to maintain the kind of perfection you imagine when you’re just starting out:
Lily: “I vow to cry less during this pregnancy.”
Marshall: “I vow to cry less during this Vikings season.
Lily: “Mmm, with that secondary, I wouldn’t make that promise.”
Marshall: “I vow to keep at least 80% of these vows.”
Lily: “That seems high.”
Marshall: “And I vow to keep updating them as we go. Because one set of vows, it can’t cover a lifetime of growing and changing with you. Of raising children with you, falling more and more in love with you every day, Lily Aldrin, which is what I vow to do for the rest of my life.”
Lily: “Crap. I already broke my crying vow.”
Marshall: “I’ll forgive you.”
And that is how “happily ever after” is done, kids: one vow-renewal and update and “I’ll forgive you” at a time.