Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Life Story: A Year of Showing Colors


It was easy to fall straight in love with Christopher Erin Kendrick. His Mr. Darcyness--tall, quiet, handsomely aloof--intrigued me from the beginning. He was like a code that had to be cracked, and I wanted to crack it as soon as I could.

Our relationship started on a hot night in June 2001. He walked across the street from his white house on Fir to my parent's white house on Fir where I was living. My brother, and his friend, Topher was having a piano concert on the baby grand in the blue living room. I sat next to Christopher, sweating and flirty. He was wearing a key lime button down shirt which perfectly touched his olive oil skin.

After the concert we hid out on my mother's plush lawn chairs in the backyard. To the tune of crickets, I told him how I hoped to someday in live in a big house with a big family and a big wood burning stove that cooked perfect fry bread for neighbors and friends on Sunday evenings. Christopher Erin Kendrick sat and listened, and when I was done divulging my dream he simply added, "And I'd like to park my big truck in the driveway."

I took it with meaning.

My brother Topher wasn't encouraging me to date his friend, "Everyone falls in love with Christopher Kendrick, and everyone gets their heart broken. I don't want my sister to be the next."

But I fell in love, anyway, did he tell all the girls he was going to park his big truck in the driveway of their future estate? Hmm?

There was a slight road bump however, which came in the form of a beautiful strawberry blond girlfriend, a young actress and hopeful leading lady. With a brilliant advantage point, I could watch out the blue living room window with binoculars at Christopher Kendrick and his youthful interest (he was 29, she was 19) as they went in and out of the white house on Fir.

"I don't think this is too much of a challenge," I told my mother handing her over the binoculars for her curiosity. Over the passing days we'd meet surreptitiously (or so he thought) on Fir Avenue, I would be taking the dog for a walk and he'd be riding his yellow motorcycle to rehearsal--a black backpack crawling up his spine. Finally, one day while at our family cabin up the cool canyon, I received a call from Kendrick, one that started like this,

"So, I broke up with her today."

"Oh, I'm sorry," I feigned emotion.

"I thought you'd be happy?" he asked with a hint of surprise.

"I want what is best for you," I answered, with the slightest drop of self-promotion.

"Would you like to go for a motorcycle ride tonight?" he asked.

"Yes." I replied.

That night I rode on the back of Christopher Kendrick's yellow motorcycle. I held on as tight as I could with my chest directly pressed on his sturdy back. We rode to the lake and out west as far as Provo reaches by the airport. We stopped to sit on the jagged gray rocks along the shoreline. He told me about how his father--a pilot with his own yellow plane--would fly down from Idaho on the weekends and pick him up when he was a student at BYU. I told him how my family didn't do well in planes. "My father sold his plane," he said after that.

Christopher Kendrick was kind. So kind. I could swim in his kindness.

We spent that night and several other nights together, after work, crossing the road between our white houses on Fir. Then one night in the backyard he told me he wanted to kiss me, but didn't want to ruin our friendship. The word, friendship nearly sank me. This was just a friendship?

But we did end up kissing, an awful awkward "friendly" kiss that started something that confused me. Later I ventured to use the phrase, "I think I'm falling in love with you" which made him go silent for a terrible chain of uncomfortable minutes, in the dim light of the red back porch.

"I don't feel the same," he started slowly. "I don't see us ever getting serious."

"Oh." I blurted.

"But I really like being around you, you light up my life and I would love to spend more time with you, but not in the hopes of marriage."

"Ok," I said, feeling as though my heart were in pieces like broken pottery in my cupped hands. I went to bed that night in my pink bedroom disappointed in myself entirely. How did my vulnerability seep out so swiftly, so soon after a divorce? Did I learn nothing about caution? Or self-restraint? I dropped to my knees and prayed profusely.

Sometime between sleepy sentences, begging my Heavenly Father to erase the hope in my heart, and big gloopy tears falling about all around me, I saw a vision. It was Christopher at church at the pulpit, he was wearing a nice sandy tweed suit and he was crying, but in his countenance was a powerful humility, an attractive sense of man.

"This is your husband," the voice said to me. And I knew what it meant.

For a year Christopher Kendrick and I repeated the same back porch conversation. I would freely hand over my heart and he would refuse it, reminding me that he would "never marry me." We took off on weekend vacations, flew to San Fransisco and stayed with Page. We dated and ate, watched movies, walked the dog to the temple and sat next to each other in the packed pews at church. He was welcome around the table at our family Sunday dinners, each week growing more comfortable with my siblings and parents. And yet, he'd remind me at the end of the night, "We aren't getting married, but this is so fun."

Summer turned into fall, and Halloween melted over into Thanksgiving. I saw his car leave for a holiday weekend in Idaho with his family, stinging a bit that he didn't ask me to come, and I waited for his car to come back, covered in ice and snow. And my phone rang the minute the wheels touched down in the drive way. But still, he didn't love me and still, I clung to the vision I was given in my pink bedroom.

Winter overcame a colorful fall and Christmas arrived with festivities and presents, he gave me a ring, which meant not a thing more than "I like you" but I took in smugly and gave him nothing but my love in return. He didn't take me home for Christmas again, but I knew he would someday.

The calendar turned over and New Years Day Christopher Kendrick broke up with me.

"We will never get married, so I think we should move on," he explained as he shook and cried. His devastation hearing his own words was quite a show. I listened and hugged him and sent him out the back door, watching him wipe tears as he headed home in the dusk.

But I knew it wasn't over. Far from it. So I gathered my stuff together and moved out with my friend Carrie, across town to get my mind off living across the street from Christopher Kendrick for awhile. And in two days he called me, sheepishly and quiet,

"I really miss you, like really miss you," he said.

"I miss you too," I replied.

On Valentines day I was spoiled with roses and cards, a date to our favorite taco shop and an Olympic hockey game at the base of the purple mountains. "I don't think we'll get married," he ended the date, "but I don't want to give up yet." I smiled and stated my cold position, never to change, "I won't ever give up."

But I did decide to date other men, as long as they were asking. And luckily, they were.

By spring I had moved back home to the white house on Fir and as my dates arrived to pick me up on the red front porch I would glance across the street to see if Christopher Kendrick was watching. Sometimes, he was. And, I suppose this was the test of his heart, because after a few dates with handsome fellows, he begged for me to stop.

"I can't do it, it hurts so badly!"

"Well, if we aren't getting married, I suppose I need to move on," I answered tongue in cheek, although he didn't notice.

"Ok!" he cried, "I will pray about it."

And for a month he did, all of June, in fact. He traveled back east in the green of river valleys, shooting footage for a church movie, and for a month he prayed and fasted to know if I should be his wife. And when he came home he had nothing. Nothing, but . . .

"It's a choice. I get to choose. And I choose you."

So it was one hot night in June, almost a year to the date we started, we went to the temple together, felt inspired to start a family, ate at a small steak house with white twinkle lights and soft lighting, and decided on a date. Then we talked to my parents and his parents in Idaho. We talked about his grandmother's ring he had inherited, a vintage design like a cloud of diamonds with three prominent stones sitting atop. And we talked about a future--our future.

October, we decided, when the summer was over and fall covered the wet dying grass, when the world was orange and golden, we'd get married, Christopher Erin Kendrick and Courtney Jane Clark of the two white houses on Fir Avenue.