I dedicate this entry to my husband, the best man I've ever known. Happy 5th Anniversary, Mr. Jonathan Peter Camp!

Five years ago, I stole down the curving staircase in my parents' home, an undulating cloud of white train and veil in my wake. My hands met Jonathan's first, anxious fingers pulling us to one another. Suddenly my hands and wrists and arms and elbows and shoulders seemed very grown up.

With these hands, I would soon be working as half of a husband and wife team to make a stable home. With these arms I would hold my husband, would care for him and comfort him, would convey love and desire and unity. With these fingers I would provide nourishment (both by dialing the phone to order pizza and cooking, at least annually). With these shoulders, I would bear the weight of responsibility that comes when there is no longer a parent to protect, but only you and your spouse to support each other.

As I reached the bottom step, we came together, embraced and kissed. A shimmer of tears tangled in my lashes and threatened to fall, but then we were laughing, surveying each other in all our wedding day finery.

Who were these sparkling, squeaky clean people? Not a trace of dirt or sweat or chalk anywhere! Not a scuffed sole, a torn jean, a wrinkled ballcap! He was absolutely clean shaven and I was manicured. For crying out loud, I was pedicured! Where was the mountain man? Where was the tomboy?

I have been inspired by my friend and fellow blogger, Anthony (Anthony and his wife are expecting their first baby, and Anthony has taken it upon himself to catalog the throes of impending fatherhood with grace and humor. Check out Baby C's Blog if you have a minute...), to tell the story of my first date with Jonathan. The only trouble is I can't pinpoint the first date very easily. There are several date-ish candidates which could apply. That being the case, I thought I'd take a stab at summing up all three (or four) and then putting it to a vote. When did Jonathan and I actually begin "dating?"

Candidate No. 1

In the spring of 2002, I was in the midst of my second year at Las Positas College, still living with my parents, and my only job outside of school was coaching volleyball. Each week, I attended a Bible study at the home of Ed and Ellen Talbot, the only two people who had the patience, wherewithal and calling to host such a study for a dozen or so rambunctious young men and women every single week. I'd been spending one night a week there for two years, learning about the Word of God and verbally sparring with anyone willing to step up to the line. (There are those who will point out that my playful combativeness was a manifestation of my being prone to flirt with "anything male that moved." I don't argue. I liked the attention. I only hope that I usually erred just shy of insufferable.)

Anyway, one night, I was sitting cross legged on the floor of the Talbots' living room, lost in some debate about women and their obvious superiority to men, no doubt. My hands were gesturing; my laugh was loud. But I paused when I saw a handsome young man with big blue eyes had arrived for the study. I was vaguely aware that he was the older brother of a good friend of mine. Jonathan was home from a short stint at college, working at the Lab, and living with some roommates at a large house in Dublin.

That night, he had a young woman on his arm. I remember little of her, though. She was quiet, had long blond hair, and a tiny stone sparkled on the left side of her nose. I ignored her completely.

Jonathan had taken a seat on the floor directly across from me and, without knowing anything about me or my (probably baseless) stance on the issue, he began to argue with me. This new guy, good looking, stubborn, intelligent, and fearless, was totally worth my time.

Ed taught that night, as he always did, but I don't remember what I learned. I only remember being sad when the night was over, and hoping Jon would return for future studies. He did return, without his girlfriend. And on certain evenings he'd stay late and, with the help of his loyal wingman, Ben, he'd keep me entertained with magic tricks and goofy stories. But that first night, when Jon zoned in on me, when I couldn't pay attention to anyone else in the room but him, was the beginning of something quite lovely.

Candidate No. 2

Though we saw each other twice a week through church activities, Jon only phoned me twice between our first meeting (described above) and our first time alone together. Once, he asked me to go hiking with some friends. I was busy, and actually suggested that he call my friend Heather, who I thought would be interested in an outdoorsy trip! The second time was in the autumn. This was the voicemail I received from Jonathan on about October 25 of that year.

"Hi, Audrey, this is Jonathan Camp. I'm calling because I have what could be an odd request. My roommates and I are throwing a Halloween party this Saturday, and I'm going as Robin... from Batman & Robin the movie... and I think I should clarify that this Robin is a badass, not like the effeminate one from the old shows. Anyway, I have my costume, but I need to dye my hair black, and I'd like some help. And since it involves fingers in my hair, I think I'd like that help to come from a girl. Any chance you'd be interested?"

Did I want to spend the evening with my fingers entwined in Jonathan Peter Camp's hair?

We'd never been alone before. I was dating someone else at the time (go ahead and judge me), and I wasn't even certain his girlfriend was out of the picture. (She was; they'd broken up over Fourth of July, the same day I began dating my then-boyfriend. Coincidences slay me.) Yet, I knew my answer was going to be affirmative right away. I called him back and pretended to debate the question, letting him sweat a little before giving the green light.

I was coaching the JV volleyball team at Livermore High School, and my evening schedule was pretty tight, but in the end, I drove to Dublin after my team's game against Amador, and was soon in Jon's giant master suite, up to my be-gloved wrists in black hair dye.

We talked and talked and talked, flirted and talked. Dyeing hair is intimate.

When it came time for him to shower, I went downstairs and hung with his roommates, Jeremy and Noel. They discovered I was a conservative chick with a lot to say, and I discovered that Jon couldn't have better or sweeter friends. As I pulled away from the curb in my little green Honda, Jonathan gave me a wave from the doorway.

Candidate No. 3

Just before New Year's I broke up with my boyfriend. It was a long time in coming. Unfortunately, Jon was on a cabin trip over the holiday with some friends. He called me just before he left to invite me along, but I didn't think it would be appropriate. So, when he came home on January 3 and I was his first call, I was very excited to see him. We went to see the movie Chicago and, afterwards, stopped at the Red Tractor Café for a late dinner.

Over the course of that meal, we shared everything. It was like we were old friends who desperately needed to catch up, to resynch. Jon shared with me everything from his childhood memories to his time at college to his future dreams to how devastated he was after losing his dear friend, Matt, in a car accident more than a year prior.

Hours went by. We left the restaurant and walked down the street in the cold, stopped at an abandoned playground and went for a swing in the moonlight. The sky was peppered with stars and, somewhere along the way Jonathan finagled a way to hold my hand. Our fingers and palms clasped perfectly... like two halves of a medallion which, having been lost to one another for centuries, still click together in a magical way... That's awfully Indiana Jones, I know, but such is the way a fairy tale sounds when it has only just begun to bloom.

He drove me home and we lingered in the idling car on the street in front of my parents' house. There were so many things to say! I remember the Christmas lights at odd intervals around the block, Jon's eyes in the dark, how we absently held hands like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Beyond that, I remember laughing and crying. Every possible emotion circled between us that night, during the film, during dinner, during the walk. Years of separate experiences were exchanged and merged. It was as if we knew, in that uncanny unconscious way, that there were going to be very few separate experiences left... that our life from that point forward would be one giant shared experience.

Candidate No. 4

At his parents' house the next day, we lay on the floor and watched two movies. One was Remember the Titans, a favorite of mine. The other was a documentary about Mount Everest. (Guess who suggested that one.) We stayed there, on our stomachs, side by side, chins propped up on our hands, not touching at all, for two full movies. It wasn't comfortable, but we were distracted by one another's closeness, and comfort was easily tossed to the wayside.

The credits rolled on the documentary, and Jonathan kissed me. It was the best kiss, hands down, I'd ever had. Once the summit of that first kiss had been conquered, of course, all subsequent kisses were easily surmounted.

Jon doesn't remember details. He doesn't remember what I was wearing on any of those "dates." He needs pictures to prove that my hair looks entirely different (and better) now than it did when he first met me. He does, however, say that he remembers each of these nights I've described. At the Talbots' house, he claims he heard me before he saw me. Don't doubt him; I've always been loud. And the night of the hair dyeing extravaganza, he remembers being happy that I was spending an hour massaging his scalp, but too nervous to truly enjoy it. The night at the Red Tractor Café is the one he counts as our first real date, and he also says he already knew he was in love with me then... months before we stared out at the hazy blue Pacific Ocean from the dusky sands of Stinson Beach and said 'I love you' for the first time.

Since whichever of those times was our first, there have been many dates, too many to count. We gone out fancied up or dressed down, eating gourmet or fast food, to plays, to movies, to pyrotechnic displays, at home and out of town. We've traveled the globe and picnicked in our own backyard. From the frigid tips of the Sierras to the glassy hot depths of Death Valley, from the the pubs of Dublin to Disneyland's Main Street, we're in the process of literally doing it all... together.

And today we've been married for five years.

Looking back, our feeling that our lives were merging, were cleaving, were combining irreversibly, was absolutely right, even though it was so very early on in the process of becoming us. We needed each other and were gifted to one another at a precise space and time. No matter how or when we got started, we're in the thick of something amazing now, and being me, I don't believe this could have happened any other way. The love was always there, a potential energy captured, bottled up, awaiting the precise conditions under which to bloom. As John Donne wrote:

And yet no greater, but more eminent,
Love by the spring is grown ;
As in the firmament
Stars by the sun are not enlarged, but shown,
Gentle love deeds, as blossoms on a boug
From love's awakened root do bud out now.

Jonathan is my best friend, my true love, my playmate, my favorite everything.

Happy Fifth Anniversary, Jonathan! I love you.

Full text of John Donne's Love's Growth