Every love story is different and every love story is special.  But there is, of course, theme to love stories – high school sweethearts,  love at first sight, modern love and second chance love.

This is the story of two high school sweethearts.  Many of my friends are married to high school friends or even sweethearts.  But, for me, this story is about endurance. About an enduring love that hasn’t wavered and is stronger today than when it began more than twenty years ago.

This is the story of how Bryan fell in love with Danielle and Danielle fell in love with Bryan.

They were fifteen years old when they met.  Today, they are bound together by time and shared memories – their pasts almost entirely include each other.  Their stories are together.  Perhaps, some high school sweethearts get a bad rap, that even though its cute they’ve never ventured out on their own.  But Danielle and Bryan will both tell you that they’ve never needed to be “on their own.”  They are both independent and spend their time in ways that they enjoy – Bryan meets his buddies on Friday nights and Danielle curls up to Dateline.  Who can blame her? Dateline is freaking awesome.
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She first met Bryan at a play at Shepton High School.  She’d gone with a friend who like a boy that would be there.  No one knows what happened to that boy but history was made when Danielle met Bryan.  Drawn in by his charisma and self-confidence, she first noticed his smile and simply the way he carried himself. Who at fifteen can say they oozed self-confidence but Bryan? They stayed together through high school and went off to college together.  Through the years, they’ve stayed by each other’s side – with one short (like a week) break in college.  It was a hard week for both.

img_4057Their chemistry obvious, even then, one night at a friend’s house as Bryan stood close to Danielle as she sat on a kitchen counter someone said “What, are you guys going out?”  They both awkwardly laughed.  Later that night, Bryan officially asked Danielle to be his girl by saying “So, are we?”  She quickly replied “Yes.”  Twenty-four years, college, wedding, and three kids later.  Danielle is still Bryan’s girl.

Neither waivers in their love for each other or thought of leaving. As Danielle will readily tell you “He’s never, ever given me a reason to leave.”  She was drawn to his smile first and that’s still one of her favorite things about him.  However, her present day favorite is seeing him as father to their three amazing kids.

When Bryan proposed it wasn’t fireworks and champagne.  The two of them, at home, with a ring burning a hole in his pocket, but more on that later.  Months after that proposal, at their wedding, she wasn’t nervous or scared – she was excited.  She was excited for Bryan to see her dress because she knew he’d love it.  Ask him about it today and he still gets animated telling you about how pretty she looked, how much he loved the dress and how choked up he got watching her walk the aisle.

It has been years since their wedding day – that first day of the rest of their lives – and they’ve made a home in the country with three kids who are growing into amazing humans and a dog that obeys.  I’m considering sending Boone to stay with them for a while and hoping he comes back obedient. But I digress.  The wedding was filled with people that had shared their journey.  It was truly a celebration with people they had grown up together with.  They still share those common friends and loved ones but marriage is different than a wedding.  Sometimes it gets hard, the responsibilities and being adults can sometimes get in the way of remembering to show each other the depth of your love.  Bryan is a bit louder and maybe more romantic than Danielle but she keeps him grounded.  Danielle will tell you that the very best part of her marriage, the easiest part is quite simply being with “Her Five.”  She calls them “Her Five” – I mean how cute is that?

In the beginning it was his smile and charisma that drew Danielle to Bryan.  Today, that still holds true though his strength and stability keep her going now, too.  He’s the backbone of their family and the best dad in the world.

I mean, come on, let’s all be honest here – is there anything sexier than a man in love with his kids and doing the best he can for them.  Ummmm, no.  No, there is not.

Bryan has never given her a reason to leave and loves her unconditionally.  To quote the girl herself, “There is no grass greener than mine.”

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He doesn’t remember the name of the play that night but what he does remember clear as day is that she looked, and I’m quoting here, “Finer than Fur on a Frog.”  Bryan remembers exactly what she wore that night– jeans, denim shirt and white tank top.  I’ll leave out his commentary about her, ummmm, assets.

He remembers falling for her as he left football practice and she left drill team practice each day after school.  The moments they could steal away together while they waited for their parents to pick them up.  Every conversation with her hooked him more and more.  Through these talks he saw her confidence, her humor and how easy she is to be around.  Her no bullshit style and ability to just be real were more than he could walk away from.  But he truly fell in love when he learned just how much she wanted to be a mom – even from a young age – she wanted a family.  Today, she keeps Bryan and that family going and grounded.

As fondly as he remembers that denim shirt and tank top, he will quickly tell you that he is more attracted to her today than ever before and it gets better everyday.  The man likes his woman, y’all. Watching her with their kids is a kind of sexy he never imagined at fifteen.

104019For years, he’d given Danielle “Precious Moments” figurines… figurines that she thinks might, maybe, possibly be in the attic now.  So one night in February, just before a Valentine’s Day they’d sworn would be low key – he proposed with a “Precious Moments” figurine.  He wrapped it in toilet paper and handed it to her.  While she was opening the gift, he bent down on one knee and brought out that ring that had been burning a hole in his pocket for two or three months.  She said yes and they went out for cheap Mexican food.  He’d already asked her Dad and I imagine no one else was surprised when they announced their engagement.  Their proposal matches their personalities – Bryan sentimental and honoring old traditions.  Danielle, simple, genuine and in happy.

img_4054He knew she was the one before they went to college and remembers asking himself “Could I see myself marrying this girl in five years?”  The answer was quite simple – yes.  In fact, he couldn’t imagine anyone else.  He knew that every single thing about her was what he had always dreamed of having.  His words, not mine.  He never doubted and the short – hiatus, we’ll call it – in college only confirmed it.  He was devastated.  His world was over.  They reunited quickly and have never looked back.

The wedding made him nervous.  Not about the decision or his future, just about having to stand in front of 300 people in a tuxedo.  The second he walked up the aisle with Danielle on his arm – that all disappeared.  Knowing Bryan – I think that’s probably the last time he was truly nervous about anything or let it show.  When I asked him what was hard about marriage – he was stumped.  He couldn’t think of anything that he thought was hard about being married to Danielle.  He told me that it requires effort and not 50/50 effort but 100/100 effort all the time. He just knows that putting in that effort for someone like D, as he calls her, is easy.

Today, he still thinks she’s “Finer than Fur on a Frog” and I imagine he still chases her around the kitchen table daily. Today it is more than that.  It is a deeper attraction defined not just by her, ummm assets, but by the way she talks to her kids, the way she is open and honest with them so they know they can tell her anything. It is the way she brings him back to earth and won’t let him lose his head.  Today, it’s the way she runs their family.  Today, its more than love – today they are buddies, too.  They can hang-out and have fun just the two of them or with friends.  And she’s the cool chick – you know the one that can totally hang in a room full of guys and not care that she’s the only girl.  All of that makes him, again I quote, “the luckiest man alive.”

I asked him what makes him stay.

He replied, “I can’t even answer that – because I’m madly in love with her.”  I’m pretty sure he’d agree that he wouldn’t have a home to go to – his home is Danielle.

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What I love about this story is how their love has endured.  That, though, they’ve both matured, grown and changed… what they first saw in each other remains.  There are new things – like the kind of father that Bryan is and the mother that is Danielle.  New things – like being five instead of two. New responsibilities and experiences but their love and mutual respect remains unchanged.  As long as I’ve know them – which is about 24 years- they’ve loved each other.  Bryan shouts it to the world and Danielle shows her love in a million quiet ways.  Every day they show their incredible kids what love and admiration looks like – through their love for each other and their love for their kids.  They are this fabulous collection of five people going through life with their love leading the way.

I’ve never doubted they were meant to be and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking for something just a little bit like it.