I was 17, he was 19. I had been working at the Massanutten Water Park Sweetz shop. My job was to melt down chocolate and make them into caramels filled treats, solid chocolate drops, turtles, covered pretzels etc. He was the new guy, a line cook for the Blue Ridge Buffet, we were introduced but the Kitchen Manager, who I’m pretty sure, was secretly trying to play matchmaker. When we exchanged the “nice to meet you”, I heard his deep voice and instantly thought, cute, but he’s too old. (Please keep in mind I was 17, even dating a 19 year old was a bit scandalous).
He had moved here to start over from West Virginia and landed this job at Massantten. I was working after school and on the weekends for gas/spending money. He was painfully quiet, soaking in the surroundings and new people. I thought he was tall, tan, very thin, and had a very kind face (and his smile, oh that smile, enough to melt anyone). It was a small kitchen so we had numerous encounters throughout the workday and managed to chat and admittedly flirt.
Shortly after, without our discussing it, he would stand at the kitchen entrance to the Sweetz shop, and ask my manger if I could take my lunch break. If she said “Five more minutes” there he stood, waiting. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now, looking back, it was wonderful insight on how patient my dear husband is. When I could go, we would ride he elevator downstairs and pick out a table in what was our lunch area. I would have made goodies during my shift for us to share at lunch and he always supplied my then favorite, citrus green tea. We would share about our families, friends, where we grew up, and other “getting to know you” topics. What got my attention immediately is how important his family and friends were to him, he fully understood their roll in shaping him into the person he was.
During one of these lunch breaks, I told him that I was running a car bash outside of my school (an attempt to raise money for the schools first all color yearbook, of which I was editor) and then going to my little sister’s basketball game afterwards, and if he wanted he could come. We left it open, I didn’t realize at the time I had asked him to what he thought was technically a date…
He showed. I have never seen him outside of chef pants and chef coat so I was a little taken back by what he looked like in his casual wear. A beanie, oversized Columbia jacket, jeans that were horribly ripped, and Puma soccer cleats. It was then that he shared that he was color blind, although it didn’t really need to be said. After the sledgehammer havoc that was the car bash, we made our way inside to my sister’s game. Here is what I still have to hear about to this day: my entire family was there. My sweet Corey though that this was a date, I looked at it the same way I looked at our lunch breaks, hang out sessions. If I had thought of it as a date, I know I wouldn’t have asked him first.
I had previously shared with my Dad that I had invited a friend from work; his name was Corey. Dad asked if I knew his last name, and some how, in all of our conversations, the topic of our last names never came up! Dad was less than thrilled to say the least. And upon being introduced to Corey, firmly shook his hand and said, “You got a last name son?” “Simmons”. (Talk about a *face palm* moment). After the game we went out to Jess’ Lunch for hot dogs, grilled cheese, and of course milkshakes! It then dawned on me that I might have asked HIM out on a date. Not cool.
Anyone who has ever worked in a kitchen knows that the ENTIRE staff knew about this long before I ever got back to work. And with it being such a talked about topic, it’s what gave Corey the courage to awkwardly ask ME out this time. We drove to IHOP in the snow for this date, no kiss. We went on another date; the third date technically, still no kiss.
A lot of the older women at work were living vicariously through me for this asking if we had held hands, snuggled, kissed? No, no, and no. I then made the most important statement: “It’s been three what I guess are “dates”, and no kiss, so I’m guessing we are just friends.” With this and without my knowledge a very well-meaning co-worker, taking matters into her own hands, marched over to Corey and told him that if he wanted to kiss me he had better “hop to it” or risk the dreaded: friend zone. That night, after I had finished closing my section of the kitchen, he walked me out to my car, as usual. But this time he was adorable, fumbling, and trying very hard to be “smooth”. And taking me very much by surprise, he leaned down for a very sweet goodbye kiss.
That was the beginning of the most wonderfully uncomplicated, easy, relationship that I still thank the Lord for everyday. He is patient, genuine, thoughtful, kind, loving, dedicated, and makes being selfless for his family look effortless. This 19-year-old boy became my husband, the father of our children, and a man I am so proud of.