I'm sure our kids will want to hear about it down the road, so I figured I ought to write as many details as I can remember while I still remember them!
In March of 2005, my sophomore year of college, I headed downstairs for Monday night dinner at my sorority house. I happened to sit at a table with my pledge "baby" and a few of the other women in the freshmen pledge class. As freshmen, they lived in the dorms on campus, while the older members of the sorority lived in the house or off campus.
We talked about our upcoming summer plans, and I mentioned that I was going to be a cabin counselor at a YMCA summer camp. Immediately, the girls who lived in the honors dorms made a connection.
"Isn't Phil working at that camp this summer?"
"Yes! You have to meet Phil!"
"Oh! Wouldn't they be so cute together?!"
"Oh my gosh, yes! You two have to meet!"
They told me about this Phil, a sophomore in the honors dorms, who was also going to be a cabin counselor at the same summer camp. They told me what he looked like, where he was from, where he went to high school, what they knew about his family, that he was Catholic, etc. etc. By the end of dinner, there was a lot of giggling, and they were planning our wedding. They left the sorority that night, promising to mention me to him and to insist that we meet.
As I was studying that night, I took a break to check Facebook, a relatively new social networking site. I had a friend request and message from mystery man Phil from the honors dorms. (To make this move seem less lame, I must say in his defense that I didn't have a cell phone at the time, and I only had a phone in my sorority room with an answering machine. No one except my family called that phone because it was so hard to get a hold of me, and I don't think the girls even knew that number to give him.)
Phil said that the girls at dinner told him we were working at the same camp that summer and that we should meet. We exchanged a few messages throughout the week, mostly making fun of ourselves for "meeting" online when we could walk a few blocks over and introduce ourselves. After finding out that we both love Scrabble, Phil suggested we meet that Saturday morning. He'd walk over from the dorms to my sorority house to pick me up, and we'd get to know each other over a game of Scrabble, bagels, and coffee.
It was Holy Week, and neither of us admitted it until after the fact, but we caught glimpses of each other across the Newman Center at the Holy Thursday Mass. My pledge "twin" pointed Phil out to me several pews ahead, by himself, singing the processional hymn. Several months later, when I admitted I saw him before we met, he told me that he saw me with my pledge "twin" on my way back from Communion. I love that we saw each other for the first time at Mass and that neither of us was aware that the other one was watching us. Our first glimpses of each other were of the other one in prayer. Having seen him doing something as intimate as praying took a lot of the pressure off of our first date.
Saturday rolled around, and my roommate and pledge mom helped me get ready. (Oh, how nice it was to live with women who would dress me and do my hair and make-up!) I refused to call it a date, but the entire sorority house seemed to know about it! The doorbell rang, and by the time I made it downstairs to meet Phil in the entry, several of my sorority sisters were gathered along the banister and in the tv room off the balcony, talking about the guy who was there to pick up Catherine. Luckily for me (and Philip), we were meeting on Holy Saturday morning, so most of the girls were gone for Easter weekend, and we were spared the large audience that an evening date would have had! A few of the girls whispered to me as I made my way downstairs.
"Aw, he's so cute!"
"I can't wait to hear all about it!"
Philip was pretending to be busy looking at whatever was sitting on the foyer table when I came down the banister. I know he was nervous because the first thing he said to me after he saw me and said "hi" was, "Do you have the dictionary?" (He had told me in one of his Facebook messages that he had a travel Scrabble game, and he asked me to bring a small dictionary.) I was so caught off guard! "Um, no, I forgot it. I'll be right back!" You can imagine the faces when I ran back upstairs to my room and ran back downstairs with a dictionary in my hand.
Extremely out of breath, I made it back downstairs. At this point, I was convinced that Phil was a clone of the Colin Firth character in Bridget Jones' Diary, Mark Darcy.
He was all business, and he didn't show any facial expression except for a perfunctory smile. Now, I know that he was just nervous being in the foyer of a sorority house with all eyes upon him. Poor guy!
Once we made our way out the front door, we never stopped talking. Our conversation paused only to order our bagels and coffee before sitting down to our game of Scrabble. Phil insisted on paying and opened every door. He wasn't trying to be smooth, but he did it deliberately enough to show me that that was how he thought things should be done.
In between playing our Scrabble tiles, we had the most wonderful conversation. We talked about our interests, hobbies, families, faith, quirks, future plans, mutual friends, made fun of the other person's Scrabble playing abilities, and whatever else popped up. Every now and then, one of us would have to sit silently as we plotted our next move on the Scrabble board, but the silence wasn't at all awkward. I asked him if he went by Phil or if anyone called him Philip. He said that most people call him Phil, but that his mom, a few relatives, and our mutual friend, Kristin, call him Philip. I asked if I could call him Philip, and he's been Philip ever since.
It's a good thing that things were going well, because Philip's dad popped in to get some coffee on his way to his office and happened to walk right by us. So, I guess you could say that Philip introduced me to his Dad twenty minutes into our first date! I've never asked him, but now that I know him as my father-in-law, I wonder if he was in a hurry that morning or if Philip gave him a look that said not to be chatty.
The date started at 10:00 a.m. when Philip picked me up at the sorority house, and we didn't get back until mid-afternoon. It was the longest Scrabble game in recorded history! (For the record, I won.) Philip walked me back, and a few of our mutual friends in the sorority visited with us in the foyer. After awhile, they left us to have the clincher first date goodbye moment. Philip said that he had a lot of fun and I said that I did, too. He asked if he could have my phone number. I gave him my room number (remember, I didn't have a cell phone at the time), and he said he would call me to get together again soon. I said I would like that a lot, and he gave me a big hug before leaving.
Once the door shut behind him, I noticed that my cheeks hurt from smiling so much that whole day. I immediately ran up the stairs to my pledge sister Kristin's room. (Remember, she's the mutual friend who calls him Philip.) She was in a God Teens group with Philip in high school and wanted the report on our date. I remember laying on her bed, gushing about every detail. I told her, "I'm going to marry that guy!"
I left town the next day to spend Easter with family, and I couldn't stop thinking about Philip. When I got back to the sorority house on Sunday night, someone told me that there was something in my mailbox. When I looked, there was a plastic grocery bag and a card. Philip had made an Easter card for me with the help of his younger sister, Maddy (who, if I'm doing my math right, would have been 4). I still have it. The plastic grocery bag was full of Easter candy. It was probably just some extra candy that Philip swiped from his house, but I really appreciated the sentiment. My parents were living across the country at the time, and Philip knew I wouldn't be seeing them that year. Silly as it may be, the chocolate eggs and pastel M&M's made me feel less homesick. That small surprise was the first of many to show me that "Phil" from the honors dorms was the right guy for me.