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How I Met Your Mother

Melissa and Nate in Europe, 1993

Dear Jake,

Let’s start with the summer of 1992, the summer before my senior year of high school. Keep in mind that I was raised in an environment with a connected church and Christian school, so pretty much everything in my life at the point revolved around that setup.

Anyway, the man who had been pastor of our church resigned his job as our pastor in that summer of 1992 and moved with his family to the suburbs of Chicago, where he would be the pastor of a church there (a church that had its own Christian school). Little did I know then how important this would be for me.

The Christian school that I attended from K4 through 12th grade had always sent the graduating seniors on a two-week trip to Europe. And in the summer of 1992, I was definitely looking forward to that trip that was just a few months away, scheduled for May 1993.

Meanwhile, our former pastor, who had just moved to this other church in the suburbs of Chicago, told the seniors at that Christian school about this senior trip to Europe, and those seniors quickly agreed that a trip to Europe was much better than what they currently had planned.

Fast-forward to May 1993 — time for the much-anticipated senior trip to Europe. Two weeks touring Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, and Liechtenstein with our tour guide and chaperones. And some kids from a Christian school in the suburbs of Chicago that we had never heard of.

My class took a bus down to Detroit Metro Airport, where we boarded our first flight to Newark, New Jersey. It was at the airport in Newark that I and my classmates met up with the kids from this other school from Chicago who were joining us. There were no real introductions between the two groups. We didn’t really intermingle. We just kind of side-eyed each other as we waited in the Newark terminal for our next flight.

Except there was this one girl… I noticed her a few times. There was something about her. She was cute, for sure — she definitely caught my eye. There was also an independence to her that intrigued me. She didn’t really seem to fit in with the rest of her class, but that didn’t seem to matter to her, and it didn’t matter to me because I didn’t know the other kids in her class anyway. She just seemed to hang out with one friend, another girl from her class. And while the other kids in her class were obviously dressing to impress — wearing nice outfits — she was not. She had on a light pink dress (and if she was listening to me tell this story, she would interrupt me at this point to make sure you knew it was a pink sailor dress, because that detail mattered to her) with blue ribbon, plain white Reebok sneakers, and her hair was braided. In other words, she was dressed comfortably in an outfit that she was not worried about messing up or losing. While other kids had jammed their suitcases full of their trendiest clothes, she had purposefully brought outfits that she didn’t mind throwing out so that her suitcase would be lighter, and so she would gradually have more room in her suitcase for souvenirs. It was smart packing, to be sure.

But I didn’t know all of those details at the time. I just knew there was a cute and interesting girl on our trip, and I hoped to be able to meet her at some point.

We boarded the plane for our next flight, this one an overnight flight that would take us from Newark, New Jersey to our next destination, Frankfurt, Germany, arriving early in the morning on the next day. I sat with friends from my school on the flight, and when we landed in Frankfurt, I spent the day touring the city with my friends from my school.

In the late afternoon before dinner, we all went to the youth hostel where we would be spending the night. We checked in, had our rooms assigned to us, and then we had dinner.

After dinner, there was going to be a group meeting in the courtyard for all of the people in our group to go over some ground rules” for our next two weeks on this trip. But because there was a little bit of free time between dinner and the group meeting, my school’s principal asked me to go check all of the guys’ rooms to make sure no one had gone back to their room and fallen asleep. Everyone needed to be at the meeting.

So I went around and checked all the guys’ rooms, as requested. But this also meant that I got to the meeting just a few minutes after it had started. Everyone was already seated in a big square around the courtyard, and there was just one chair available — the chair right next to this girl I had noticed at the airport in Newark.

I quietly and happily sat down next to her. The meeting took place and all of the ground rules were covered — I don’t remember a single bit of that. But at the end, to get the student groups interacting, we were instructed to go around the square and give our name and something we liked.

Several people followed the instructions and introduced themselves. And then it was my turn. I said, Hi, I’m Nathan, and I like music.” And then it was her turn. She said, Hi, I’m Melissa, and I like math.” Several kids booed when she said she liked math, but I was intrigued. I like math, too, but I also like people who aren’t afraid to speak up and say something that they know will be unpopular.

Eventually, the meeting ended and we would have free time for the rest of the evening. A few of my friends wanted to walk a little bit to get some ice cream, but before we left for that, I just had to talk to this Melissa who was next to me. So we introduced ourselves to each other again, and made small talk about how we were impressed with the answers we each had given, what we were looking forward to about the trip, and even what our upcoming plans were for college. We found out we would be attending the same university!

I was smitten, but it was time for ice cream and my friends were impatiently calling me, so I excused myself to go.

And as I walked away with my friends, Melissa turned to her friend Cheryl and quietly said, I’m going to marry that guy.”

And that, Jake, is how I met your mother. ♥️

Posted on 2021-05-20   #Europe     #Melissa Dunn  

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