Ours was not love at first sight.
Dairy Man was a friend of my college housemate. The first time I remember him was when he came to my door looking for her.
“Is Amanda here?”
“Ok. Hey, would you like to get coffee sometime?”
“Um. What was your name again?”
DM wants me to point out that I’m oversimplifying this exchange, but that was the gist. He wasn’t on my radar until that moment, even though his friends had been pushing him the direction of Amanda’s single (and ravishing) housemate for a while.
I was startled but I said yes.
So we went out for coffee. Hands cupped around warm mugs, we talked comfortably for a couple of hours. I came home and told a friend, “It was fun. He’s really nice. But there weren’t any sparks.”
Fast forward six months.
DM had become one of my best friends. We studied together, spent hours engaged in witty repartee on AIM (#90schild), and resisted the less-than-subtle attempts of our friends to get us together.
Well, at least I did.
I let that poor boy chase me for the better part of a year, but I just wasn’t ready. I was selfish. I couldn’t get over the farmer thing. We were constantly embroiled in typical 20-something college drama deserving of a reality show. Will she? Won’t she? It was exhausting and nobody got a rose.
Then I got accepted to a semester program in Chicago. DM’s frustration with my coquettish ways had reached a boiling point. We had a huge fight before I left and decided not to talk for a while.
Chicago was an incredible experience. I shared a studio apartment with a bed in the wall and a kitchen in the closet. I tried Indian food. I interned at the Museum of Contemporary Art by day and spent my nights going to plays, ballets, museums, and modern dance performances in empty swimming pools (just as weird as it sounds). I loved everything about the city.
But something still tugged on my heart.
Every morning as I walked the 15 blocks to my office, I talked to my sister on the phone. Many months later Mandy told me that I mentioned Dairy Man in almost every single call. I said that I missed him. That I wondered what he was doing. That it was killing me not to talk to him.
I had escaped Michigan for the big city, but I hadn’t escaped him.
He was the first person I called when I moved back and we started dating a couple of days later. It was instantly comfortable, perfectly right, as if this is what was supposed to happen all along.
We were so happy. Crazy about each other. But we weren’t out of the woods yet.
I still didn’t love the farmer thing, but DM talked about moving away after college, working for the commodities exchange in Chicago, trying something new. I clung to this hope.
The sun felt unbearably hot on my head as I sat in silence, trying to digest what he had just told me.
“Jess, I’m going to stay here and work on the dairy.”
My heart sank into my shoes. I suddenly wanted to leap from the bed of his red truck and run until my lungs burned. But I was frozen.
We had talked about this. After we graduated from college, DM went home to work on the farm and save some money. I knew there was a possibility of his staying on the dairy, but he seemed so sure he wanted to get out of West Michigan and experience something new. That was my expectation, my deepest yearning.
Now it was August. I still hadn’t found a job in Chicago and DM was planning to stay here.
I felt silly for hoping. I felt silly for thinking that I could coerce him into my world of sushi and skyscrapers.
I should have known his heart was too deeply rooted in farming.
This was my first true introduction to an undeniable truth: farming is not a job, it’s a life. It was in DM’s blood. It pulsed through his body like oxygen. He couldn’t fathom leaving the work that made him feel most alive. I couldn’t fault him that. But that didn’t make my choice any easier. At a very young stage in our relationship, I had to decide: Chicago or him?
Because I knew in my heart that long distance wouldn’t work. Once my feet left Michigan soil, I wouldn’t be back for a while.
I wanted an adventurous life. But this boy was offering a farm.
“I just don’t know if I can do this.”
Happy tears burned my eyes as I rounded the corner, arms locked with my dad, white dress swishing.
And then I saw him. My love, my life, smiling and waiting at the front of the church.
Violin strains of “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve swelled around me in the most visceral way imaginable. I could barely breathe.
I kept walking, unable to take my eyes off the man in front of me.
We had come so far. We had crossed so many valleys together. I was young and terrified, but I did not doubt my choice.
For whatever reason in God’s design, I was going to marry a dairy farmer.
And now we’re here. 900 words, nine years (five and a half married), two barns, one baby, and hundreds of cows later.
Becoming a farm wife has become surprisingly normal, but I don’t ever want to forget that it wasn’t easy to get here. I had to overcome a lot of fear, stubbornness, and unreasonable expectations before admitting that, EGADS, I was in love with a dairyman.
I’m so glad he stuck with me.
Because love isn’t always obvious or simple. It isn’t something you just fall into. It’s a choice you make every day.
As I look ahead to Valentine’s Day this weekend—that ubiquitous holiday of candy hearts and overpriced red roses—I am grateful for our kind of love. This love is hard-fought. This love is not perfect nor without cow manure tracked into the house, but it’s real. We make each other better through our differences.
Our love story reminds me that I chose this life. I chose him. I wasn’t looking for what DM offered, but God knew it was exactly what I needed.
“If it is right, it happens—the main thing is not to hurry.
Nothing good gets away.” —John Steinbeck