Disclaimer: This story contains details of domestic violence which may be triggering for some.
“If you’ve ever watched the movie Dirty Dancing (1987), then you can imagine what it was like to be living and working at the Balsams Grand Hotel Resort in Dixville Notch, NH. This all-inclusive resort lies nestled in between the mountains of the notch and the reflective Lake Gloriette. This is where I met my dear, sweet husband 21 years ago. Only back then, I didn’t realize that.
For me, it all started with getting into the culinary apprenticeship program the resort offered. This intense four year program allowed me to live and work on property, while getting my college degree. My husband, whose nickname is Bee, completed the program a year before I arrived, but was still working at the resort as a full-time chef.
It’s funny when we both look back on how we met, neither one of us had that moment you see in the movies where time stops or when you have that great revelation you know they are meant for you. NOPE… none of that! The day we ‘officially’ met started like most days did. I was working with our sous chef, AB, prepping for that night’s dinner service when Bee came strolling up to us to talk to AB.
I am convinced his sole purpose that day was to be introduced to me, because the entire time he spoke to her, he kept looking at me. Finally, AB put him out of his agony as she asked him if he had met me yet. He glanced back at me and smiled widely before replying he had only seen me in passing. AB smiled at me knowingly as she clasped his shoulder in approval and said, ‘Out of all the guys here, this one right here is one of the good ones.’ I eventually learned she was right. He was one of the good ones.
We became friends fast. Bee has always been an easy going type of guy. He can put anyone at ease and is funny to boot. He worked a lot of mornings like me, so we saw a lot of each other. One morning, he mentioned he was going to take the 2 hour trip to Walmart if I wanted to tag along. Now I know what you’re thinking, 2 hours to Walmart? Seriously? Yup, the resort is secluded in the wilderness. Great if you’re a nature lover but bad if you need civilization. It was something that was highly stressed during the interview weekend. Everything is far away.
Carpooling to Walmart was something we all did. I was excited to go with him because it would be the first time we were able to be alone and really talk. We like to joke that our first date was to Walmart, and it totally was.
We left the resort around 1 p.m. and didn’t return until well after dark. It was a fun-filled day of conversations, jokes, and great music, but my favorite part was when we ate sandwiches by the local river. The spot started out as a convenient place to eat before heading back to the resort, but we ended up staying there for a few hours. The more we talked, the closer we leaned in to each other, until the point came where Bee reached out and gently kissed me. Wow, what a kiss.
While there are many things I wish were different from those days, meeting Bee and having a summer romance with him was not one of them. We often would go on trips to local swimming holes or walk up to the panorama golf course to watch the sun set. But working about 60 hours a week, school, and trying to have any kind of a social life left me exhausted and often sleep deprived.
One day in late August, my lack of sleep got the best of me and I ended up falling asleep at the wheel and crashed my car. I walked away with a scratch, but my car was totaled and so was my conviction in becoming a chef. The accident was my sign to leave. I was having a hard time fitting into the culinary culture.
Most of the other male chefs were misogynistic at best, and if you didn’t play along with them, they would spread hurtful rumors about you. Or at least, that is what happened to me and it was terrible. I needed to leave and start over.
As 10 years passed, I always wished Bee would’ve asked me to stay with him at the Balsams and that we could conquer everything I was going through there, but life had other plans for us. Bee left the Balsams at the end of that season. He took a job on St. John in the Caribbean and eventually returned to New England to hopefully find someone to settle down with, but with little luck.
I, on the other hand, went through a series of bad relationships before marrying someone who I thought was a good guy but turned out to be the worst one of all. My ex came into my life at a point where I hadn’t dated anyone for about a year. I was taken by the nice guy persona he presented to everyone.
At first, I felt like a fairy tale princess with the way he treated me to fancy dinners and expensive gifts. It was a change from the way others had treated me, but I was blinded to the truth. The arguments started shortly after we moved in together, and the longer we were together, the more the fights escalated. One day, I found myself pinned down with him on top of me while being choked. I remember thinking, ‘This is it. I am going to die.’ As that thought drifted through my mind, I allowed myself to go limp.
Part of me hoped he would kill me. Death was better than the abuse I was suffering and I was already isolated from everyone who cared about me. I don’t know what made him stop. Maybe he came to his senses when my body went limp, or maybe he had divine intervention. All I knew, whatever it was, it was time to move on. I just needed to find a way to do that because I was alone and had nothing in my name but my three cats, which I knew he would kill if they were left with him. So I focused on being as small and as agreeable as I could to survive until I did!
We met again… One day in early January of 2011, I was poking around on Facebook when I saw a familiar face smiling back at me. I couldn’t believe it. I thought we lost touch for good, but it seems fate had other plans. So I sent him a quick DM saying hi and asking if he remembered me. Sure enough, he DID.
We chatted for a while back and forth, catching up on what life had thrown our way. He told me about how he tried to contact me but never had any luck. I jokingly asked about having the right contact information, which he didn’t, and after a quick update on information, we made plans to talk the next day.
We chatted online most days until one afternoon, the mail arrived with a letter addressed from Bee. My heart raced as I tore open the letter to read what was written. We grew up having pen pals and enjoyed receiving letters as adults, so naturally we started writing letters in addition to our online chats. Most times the letters were a reflection on our conversations online and on occasion the letters had expressions of deeper feelings.
We kept up writing back and forth until mid-March when we both had some time off to visit. I was living two hours away from him, so we had to coordinate our time. That first ride out to see him felt like it took forever. I was so nervous with anticipation that I left way too early and had to wait out some time before arriving. Not that it did Bee good because he wasn’t even ready! Since then, we joke about him taking longer to get ready than me. The greatest thing about this ‘first date’ was that he had made a ‘choose your date/adventure menu.’ It looked like the game MASH we played as kids. It had categories with choices and I got to pick what sounded fun. It was so creative and we used it on several dates.
For dinner, I chose a restaurant called Duck Fat, a panni shop that fries their fries in duck fat. Incredibly delicious. Followed by a visit to the local lighthouses. There was a moment as we were walking toward the restaurant when Bee took my hand and held it as we walked. We both looked down at our hands and smiled because they fit perfectly together. It was at that moment, we knew we were meant to be together. We never said it until some time later that we knew; we didn’t want to jinx it.
It wasn’t easy. I was in the middle of my divorce and living in the next state over. There was a lot that needed to be talked about before anything happened. I decided to move closer to him. I needed a fresh start, away from my ex husband. So I gathered up my cats and we moved into a charming studio apartment. Having my own space, and a great therapist, was necessary to overcoming the abuse I endured. Bee was so patient during those years and never pressured me to do things before I was ready. It was the total opposite to what I was used to.
When the time did finally come to move in together, we had decided to have separate bedrooms and separate finances. The separate bedrooms were mostly because A) I worked overnights, B) I am a light sleeper who wiggles most of the night, and C) Bee is allergic to my cats. I know, he still chose to live with us even though we had three cats. They love Bee. My male cat, Mr. Benny Brown chose Bee to be his human. He would follow Bee everywhere and we dubbed him Bee’s Shadow because of it. Sadly, Benny crossed the rainbow bridge in 2020 and now our two girls remain.
In May of 2016, Bee and I took a ride out to one of our favorite state parks to spend the day by the ocean. This is something we did often, but that particular day was filled with something special. As we basked in the late spring sun, I noticed Bee was getting antsy, looking around as if expecting someone to jump out at him. I finally asked him what was going on and told him if he wanted to leave to just say so. He shook his head before muttering something about being stiff from sitting and needing to stretch.
Let me just say, this man was smooth. He stood up to stretch while taking the blanket we had over our laps with him. He then turns towards me, as if to put the blanket back on me, drops it to the ground, leans in to kiss me and drops to one knee. This man was proposing. I started to shake with excitement and before he even asked, I blurted out ‘YES!’ We both started to laugh and cry and hug each other before I pulled back to say ‘OK, let’s do this again for real.’ He took a deep breath, smiled at me as he took my hand, and asked me to marry him. We called our families to share the news and everyone was overjoyed.
We both wanted a long engagement. A lot of things were happening at the time and we thought it would be worth waiting for the dust to settle before making plans. Initially 2018 was our goal, then 2019, followed by a solid plan for 2020 (and we all know how that turned out).
2020 made a lot of things clear for us. The biggest thing was that neither one of us wanted a big wedding. We would be balling our eyes out in front of everyone because tears of joy is a thing we are proficient in, and as a bonus, we UGLY cry tears of joy. The second biggest thing is life is too short. We were already living the ‘married life.’ Being officially married was the icing on the cake. Since 2020 was what it was, we knew 2021 needed to be it. So we got married on our 10 year anniversary. We met in March of 2001, our second first date was March 2011, and so it was only natural to marry in March of 2021. We don’t know what big event we will do in 2031, but we are looking forward to the journey there.
Let me leave you with our tips to a successful relationship and things we practice.
- Sleep is vital. We are much better humans when we are rested.
- Talk about everything and talk often.
- Listen to understand.
- Laugh together often.
- We are better together than we are apart. Be a team.
- Plan time apart to grow your own interests/hobbies.
- Split up the house work, chores and errands.
- Talk about money/finances.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emily Paris. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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