It was a banquet type dinning hall packed with 600+ high school kids, their fearless leaders, and camp staff members. The music was concert-like blasting, the program directors were pumping up the crowd, and those high schoolers were jumping out of their seats waiting for dinner to be served. If you have never been to a Young Life summer camp, you are missing out, but that is another story for another time. The pre dinner chaos was in full swing when for a split second, through the crowd, I made eye contact with the camp camera guy at the opposite end of the dinning hall. It was only a second that I happened to look, but it was the same second he happened to look back. I shyly smiled and he smiled with confidence and then the night went on. It would be months later until I found out that that moment was one he would also remember. A single second, but one of my first memories of my favorite guy.
It was August of 2005 when Jason and I first met. I was between my sophomore and junior year at Washington State University and he was about to enter his final year at the University of Oregon. He decided to spend the entire summer working as the camp cameraman at Wildhorse Canyon, a Young Life Camp now known as Washington Family Ranch. I was there serving on the ropes course summer staff team for 3 weeks. To be honest, it wasn’t a “love at first sight” type of thing. Don’t get me wrong, I thought he was a hottie, but there was just one problem. You see, I am 6′ 1″ and he is 5′ 8″ with his shoes on. I had always said I would NEVER date a guy shorter than me, so it didn’t matter how attracted I was to him and his contagious energy, it just wasn’t an option.
We had a few conversations over the three weeks that I was there and some friendly flirting for sure. But it wasn’t until the day I was leaving camp that Jason says he was confident it was NOT going to lead to anything but a friendship. I was a blubbering mess saying my goodbyes to all my new friends. Jason admits that he intentionally sought me out to say goodbye. But it did not go as he planned. It was all fine until we went in for the hug. You know, something so normal, so natural, so friendly. You wouldn’t think anything of it right? But have you ever been a 5’8″ tall guy trying to hug a 6’1″ tall girl that you don’t really know that well?
Option 1: You wrap your arms around her waist and expect her to wrap hers around your neck, I mean come on, the ladies are right there. Take a moment… just think about it. Okay, we agree that’s out.
Option 2: He tip toes and wraps his arms around her neck. Can he reach that high? Just weird.
Option 3: The diagonal hug. One arm over the shoulder one arm under. Safest bet, can’t go wrong. Let’s go with that.
So he goes in for the hug, arms diagonal, typical, friendly, goodbye, nice-to-meet you hug.
Reality: We had a typical, friendly, goodbye, nice-to-meet you hug. Well… as typical as a tall girl and a short guy can have.
His perception: She was a giant who had to BEND down to hug him. Like an adult BENDS over to hug a child. Like Goliath would have had to BEND down to hug David if they would have just worked it out. TERRIBLE. AKWARD. NO GOOD. VERY BAD…. bending?
So I BENT over to give him a hug. What’s the big deal? He is shorter than me for crying out loud. What was I supposed to do?
But he is right, it was totally awkward. As a guy, he was crushed. His immediate thoughts,
“Oh no,! No way! That is not happening. Whelp, glad we tried, nice to meet you.”
So it was pretty obvious, and mutual, that we would be just friends. Aside from some friendly flirting, neither one of us ever had any expectations of a serious relationship forming. And it is this very reasoning that we now believe our relationship actually worked so well. The lack of expectations.
I went back home to Washington and he kept working at camp for the rest of the summer. He friended me on Facebook and we started talking online. He would be up late working on deadlines for camp videos and looking for a friend to talk to. My roommates had gone home for summer but I had chosen to stay on campus to work. So we were both looking for the company. We were just ourselves. We had no expectations, we weren’t trying to impress each other. It was honest, it was real, and it was a strong friendship building.
Over a few weeks those Facebook comments turned to Instant Messaging, turned to phone calls, turned to I really like this guy. What the heck just happened? I really really like this guy! I know I said it was awkward and I wouldn’t date a guy shorted than me, but I really like him. And although I could tell he liked me too, I knew he was worried about the height thing as well. So he decided he needed to try that hug on for size one more time.
He had two days off work at camp so he convinced a buddy to drive the 7 plus hours to Pullman, WA to come see me again face to face and find out if this thing was going to work. But like I said, he remembered that first hug. He remembered how it just felt wrong. So after 7 hours in the car and a knock on my door he ran through that door and wrapped his arms around my waist knocking me off my feet. He greeted me with a tackle rather than a hug! We haven’t looked back since and that was the best hug I’ve ever had. That little height difference was never an issue again.
That was September 7, 2005. We dated the next 8 months living in two different states, 7 hours apart. In May I decided to move and transfer for my senior year to the University of Oregon. Two weeks after I had moved to Oregon he proposed. Four months after that we were married on Sept. 9, 2006. 11 years and three little boys later we love laughing at and reenacting our first awkward hug.
But we also remember that before the awkward hug there was that one moment in the midst of chaos that our eyes met and we connected, just for a moment. And now we know why that moment stuck, why neither one of us could shake it. That was the real start of something pretty cool.