I am engaged. I am engaged. I, Heather Bing, am engaged to the boy I’ve always loved; who I cannot imagine my life without.
Once Upon A Time…
There once was a girl who dreamed of falling in love.
In preschool, she asked every girl in her class if they liked the boy in class she admired because she didn’t want to ‘steal him’ if someone else was interested. Love meant not hurting other people.
In elementary school, she wrote a journal in class describing how she imagined a boy sneaking up to a tree house where she was gently sleeping and kissing her awake. Love meant surprises and delight.
When she started going over to friends’ houses, she would play games to guess who she would marry, what kind of house they would have and what sort of car they would drive. Love meant dreaming and leaving some things to chance.
In junior high, she made friends with boys, thought about boys and watched her friends start ‘going out’ with boys. She wondered what it would be like to hold hands and smile secretly and pass notes back and forth. Love meant having someone else out there who loved you back.
She loved to read and the more she read, the more she was convinced that there was someone out there for everyone. Maybe she had to wait for now, but surely somewhere out there in the great, big world there was another person who would care about her. She wouldn’t always have to go to dances alone, or tag along with friends as a third wheel, or wonder what it would be like to be kissed. All of the waiting would be worth it.
At the end of eighth grade, just as everything was about to change—from getting contacts and a new haircut, to entering high school and making new friends—she met him. On her first terrifying visit to the high school to practice for her first marching band parade with the high school band students, she met him.
She was sitting quietly in a room full of shouting, laughing kids taking it all in, images of how high school was going to play out rushing through her mind when a tall, lean, bearded guy with a ponytail sat down on her lap and started asking her name. She was horrified—who would act like this? They didn’t even know each other!—and she was thrilled—a high school boy was paying attention to her! He was sitting on her lap and wanted to know her name!
The moment flew by; band practice started and everything settled down and everyone finished and went home. But she couldn’t stop thinking about him. She knew of him, but didn’t know anything about him. What grade was he in? Did he have a girlfriend? Would she see him again?
That summer flew by, and before she knew it, it was fall and time for band camp. And there he was. He was in her squad, she got to talk to him, she was going to get to spend the whole band season with him, and she was ready. She was in high school, and things were going to be different. Love meant being optimistic.
But she was a freshman. She didn’t know the first thing about boys. She wasn’t allowed to date. She couldn’t drive. She still considered love to be as bold as holding hands; as intimate as writing notes; as simple as stating, “I like you, do you like me?”
That innocence can be mistaken for immaturity, that exuberance can lead to infatuation, and that imagination and dreams can be shattered by reality was hard for her to understand. Love hurt people. Love didn’t behave nicely. Love was not easy. And love was not always returned. Sometimes people had enough of love. Sometimes they tried it and decided it wasn’t for them. Sometimes people wanted to have fun without strings attached. Sometimes they didn’t think they would ever be interested in love again.
She was lonely. She thought she was loveable. She tried distracting herself, but she couldn’t stop thinking about him. He left for college and left her behind with a few parting words, namely to become herself. To grow into the person she was meant to be, not for someone else, but for herself. To learn to roll on her own before finding someone else to roll through life with.
She was lonely.
But she grew up. She was smart. She left for college. She made new friends. She tried dating new people. And she still emailed him throughout the week and called him to say goodnight before she went to bed. And although he wasn’t interested, he usually wrote back and he sometimes picked up.
In the middle of college, everything in life started to change. She needed to get out. She needed to escape. She had always wanted to study abroad, and everything aligned to make that dream into a reality. So she packed her bags, kissed her friends and family goodbye and took her first plane ride alone on her first trip outside the country.
Her first weeks in Ireland left her empty, and she wasn’t sure what she’d done. How could she leave everything behind? How was she going to make it on her own? What was she trying to prove? But slowly she made new friends and they started to travel.
She drank her first beer, went to her first night club and danced in a ceili at midnight. She went to a play in London and climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower. She ate haggis outside a Scottish castle and celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. She visited Stonehenge and Bath, the Giant’s Causeway and the Waterford factory and she looked at, but did not kiss, the Blarney Stone. She read romance novels in a vineyard in Tuscany, took pictures of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, toured the ruins of Rome and attended the pope’s funeral.
She had become someone of her own accord. She made her own decisions and dealt with the consequences. She took care of herself and could make it on her own. She loved her family and friends, but she didn’t need them in order to survive. She had become her own person.
One day early on in her trip, she received an unusual package. Inside were a tape recorder and a stub from a concert she had attended what seemed like forever ago with that boy. She put on the headphones, pushed play, and heard, “This song goes out to a girl I once knew. I never told her how I felt about her, and she left before I had the chance. This one’s for you, babe.”
Her entire world turned upside down.
She listened to the tape over and over and over. She didn’t understand. It had been years and years since that long ago day in the band room when a tall, lean, bearded guy with a ponytail had sat down on her lap and asked her name. He had grown up. She had grown up. It was too late to go back.
She called her mom 3,000 miles away, resigned to the advice she knew would come, but her dad answered the phone. He listened, and his response left her dumbfounded. “Maybe he finally realized what he lost.” Love meant asking for a second chance.
She called the boy and asked him his intentions. “I just want to talk to you.”
So they talked. They emailed every day. She told him all about the people she was meeting, the classes she was taking and the places she was traveling. He told her all about living on his own, life after college and having a job in the real world. They emailed every day for three months.
One day, she read his email and was shocked. He wanted to come see her in Ireland. He could only come for a weekend. She was confused; she didn’t know what was supposed to happen, but she agreed to it. She outlined how he would fly over, what train he would catch and what platform he would end his travels and find her.
The day finally came. She left class and went and sat in a metal shack on the train platform and waited for the train. The train finally came and everyone pushed on and off and the train took off again. He hadn’t walked by. Maybe he missed the train, or his flight was delayed. She thought she would head back to her apartment and look up the next train schedule when she caught a glimpse of his reflection in the final train windows speeding by. She tore out of the shack, ran straight to him on the platform and jumped into his waiting arms. Love meant following your heart.
She had one of the best weekends of her life. They talked, they ate, they drank, they traveled, they explored. And late one night in a pub in Port Rush over the laughter of her friends and the noise of the band, he asked her to be his girlfriend. And she said yes.
She came home and finished college. He bought a house and started new jobs. He started traveling for work and would be gone weeks at a time. She got an apartment and started her first job. They lived an hour and a half apart and made the best of their disjointed, long-distance relationship. They explored the United States, they traveled to Mexico, they bought motorcycles, they shot hand guns, they argued, they experienced the death of loved ones and they got to know each other.
After six years, they finally came to the same point in their lives. They moved in together, they started new jobs, they dealt with horrible landlords, they traveled to Germany, they let a friend move in with them for several months and they bought a house together.
One day, the girl came across a festival taking place not far away in Canada. To her surprise, the boy agreed to go. They drove to Canada and explored wine country. They stopped at wineries, tried new food, and checked in to a room they rented above an Irish pub owned by a couple of guys from Northern Ireland. They dressed up and went out to dinner and came back to change so they could head out to see the city and ice wine village lit up at night.
They were just ready to head out. The boy called something to the girl. The girl went running out of the bathroom still making some final tweaks to her hair.
The boy was down on one knee. Love means sometimes your dreams do come true.
This journey has a happy ending. And a whole new adventure is just now beginning.