Our first years as friends were spent mostly on back decks and side porches, eating, drinking, laughing, talking, watching Clemson football and occasionally testing his turn-out ability when I felt discouraged after a particularly embarrassing grad school ballet class.
There were also a few hellos exchanged in underground computer labs or as we passed each other on campus, but nothing that changed our lives.
Looking back, there were a million times Bradley and I could have gotten together. And even more opportunities for us never to have paired up. My goodness am I thankful there's a bigger plan at work...
When I met him, B and I were both college students. Oddly, we have no memory of first meeting; as best we can tell it was late 2001 or early 2002.
(I'd like to think angels sang and the Earth stood still when he first laid eyes upon me, but evidently that's not the case. Or he's just too embarrassed to tell me. Let's go with that explanation.)
I remember him in the background now and then - always friendly, always funny, always there. He says I was wearing a white t-shirt the first time he saw me; he may or may not be making this up, but it doesn't narrow things down either way.
Flash forward a few years and we were in Columbia for work and grad school, respectively. He was still friendly, adorable, quietly hilarious and absolutely date-worthy, so I did what any girl in her right mind would do: I set him up with someone else.
Say what? Yes, I know. We spent our first Valentine's Day together on opposite sides of the table on a double date with other people. What a different story I'd be telling today had either of those relationships worked out.
A year later we dined on Valentine's 2005 as friends who did so much together - movies, church, house hunting, tailgate prep, weekend cookouts, dog walking, inside joking and story swapping.
We were friends. Really good, oblivious friends. (Except I was madly in love with him, but that's another story for another day.) Whatever the circumstances, he paid for my dinner that Valentine's Day and didn't roll his eyes when I ordered dessert. Better than any first date I've ever had!
In 2006, by the time we got the memo everyone else had seen for some time, the future Smiths had our first "official" Valentine's Day and became engaged nine months later.
By Valentine's Day 2007 we had each moved to Greenville and started new jobs. We were busy planning a summer wedding and picking out things for the house Bradley had purchased.
In 2008 we enjoyed our first married Valentine's Day. I got an iPod that now plays white noise ("ocean music") in Mac's room - clearly a great choice on Bradley's behalf even if it is used for a slightly unforeseen purpose.
2009The week of Valentine's Day 2009, Bradley came down with the flu and I was prescribed medicine to ward it off. Before taking it, the pharmacist and doctor each recommended that I take a pregnancy test to be certain it was safe to take the drug preventatively.
Knowing I was not pregnant, I joked about it to my mom as I rang up the $752 digital test. Sure enough, Cupid brought us a "positive" on that little stick. (After an "error" on the first one. Who knew there was a wrong way to pee on a plastic wand?)
Cupid brought me some candy too, but the excitement of the big baby news lasted a little longer. Bradley's fever left him only a few hazy memories of the occasion, but it was quite a lot to celebrate.
2010 having just given my two weeks' notice. There was a lot of excitement, uncertainty and relief in our house that year. And no bigger "push present" than more time with our Mac and the chance to try out a new life.
A few days after Valentine's 2011, we got an offer on our house and life moved into a tailspin. We're only now feeling truly settled, and not a moment too soon!
This year our Valentine's Day will be a bit different than any other, though (hospital food court) Chick-fil-A might still come into the equation.
All signs point to our sweet girl being a little valentine. Her dad and I couldn't be more excited (or nervous or in awe) to celebrate Valentine's Day 2012 this way. It will be a holiday to remember, no doubt.
And considering B has never been a fan of Cupid, I'm guessing this is a pink heart celebration he can finally get behind - the kind that even he won't object to.
I'm so thankful for an acquaintance who became a buddy, a friend who become my closest confidante and a boyfriend who became the best husband and father I could dream up on a good night.
Happy early Valentine's Day to the guy I love to sun myself next to on the rare occasions we make it to the beach, the guy who gets "bounced on" by our 40-pounder until there must be bruises on his chest, the guy who has cooked meals and bought treats and generally been unstoppably awesome throughout these last crucial weeks of pregnancy.
Thank you for making Valentine's Day such a non-event. (Stay with me here.) Thank you for putting little effort into showing off on February 14th each year and a lot of time and intention into being a tremendous friend, husband and all-around fantastic person every day in between.
One day I'll be as good an everyday Valentine as you, B. Until then, I think a baby girl is a pretty darn good gift to give you - so that'll be my goal.