One of the things my husband and I love to do together is watch sports. We tuned in on Saturdays this fall to watch our beloved Notre Dame Irish play football (who finished undefeated, but sadly lost the National Title game…still, go Irish!!). Once the football season ended ND basketball had already begun! If you’ve ever watched a game you’ll know that with ND home sporting events comes the beautiful overhead campus shots, and for us, beautiful overhead campus shots come with lots of nostalgia…
My husband James and I met on Notre Dame’s campus in the fall of 2004 where we were both undergraduates. We had a class together so we saw each other often and started “officially” dating soon after we met. We quickly realized we had a challenge to our relationship though… we were “long-distance.” On Notre Dame’s campus, it takes a solid 15-20 minutes to walk from end to end, and our respective dormitories were indeed at opposite ends. Every time I would tell a friend what dorm my new boyfriend lived in, they would sympathize with a sad, knowing nod and a gentle pat on the shoulder – they knew many a relationship had not survived the distance. It just got too cold in South Bend…who could blame them? But James and I knew we were different. Our relationship was special and we were determined to make it work!
All of the dorms on campus are single-sex and all have a chapel and offer Sunday evening Mass for their residents. Many mens’ dorms also offer daily Mass in the evenings since they usually have a priest or two in residence and James’ dorm was no exception.
As our relationship progressed we started to make 10 PM daily Mass a part of our routine. This was a great wholesome way to grow together as a couple but afterwards there I was, all the way across campus from my warm bed (or warm desk as it were…let’s not pretend I had all of my studying done). James, being the gentleman that he is, wouldn’t dream of letting me walk back alone. However, he was in ROTC at the time and had a daily 5:30 AM wake up. I felt really guilty having him walk me 15-20 minutes home in the freezing cold and then have to turn around and walk 15-20 minutes back when he needed to get to bed. Many times he would tell me, “Too bad, I’m walking you back,” but I finally got him to agree, most nights, to part ways at a halfway point near the student center. To throw in a little more corny romance, this also just happened to be near the spot of our first kiss.
Over time, we noticed that right next to our “spot” was a lamppost that was marked “CR-42.” We adopted it as our own little landmark. No one else could claim their favorite spot on campus was a random lamppost! Sometimes we’d text each other, “CR-42 in 30?” and we’d know exactly where to go. Sometimes he’d even pop into the student center before I arrived and would surprise me with a warm cup of coffee. We even had our spot mentioned in Notre Dame Magazine when the editors were collecting stories of people’s favorite campus spots.
We look back now and realize that those walks and those long pauses at CR-42 were really a blessed and special time. Campus was quiet, beautiful and peaceful, and even when it was bitterly cold we’d hold hands and walk close and James would make fun of the strange way I would take in my breath to try and warm myself. We had some of our best conversations on those walks home and at that lamppost and while I was jealous of my roommate whose boyfriend lived in the dorm right next to ours, I loved the intentionality of our relationship and wouldn’t trade those walks or talks for anything.
In January 2009 after we had both graduated James and I went to visit campus for the day and attended a basketball game. Afterwards we took a walk around campus and when we made it over to the lamppost James suggested that we have someone take a picture of us there. We found a willing volunteer and as I turned towards the camera to smile James turned me to face him, got down on one knee in the snow, and proposed, making the spot ever more special.
As we’ve grown and settled into married live we’ve realized our distance and our walks were not just a special time or beautiful memory, but also very formative, helping us set a strong foundation for marriage and using NFP. We learned patience, delayed gratification, how to enjoy chaste activities together, and how to have deep conversation. James and I still treasure walking together and continue to share our hopes, fears, and dreams as we stroll. Our walks now usually include our young son and it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come since we were a couple of teenagers in college.
I don’t know the next time we’ll be on campus (several hundred miles, a tight budget, and a young child currently make that more difficult) but I know whenever it happens we’ll be sure to stop by CR-42.