I was born on May 17, 1980 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Two years later, in the same hospital, my first brother, Sam, arrived. We were joined six years after that by Daniel, the third and youngest of the Grittner boys. My childhood was an easy one, punctuated unhappily by a broken leg at age two and the death of my uncle Patrick when I was thirteen. Aside from those traumatic events and the usual indignities that go along with that hotbed of hormonal transition known as adolescence, things went pretty well. I won the Spelling Bee for the entire school district in 6th grade and started distinguishing myself in Math Team in junior high and high school. Simply put, I was a nerd, and a condescending one at that. I wanted a girlfriend so badly in high school, but it never happened.
When I left for college at Brandeis University (the country's only non-sectarian, Jewish-sponsored institution of higher learning!), I feared a reprise of the previous four years - frustration, disappointment, and unrequited yearning. Something was different, and I still don't know if it was me, the girls, or both, but suddenly I found myself asking girls out and having them say yes. My confidence grew throughout freshman year, preparing me for a fateful summer day, back home in Minnesota, when I met Jessica for the first time (described below).
Jessica and I pursued a long-distance relationship throughout the last three years of college, racking up exorbitant phone bills and scouring on-line travel sites for cheap airfare. After graduation, I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where Jessica went to school, and took a job as an Account Manager with IT Convergence. I was a Computer Science major in college, but decided during my junior year that I did not want to spend the rest of my life writing code. Accordingly, I made plans to apply to law school. Those plans will come to fruition this fall, when Jessica and I pack up and move to New Haven, where I will begin three years of studies at Yale Law School.
How We Met
Picture a teen dance club with low ceilings, airbrushed galaxies on the walls and a dance floor empty of people but filled with machine-generated "fog." Suffice to say, this not where I expected to meet my future wife. When I got to the club (Xtreme!) with my friend Susie, I noticed Jessica right away. She was beautiful, a great dancer with a 1000-watt smile. Being only a year out of high school and still unsure of myself around girls (especially those I found attractive), I went the "indirect" route ans asked our mutual friend, Galina, if Jessica was single, mentioning how cute I thought she was.
Moments later, she was back with an encouraging report: not only was she single, but the interest was mutual. Emboldened by the news, I asked her to dance. We spent the rest of the evening together, dancing, talking and laughing. That's all we've done since and I hope it's all we ever do - dance, talk and laugh.
Popping the Question!
Jessica likes to tell the story about the first time she realized I was serious about our relationship for the long-term. We were talking about marriage in general terms, and she asked me when I planned to get married. "Whenever you're ready," I told her, and that turned out to be the truth. I never planned to get engaged during college, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans.
We started talking seriously about marriage during our junior year of school, and made a couple of short visits to jewelry stores to look at rings. When it came time to pick out a ring, I took the pragmatic but decidedly unromantic step of bringing Jessica along to help pick it out. Being good little Minnesota consumers, we went to the Mall of America, and quickly ended up finding a ring at King Jewelers with the help of Kevin, a friendly clerk with a tattoo of a marijuana leaf on his forearm.
So now I had the ring, but no plan for how to get it on her finger. A couple of months later we planned a trip to Chicago to celebrate our two year anniversary of our first date -- June 21, 1999. This seemed like a good time and place, so I packed the ring and brought it along, but I still had no definite idea about where, when or how I would pop the question. Friends offered suggestions, including the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier and a sailboat on Lake Michigan. I also thought about doing it in the middle of a crowded restaurant. As we set out from our hotel to explore our surroundings, I quizzed Jessica on what she wanted. It turned out that she didn't want to be around a crowd of people when it happened but, beyond that, she was pretty open.
I've got the ring in my pocket as we're walking and all I can think about is getting it out of the box and into the open, where it can do what it was meant to do. From a few blocks away, we spotted the spray shooting up from Buckingham Fountain. We both commented on what a spectacular sight it was and at that moment I finally made the decision. When we got to the fountain, I directed her away from the gravel that was wet from the spray (I didn't want my knee to get dirty!) to a dry patch closer to the lake. I wasn't nervous or scared as I pulled the small, white box out of my pocket and dropped to one knee. I told Jessica how much I loved her and how badly I wanted her to be with me for the rest of my life. Tears had started forming in her eyes even before I hit the ground and by the time I finished my little speech she was in full-on "happy crying" mode. She said yes, I slipped the ring on her finger and now, a mere two years later, we're keeping the promise we made to each other that day, June 22, 2001.