This is not my story, but I got to have the immense pleasure and honor of writing it down on someone else’s behalf because it is a story that deserves to be told. For those of you who are lucky enough to know them (and for the rest of you who are missing out) — enjoy!
From the perspective of an outside onlooker, there is something that has always seemed inevitable about Wilson and Lauren. They fit — like two pieces in one of the many puzzles they have completed together during their dating relationship (because they are both secretly 90 years old), they are natural and obvious together. They’re both witty and sarcastic and can take as good as they give, so a conversation with the two of them often sparks and crackles with lighthearted jabs and banter. They compliment each other’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses, they lift each other up and adore one another. They enrich each other’s lives, but also the lives of everyone around them as they each become better versions of themselves when they are together. If you know them as they are now, it makes sense that they would be together, but it wasn’t always so obvious — certainly not to the two of them.
Wilson and Lauren first met at Hickory Cove Bible camp seven years ago, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2018 that buds of something more began to bloom between them. Wilson remembers first taking a more serious interest in Lauren in May before the camp season had properly begun. They were both helping at the open house for camp and he was excited to see her even though they weren’t particularly good friends at the time. He heard that she wasn’t planning to work over the summer, which was disappointing because Wilson was really rooting for her to come back to camp. By his own admittance, he liked her as a person and thought she was cute. He also admits that it took him a lot longer than it should have to realize that he didn’t just think she was cute, he actually really like liked her because growing up, Wilson was always like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz — he didn’t have a heart. He never had crushes because they were “illogical” and “pointless.” He could easily talk himself out of feelings for someone and never bothered with dating. I’m not sure he would have owned up to his feelings for Lauren if he hadn’t been able to see and talk to her every day over an entire summer.
But fortunately for our heartless hero, Caleb — the camp director at the time — convinced Lauren to come on as full-time staff over the summer and set the stage for Act One of our little love story (thank you, Caleb, for putting everything in motion). Lauren, by her own admittance is a very friendly and flirty person. She and Wilson had always had a flirtatious bantering relationship, but that summer it intensified. They found little ways to seek one another out, they texted and talked all the time, and they even kept in touch over the weekends (something they had never done before).
One of the things that facilitated this connection was the activity that summer known as “The Quest” — a role playing game that sent campers (with adult supervision) deep into the woods to find a hidden treasure. Along the way they encountered many challenges and zany characters (all bursting with Christian allegory), two of whom were played by our lovebirds.
Wilson’s character, The Wanderer, was a mysterious and benevolent fellow who would appear when beckoned by the children and aid them in their mission whenever they asked for his help. Much to the campers’ eternal frustration, Wilson remained rigidly in character and would never admit to playing a role. As far as he was concerned, Wilson and The Wanderer were two separate people. Lauren was a counselor for most of the summer, but because of a terrible tendinitis flare up in her knee, she couldn’t walk around with the kids. Instead, she was posted as a guard, blocking the path unless her demands were met (mostly she just stood around waiting for the kids to show up). Boredom is quick to find anyone posted in the woods with nothing else to do, and Wilson would often use it as an excuse to find his way over to Lauren’s part of the forest to keep her company. All summer he insisted that he, as The Wanderer, was charming and mysterious. Later in the summer when they started to catch feelings for one other, Lauren would text Wilson to tease him and tell him that she was flirting with the Wanderer and that she was going to ask him out. Wilson would play along and pretend to be jealous, although he didn’t always have to pretend.
Lauren, affectionate though she always is, never really touched Wilson. Being huggy with friends was one thing in her mind, but he was a cute boy she actually liked so hugging him felt weird. What if he didn’t like her back and hated being hugged by her? This lack of touch wasn’t lost on Wilson and even though they often flirted, it made him a little less sure that she liked him. In fact, it was a hug that — in classic rom-com style — confirmed to Lauren that they were supposed to date while simultaneously convincing Wilson that Lauren had no interest in him.
You see, Lauren had gone into the summer determined not to enter any kind of relationship. She was focusing on God and building up her self-confidence and her sense of identity in her relationship with Him rather than with a boyfriend. But Wilson was such a solid friend who made her feel like a good person. He saw value in her that she didn’t even see in herself. His compliments were always about her as an individual of worth — about her ideas and thoughts and personality and strengths, not her physical appearance. She realized that despite her decision to not pursue a relationship, she was starting to really be interested in Wilson so she prayed for a really long time about it. She could see herself with him, but she didn’t want to jeopardize their friendship. Finally, she decided to ask God for a clear sign. Like Gideon with his sheepskin before the Lord, she laid out the impossible and asked God to make it possible if it was His will. She thought, “You know what, God, Wilson never hugs me. So a hug would be weird and unprecedented. If Wilson hugs me before the end of the day tomorrow, I’ll take that as a sign that it’s okay to date him.” And that’s where she left it, sure that nothing would come of it.
That night Wilson and Josh were sent to build a fire for the campers and Lauren went along to help. The three of them had palled around together for much of the summer so it was nothing out of the ordinary for the three of them to be working together like that (shout out to Josh, btw, for being the third wheel that made Wilson and Lauren hanging out together “camp appropriate” and facilitated the foundation for their impending wedding. Go you). Once the fire was lit, Wilson, very true to his nature, started playing with the lighter. Lauren told him to stop before he lit himself on fire and tried to grab it from him. He play wrestled her for it then put his arms around her and pretended to light her hair on fire (Side note: Wilson’s brand of affection is very… unique. Luckily “pretend to light you on fire” works for Lauren. It’s part of why they’re so good together).
But wait. Here it was, within the time frame that Lauren had laid out before God and WAS THIS A HUG??? His arms were certainly around her. She freaked out. She was shocked and surprised and overwhelmed by what felt like the clarity she had asked for — she was supposed to date Wilson.
Meanwhile, Wilson had finally gotten up the nerve to initiate physical contact with someone he had feelings for, even in just a playful manner (again, something wildly out of the ordinary for him) and was met with dismay. She violently recoiled. He recalls thinking, Wow. Okay, so Lauren very badly doesn’t want to be touched by me. “It kind of broke my heart” he later said.
So now Lauren was sure about Wilson and he had became far less certain about her, but there was still time left in the summer. They kept texting, the kept flirting, they kept stealing little moments talking together that rode the line of being against camp policy (sorry, Caleb). One night, they texted late into the night even though they both had to get up early for a camp meeting the next day. Lauren was staying in the girl’s dorm and would have to walk by the dining hall on her way to the meeting. She offered to bring him a cup of coffee the next day. He said he would love that, and finally, they agreed to go to sleep.
The next morning Lauren started to get cold feet. Was it weird to only bring coffee for Wilson? Would it be like making a public declaration of her feelings in front of the whole staff? She texted him: “Still want that coffee?”
Little did she know Wilson didn’t have any cell reception where he and the other male staff were staying in the gym. In order to text with her the night before, he had been standing by the window and holding his phone in the air at an awkward angle for service. So he didn’t see her text about the coffee until it was too late.
When he didn’t respond she assumed it was because he felt weird, he didn’t want the coffee. So she brought only a cup for herself. He proceeded to give her a hard time in the weeks that followed, but it also gave him an idea on how to ask her out.
He had decided to ask her out on Sunday during the registration period to go on a date the following Saturday. But registration day got crazy and the day quickly passed by without a clear opportunity presenting itself. Before they knew it, it was already 10:30 – 10:45 at night. All the staff were hanging out in the gym together, and Wilson had all but given up hope on getting to ask Lauren out. They were sitting in a group of six or seven people when miraculously they all jumped up and ran out of the gym to go to the kitchen to look for pizza (dear friend Alec led the charge that unknowingly opened a window — thanks, Alec). Suddenly Wilson was on the spot to ask her — the clock was ticking, he felt rushed. Everyone would be back soon so it was now or never. He had planned for it to be smooth, but ended up just sort of blurting his line, “You said you were going to bring me coffee last week and you never did so I think you owe me a cup of coffee still. Do you want to go out with me and get a cup next Saturday?”
She said yes!
But it was a little bit awkward. They kind of just sat there after that until everyone came back.
Later that night, Wilson felt like it hadn’t gone the way he wanted because he had felt rushed to ask her. He started to worry that he hadn’t been clear that it was a date. That week they miraculously decided to leave the wifi on in the gym so (unlike during the coffee debacle the week prior) he had service. Wilson snapped Lauren and after talking for a bit he said,
“Hey, I just wanted to clarify that getting coffee means a date. I want to go on a date with you”
They admitted to liking each other and wanting to talk more in depth about the nature of their relationship. Finally it was set.
The day before the date, however, things didn’t go to plan. All of the full-time staffers were really close that summer, so they would all hang out together. They planned to go on a kayaking trip and then to dinner on Friday after cleanup. Wilson went to go move his car and pack up before they left, but his car wouldn’t start. Lauren said she had jumper cables he could use so she drove her car over to where his was parked. She tried to help him charge his battery, but it wasn’t working so they called AAA. It took the technician an hour and forty-five minutes to get there so Wilson and Lauren missed the kayaking trip. Wilson had tried to send her ahead, but she wouldn’t leave him (because let’s be honest, nobody goes kayaking with friends when they can sit alone with their crush instead). They would still be able to go out to dinner with everyone, at least. But then one by one everyone else bailed on dinner plans. They decided that they would still get dinner — they were hungry and discouraged after their long day. The AAA technician told Wilson that he needed to replace his battery, so he went to do that while Lauren went home and changed. When asked, Wilson still describes her as looking stunning when she showed up to dinner later. Wilson — the automaton — in his own words, was overwhelmed by her beauty. At dinner they talked about how she hadn’t seen Rogue One so they went back to her house and watched the movie. If you were to ask Lauren, that was their first date. It was dinner and a movie after all. If you were to ask Wilson, however, he very admittedly insists it was NOT a date. He had worked really hard to plan and get up the nerve to ask her out for their date on Saturday, so no matter how date-ish it may appear, Friday night they were just hanging out as friends.
The next day they got the coffee (for over three hours) and then Wilson took her to Glenn C. Hilton park where they did the boardwalk and fed the ducks. They wandered through the park for five or six hours and finally talked about what they were to each other. They agreed that they liked and wanted to date each other, but there were a lot of dating obstacles– Lauren was graduating in December, Wilson had several more years of school, and they would have to long distance. They decided that obstacles aside, they were going to try it. At that point it was approaching 6pm so they decided to get dinner. After dinner they still were not ready to stop hanging out so they went back to the park to walk around and look at the stars. In the end, it was a full on twelve hour date (breaking the world record for longest first-ish date ever). What they both distinctly remember about the day is that there wasn’t a single minute when they were unhappy or bored or ready for the date to be over. Even during the times when they sat in silence — there was no awkwardness or need to break the silence. They were content to be together.
The other distinct memory that lingers from the date for them both is that Wilson opened the car door handle for Lauren and there was a big fat hairy spider underneath. It fell down its web just long enough for them to see the bushy monstrosity before it quickly scurried back up under the handle. Wilson fearlessly (but also screaming like a little girl) grabbed the handle again, knowing what was underneath, and knocked it to the ground where it was violently stomped to death — both remain traumatized to this day.
The next day they both went back to camp and could no longer be “dating” because it was against the rules. They had to spend the rest of the summer playing it cool and keep their now brand new baby romance on the down-low. By the time the camp season ended and they could announce their relationship, it was time for them both to head back to school and begin the long-distance leg of their journey. Over the past year and half of doing long distance, Wilson and Lauren have faithfully traveled back and forth to see one another, or at least made time to meet in the middle for dates. One such place they often met was Amélie’s French Bakery & Café. Their most notable date at the cafe was also their first date after Wilson had gone back to school.
They got coffee and macaroons to share as they sat down to answer The New York Times’ 30 questions that Lead to Love. The questions were based on a study Lauren had been learning about in school that postulated that two total strangers could ask each other these questions and by the end would “fall in love” or at least feel closer. The participants are supposed to take turns asking and answering first, and the whole thing is supposed to take 45 minutes. True to their nature, they spent 5 hours on it as they went into crazy depth to get to know each other. Close to the end, there was a question that said, “If you died today, what is something you would regret not having told someone?” It was Lauren’s turn to answer first. She really wanted to say “I love you” but she was worried Wilson would think it was too soon and that it would freak him out. She deliberated on and off for a long time before deflecting and somewhat lamely picking a quaint platitude she would want to tell a friend. Wilson thought it was a bit of a weird answer and that it took her a long time to get to it, but didn’t mention it.
When Lauren asked him the question in return he answered, “I think I’m in love with you and I would regret not telling you that.”
Lauren was shocked. “No way!” She said, ”That’s what I was going to say too!”
Wilson, somewhat saucily, replied, “No, too late. You had your chance. You totally chickened and I said it first.” Rather like the incident with the coffee, it has remained a point of well meant, but rather merciless teasing to this day.
Their dating relationship continued on in a similar way — each driving to visit the other — as their love and devotion for one another deepened. It wasn’t long before they began to discuss the idea of marriage somewhat in earnest. Wilson spent hours looking for the perfect ring for Lauren, finally finding it online with a Ukrainian jewler. He ordered the ring in time for it to arrive by Thanksgiving break — when he hoped to propose. Only, the ring didn’t come. Slightly annoyed, he figured over Christmas break would be just as fine. Only, the last day of exams came and went and the ring still didn’t come.
He came home from school in something of a panic. Where was the ring? Finally, finally, he got a notification letting him know the ring had been delivered — to his school mailbox — three hours away. He found the phone number of the woman who worked in the mail office and apologized for the intrusion on her privacy but explained his situation and his need for the ring. She happily agreed to help him. On December 23rd he asked Lauren if she would like to roadtrip with him to pick up one of her Christmas presents that had been delivered late and ended up at school. They made a day of the journey — stopping in Rock Hill at one of their favorite restaurants and doing some last minute shopping. All the while, Lauren secretly wondered if this could be her ring (she had teasingly asked Wilson one too many times when he was going to propose and he had snapped at her that he would when the ring came). Wilson, not remembering he had let that detail slip, kept weaving the lie that it was a Christmas present. When they got to CIU Wilson told her to wait in the car while he got the package. Much to his dismay, the box was damningly ring sized. He hunted around the empty student union until he found a bigger box he could hide the smaller box inside of before bringing it out to the car.
Lauren’s confidence wavered only slightly on seeing the size of the box before asking if she could open it early. Wilson replied that she could not open it early because it was something for her to use at the beach (where they were heading Christmas afternoon to spend the rest of the holiday with Lauren’s family). Now her certainty was really beginning to waver, but she kept it to herself as they made their way back to Lauren’s apartment, tired from their six hour drive.
Wilson had decided that to propose he would recreate a moment from early in their relationship. Back when they had first started discussing marriage Lauren had told him that she wouldn’t appreciate subtlety in a proposal — she needed it to be clear. The parameters she laid out for him were this: he had to have a ring, he had to say her full name, and he had to get on one knee. Being the cheeky fool he is, he immediately started looking for loopholes. While they were laying on the bed talking, he rolled over so that he was laying on one knee, he took his own ring off his finger, and he asked her, “Lauren Beth Rudisill, will you marry me?” To which she (obviously) responded, “Um, no.” Wilson often teased that he wouldn’t propose again because he had been so rudely rejected the first time and it became an ongoing joke in their relationship (at this point you may have noticed that ongoing teasing is a staple of both of their love languages).
But now with an actual ring, it was time to recreate the moment. Wilson told Lauren that he left his phone in the car and went down to retrieve it. While down at the car, he pulled the ring from the box inside the box and slipped it into his pocket. He went back upstairs, laid on Lauren’s bed, and — as nonchalantly as possible — asked her to come lay down and cuddle with him.
“Let’s take pictures in our new matching pajama pants first,” she said, “If we lay down now we won’t want to get back up.”
Wilson thought about the ring in his pocket and about the pocketless pajama pants she wanted him to put on, “Uuuuhh, just, just come cuddle me first” he insisted.
Finally she agreed. They cuddled for a minute before Wilson rolled over onto onto one knee, and whispered, “I tried this once before but you rejected me so I thought I’d give it a second shot,” he pulled the ring from his pocket, “Lauren Beth Rudisill, will you marry me?” To which she (obviously) responded, “Yes!”
And the rest, of course, is history! That which seemed fated, happened. On May 16th they will make their eternal vows to one another and they will live jokingly, lovingly, devotedly, and happily ever after.
I hope you enjoyed this I much as I do.
Until Next Time,