Image: Siyan Ren
When I think about our story, I wonder to myself. Is it the way we met? The challenges along the way that could have broken us apart but undoubtedly made us stronger together in the long run? Is our story wrapped in the reasons we love each other or wonder why we even try to get along? It is all of these things but more importantly it is our faith in God who saw it fit for us to cross paths for an adventure that doesn’t stop with us. We are Ashleigh and Shadley, and very soon we’ll be affectionately known as the Easthorpes.
How did I know he was the one? I didn’t. But he left me speechless. As someone who has something to say or write about most things, this was different and strange. There was something about this guy so unlike the person I was expecting to share my life with, he possessed a peculiarity about him that made him feel like home. I had my expectations and I always relay with fond memory that although he didn’t fit a cookie-cutter mold when he came along, he most certainly ticked every box in ways that mattered. Before him, I never knew that one could be everything someone ever wanted in a manner they never knew they needed. He was a surprise. The best one yet.
He will tell you that I remind him of his mother. Aunty Colleen, I wish I had the opportunity to meet her, and that her children would have had more time with such a special and remarkable woman. Apparently it is in the little things I do, like taking my hair out of a roller set on a Saturday afternoon, or choosing a beige camisole to wear under my winter jerseys. There’s my love for hearty meals born in kitchens and raised in satisfied tummies, and my soft spot for others. It feels ridiculous talking about myself in this way but the sentiment means a lot to him. It was his silent prayer before our meeting, a mum’s way of reminding her eldest that there will always be someone looking out for him.
Shadley ended a long-term relationship before we got together, and I – I don’t really know what I was doing at the time! Whatever it was, it eventually prepared me for the day my pot would have its lid and my aching feet (and heart) would have its resting place. Shadley jokes that he asks himself daily what he got himself into, and it means a lot to me that he loves me the same fully aware of who I am and not who he met on his birthday in Johannesburg with a chocolate cake from PicknPay in her lap.
After deciding to explore a romance, I left South Africa for Malawi where I lived for several long and stressful months. I was discontented with the idea of a long distance relationship and we fought as if for a title. Shadley might say that he was a little insecure and I had way too much time to think. We both saw parts of each other that were scary and real, things that should have been enough for us to forget our first date at Milky Lane where I nervously ate my waffle knowing I had a badly broken tooth which he kindly made no mention of. That day I was corny enough to make him sign his name on a serviette to salute a strong and healthy courtship. In less than a year I will take that name as my own.
When were both snug in Cape Town after my return (he relocated from Johannesburg where we met while I was in transit) the slow dance began. We had a lovely holiday housesitting with my family and the scent of shouting “wheeh” and keeping my eyes wide shut while being whirled around in a communal pool by the man who I will call my husband in a few, stays close. These were good times and we have had many more.
But there has also been tragedy. On 28th October 2016 Shadley was the one who conveyed to me that my father had died suddenly. It was his experience of losing a mother that held my hand and left me alone when I thought I wanted him at my side at every hour of the day. It was his sadness of not knowing my father as he had hoped which lended him to grief too. Our families have been touched by tribulation many times before and after then, and together we have been able carry weights and lift burdens, and other times do nothing at all but pray.
For me, our engagement couldn’t have come sooner. Yes, I had itchy feet because I knew all that I needed to know and didn’t care for waiting. I’m not so sure how I made it to 17th November 2016 in one, calm piece. Shadley planned a complete surprise, something I thought he’d never get away with. He was out of breath on shaking knee and when he managed to ask me to be his wife in a few words I could tell were tough for him to reach for in the spirit of the moment, he put the ring on the wrong hand! I am the girl who laughed the entire length of her marriage proposal. I nodded instead of saying “yes” and a year later I have no pictures of that very special day. But it is engraved on the walls of my heart and Ferris wheels have never been more valuable to me than after my life changed in one single trip on the Cape Wheel at the V&A Waterfront.
I am so excited about what our good Lord has in mind for us and know that our marriage only begins with love. So much more awaits.