His eyes were the first thing I noticed.

“They’re blue,” I said on Christmas day 2010.

That’s when I noticed his crooked smile and I knew I was in trouble.

He reached for my hand. “The sidewalk’s icy.”

I slipped my hand into his and it was shaking. He’s nervous, I thought and gently smiled at the newspaper editor who had invited me to share Christmas with him and his son so I wouldn’t be alone.

Ron lived in a small one-bedroom apartment in Casper within walking distance to Natrona County High School. After a seven-hour car drive, he suggested we take a walk in his neighborhood. That’s when I discovered the beauty of the tree-lined streets in old Casper. The street lamps looked like sentinels standing guard along the sidewalk. We walked hand-in-hand after only knowing each other from phone calls and emails – yet I felt like I’d known him much longer.

The following December he proposed to me in the corner of his apartment while Bob Dylan sang, “Emotionally Yours.”

He dropped on one knee and after he spoke his heart, I knelt before him.

“Yes, but I need time,” I said and his blue eyes assured me he’d wait.

This Christmas will mark seven years from our first date. We were married in Casper where it all began and now we live in Wyoming’s capitol city. But no matter where we live, we discover our city hand-in-hand on our walks. And it was on one of our walks when we decided to host our second, annual pie party – but our first in Cheyenne.

“Shawn wants to know what to bring,” Ron said from the living room while I placed the 14th pie into the oven.

“An appetite,” I said carefully closing the door.

On the day of the party, when panic seized me and I was convinced none of the 50 people we had invited would show, Ron’s laughter brought me back to center.

“Our house isn’t big enough for everyone you keep inviting,” he said.

“You know mom invited the Orkin man to the party, right?” my son, Austin said as he enjoyed a chuckle with Ron.

“He’s recently single. The holidays can be hard,” I said of our bug guy.

That night our house overflowed with Ron’s colleagues, our neighbors and friends.

“My goal was that we’d run out of pie,” I said at the end of the evening.

“It almost happened,” Ron said and as we cleared pie plates he took me in his arms and spun me around the kitchen while Dylan sung in the distance.

We don’t have a perfect marriage, but what we have is a close-to-perfect friendship that carries us through the tough times, and with six children between us, there is always something. Ron and Mary time helps – our walks, planning pie parties and dancing in the kitchen. Kitchen dancing is pretty magical.

May this Christmas season find you dancing with the one you love.

A very merry Christmas!

Mary Billiter can be reached at marybilliter@ymail.com

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