The time leading up to our first few dates are not quite lost in the mists of time, but it's not far off.
Both Hillary and I had long term relationships that wrapped up sometime midway through 2003. In the following months, both she and I went about our lives in the same circles. Hillary dated a couple of people, one for a few months. I went out a couple of times, but largely just spent it with friends as much as possible.
Then, at some point in early 2004, we went from being friends to being something more. I don't really mean that in the way that implies a 'real' relationship or anything. More like at some point in there, I think it began to be clear to both of us that there was some possibility that a relationship with the other person was possible.
Those times were good. I enjoyed the process of getting to know a casual friend far more deeply. We flirted when we were together. Whenever we were out in the same place at the same time, we gravitated towards each other. We spent hundreds of hours typing at each other over instant messengers.
That first MS Bike Tour that Hillary rode in 2004. I have memories of being in her (our, now my) tent, chatting with her. Lying perpendicularly to her, half out of the open tent door for propriety. Our heads almost touching as we relaxed and talked.
Looking forward to chatting with her most evenings for at least a little bit after work and dinner before bed. Neither of us liked phones, so our communication medium of choice was an instant messenger app. I'll postulate now that if instant messaging wasn't a thing, we would not have started dating. We got to know each other well in those few months before the Pub Italia night.
I have nought but good memories, feelings really, from that period of time.
When I'm thinking about that phase of my relationship with Hillary, I use the word courting. I can't think of a better way to phrase it. This was the phase where we tried to show the other person we were interested in them. We tried to make the other person interested in us.
By the time we hit the dating phase, we were trying to learn where the relationship could possibly go. This was a distinctly different thing and one that I'm less interested in right now.
It's been so long since I did this. I'm going to again at some point. How will it be different with kids? How will it be different as a less flexible, more settled adult?
I'm looking forward to it, to be honest. I remember the raw optimism at the time. It was uncertain, but it felt like there were immense possibilities open in front of me. I really want to feel that again.