Miss A Columnist

Allison Cunningham is somewhat of a rolling stone, and a bit of a culture vulture. Growing up in Houston, Charlotte, and Maryland, she obtained her Bachelor's degree at Oklahoma State, and a Masters in London before spending two years on Capitol Hill. After finding her Southern Prince Charming, Allison resided in Charleston, South Carolina, but is now back in the rat-race working on the Hill. She is the former Vice President of Social Affairs for the Oklahoma State Society of DC, and is very involved in her Hill-Centric social life, filled with events, parties, receptions, and happy hours.

Cherry Blossoms: A DC Love Story

After a fun Charleston weekend with some of my girlfriends from DC, I was inspired by springtime to write a bit about spring fashion in the South. However, with the Cherry Blossom Festival this weekend,  I sat down to type and came up with something different all-together…

With spring in the air, and Easter quickly upon us, I have finally come to one of my favorite times of the year. Being an April baby, I’ve always loved the bright colors, sunshine, and flowers in the springtime. My Grandma always made me an Easter-themed birthday cake, complete with things like coconut “grass” and jelly bean “Easter eggs”, and with the feeling of renewed life, spring has always been one of my favorite times of the year. Last year, spring took on a very special new meaning for me. On April 3, 2009, the most pivotal day of my life took place. After a few weeks of emailing, I was set for something crazy, unpredictable, and totally out of character for me: a blind-date with a person who I had spoken to extensively, but never met. When he picked me up on the front stairs of my basement apartment on Capitol Hill, the scenery couldn’t be more beautiful or more classically DC. The weather was finally warm enough for dresses with sandals, the sun was setting on 4th street, and the flowers began to bloom all around us. That weekend turned out to tell a beautiful story, with the District as our backdrop.

From Capitol Hill, we had drinks in Chinatown, when I had to help in relaxing one of the most friendly, talkative, outgoing men I’ve ever known, who was so nervous about our highly-anticipated meeting. Once both of our nerves calmed down, we went to Sushi Ko, the District’s oldest sushi bar. Able to ignore my blackberry for the first time in what must have been ages, I was bombarded with questions from friends… “What is he wearing?” or “How is it going?” When he went to the restroom I simply replied “Good!… Good good good!” The night was so good that when he walked me home and gave me a friendly hug, I was intrigued, and wonder where our next day in DC would take us.

Again the sun shone brightly as I woke up that Saturday to his phone call. As if he had polled my friends and investigated all of my favorite things about the city, he invited me to brunch in Eastern Market. We walked in the sunshine, past the couples with dogs, families with strollers, and everyone else enjoying the beauty all around us. Once we arrived at Tunnicliff’s, we had quite the unusual greeting: two small girls sitting in our seats, rubbing butter all over our table, unwrapping our silverware, their mothers attempting to brunch like they did when they were childless. Neither of us minded much, and after the table was cleaned, we ate and chatted about the time his parents allowed him to scream and kick below the dinner table, just so that they could enjoy a simple dinner out. His calm, sweet demeanor became apparent, especially after one of the troublesome girls dropped milk on the floor, where she stomped her foot repeatedly, splashing my legs and purse. As we laughed, I thought of the kind of memory this would make, should he and I both look back on this weekend fondly some years from now. Still quite unsure of how I felt about the entire situation, and about him, I allowed my mind to wonder what kind of father he might one day make. From Eastern Market, we walked to the tidal basin, where the Cherry Blossoms, among other things, began to bloom.

As we walked, free from the dating formalities associated with staring each other in the eye, at a table for two, attempting not to spill food on ourselves, we relaxed. When we relaxed, we talked freely, our hearts began to open. By this time, I still wasn’t sure what I thought, but I knew that I couldn’t remember the last time I smiled this much, and my cheeks grew weary, aching with happiness. With expectations aside, friendship drifted in, like a soothing breeze on that warm spring day. We shared stories of college, of embarrassment, of laughter, letting our guards down, and ignoring decorum. After hearing how he took a morning flight home in a tuxedo after a long night of revelry, I cocked my head back in laughter, and knew that we could be friends. At a crowded intersection by the Smithsonian American Indian Museum, he grabbed my hand to guide me safely to the other side, and my mind wondered if we could be something more.

We walked and saw the Cherry Blossoms, a first for both of us, and perhaps a suitable excuse for the intoxicating aroma we simultaneously breathed in. We walked miles that day, and with hours and footsteps behind us, we hardly noticed as dinner-time drew near, and we walked back to my apartment. He returned to his hotel, with a promise of returning later, to take me to dinner; something casual, nearby, nothing too serious as to interfere with the newfound level of comfort that had been absent the night before. But as with much of our romance so far, control wasn’t ours, and other things were to come. We took a cab to Penn Quarter Sports Tavern, where I often gathered with fellow Oklahoma State DC alumni to watch football games, only to find it closed for a private event. We strolled to Chinatown, where our romantic walk gave way to an even more intimate dinner at Jaleo, where I told him of a trip to Amsterdam where the tapas restaurant had a friendly cat that went table to table during dinner, and he told me of his first trip to Spain. We ate delicious food and sipped on sangria as the calm lighting around us allowed everything else to fade away.

With the end of dinner, we decided to head to one of the Hill’s dank basement bars, to meet some of my friends for a few drinks. As the night wore on, we found ourselves alone, friendly, and for the first time, uninhibited by our fears, by clichés, by intimidation. Grinning from ear to ear, I was finally able to admit to myself that the romantic interest was real, and to my friends, the chemistry was palpable. On the walk home, there was a chill in the air that reminded us that we were not yet free from the last reminders of winter, as he loaned me his coat, and we walked arm-in-arm. The crisp breeze that was more reminiscent of months before, and the blooming hydrangeas that graced the sidewalks that were foreshadowing of what was to come, for a few brief moments it’s as if we were suspended in time. Then, as if time stood still, frozen in our fits of laughter, he turned to me, grabbed me by the lapel if his coat, and gave me the one kiss that could, and did change my life.

What was anticipated as a casual meeting one weekend with friends while in from out-of-town, circumstances out of our control threw us into a weekend together, complete with first, second, and third dates, and a magnificent first kiss. Two weeks later, our District love-affair was to continue. He returned to town after what felt like a lifetime, taking me to a romantic birthday dinner in Georgetown. Although nerves abounded when we met for what felt like the second time, it wasn’t long before we once again ignored the rules, and allowed something bigger to creep its way in. After an accidental conversation that would define our relationship, we left the restaurant something more than when we came in.

And now, exactly 365 days, one ring, and a white dress later, we’re becoming husband and wife. Not a day goes by where I don’t look back on that beautiful spring weekend in DC, and think of how it changed my life forever. From the Cherry Blossoms to the architecture,

to the crowded city streets, although my heart belongs to the love of my life, there will always be a small part me that yearns for a beautiful sunny day in our nation’s capital, and to relive that weekend all over again, cherry blossoms and all.

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