One young couple will share the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday long distance. But for Chelsea Doyle and Christian Smith, it’s just another day in their lives.
Smith is a U.S. Marine, who has been stationed in Japan since July 10. His fiancee Doyle is a kindergarten teacher at Spout Springs School of Enrichment in Flowery Branch.
The 24-year-olds may have some physical distance between them, but in all other ways they are inseparable.
The couple met five years ago, but it was Smith’s mother who first detected a possible match.
“I was working at a miniature golf Putt-Putt place in Gainesville,” Doyle said. “I actually met his mom three months before and she told me about him. Then she was like, ‘You need to meet my son! He would be really good for you.’”
At the time, Doyle just shrugged off the suggestion. But three months later, the woman came back — this time with her son.
“She recognized me and was like, ‘Oh, Chris is here. Can y’all meet?’” Doyle said, beginning to laugh. “Then I thought, ‘Oh. Well, I wish I had met you three months earlier!’”
A spark ignited between the two. As Christian Smith was leaving, Doyle mouthed her phone number to him. He remembered it, and the two began talking and texting regularly.
“He just seemed so confident,” she said. “When he talked to me, he didn’t seem nervous. But he said the whole time he was shaking. I never knew that.”
The couple has been together ever since, though there was a rocky start after their first official date. Smith took Doyle to a church revival, and everything seemed to be going well — until the end of the evening.
“When he was driving me back home, there I go — I threw up in the car. It was pretty fantastic,” she said, laughing. “Then we had dinner the next time we went out. But it was better; I didn’t get sick. And it just got better from that point on.”
One of the better points happened seven months ago.
In July, the couple hiked Yonah Mountain in Cleveland when Smith was home on leave from Japan.
“(It) is not an easy mountain to hike,” Doyle said. “We finally made it (to the top) ... and you could see everything, all of Cleveland. It was so beautiful.
“Then he told me, ‘Our journey together has kind of been like this mountain. We’re going to walk it together. We’re going to be together. It’s going to be hard at times, but we’re always going to make it to the top and it’s going to be beautiful, just like this is.’
“And so he got down on one knee and he asked me to marry him.”
She said yes, but the couple must wait almost a full year since their engagement to say their vows.
Doyle and Smith will meet in June in Hawaii for a destination beach wedding. They will spend a few days together before he returns to Japan and Doyle comes back to Flowery Branch.
“He’ll be in Japan for another year, and then he’ll be home after that,” Doyle said. “That was a back-and-forth kind of decision.”
Doyle explained if she went to Japan, they’d be there for two years rather than just the one. This way, they both get to be home sooner, she said.
Plus, the couple may see each other at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Doyle is already looking forward to those moments.
In fact, that’s Doyle’s advice to anyone in a relationship, young or old.
“Always be in the moment,” she said. “Just always appreciate the little things that you do together and just treasure those moments. Because you never know — like with him, he’s gone.
“Never take the small things for granted,” she added. “And smile and laugh often! Those moments are the ones that make the memories.”