Recreating a childhood memory
When Natalie C. talks about how she met the love of her life, it’s not the meet cute you expect — it’s a lot cuter. “The two of us were placed in the same preschool class and we became best friends as toddlers. We were inseparable from the ages of two to five. We would go on field trips together, we’d go on boats together—our parents didn’t know each other before, they became friends because we spent so much time together!”
There’s quite a lot of photo evidence that Natalie and Austin could not get enough of each other. Even though they were just little kids, Natalie’s mom was struck by how close they were, and had the inkling they were soulmates.
After Natalie’s parents split up, she and her mom moved, and she lost contact with Austin and his family. “We didn’t have Facebook at the time,” Natalie notes. But she still thought about Austin and would ask her mom if she thought he remembered her. “My mom used to say, ‘If you remember him, then he remembers you,’” which stuck with Natalie.
Twelve years after she’d last seen Austin, teenaged Natalie was rummaging around in her mom’s old things and found an address book. “It was total chance, it was buried in a bunch of other stuff,” Natalie says. She flipped to names in the T section, just to see if maybe Austin was in there, and he was. “I knew I needed to find him right then,” Natalie recalls. “I immediately went to Facebook and typed in his name, and we had no friends in common, but I knew it was him.”
Natalie sent Austin a message with a photo from them together in preschool, asking if he remembered her. “I was like, I guess this could be creepy, but thankfully he did remember me!”
They reunited when Natalie was back in Florida visiting her dad for the summer, and it didn’t take long for them to fall in love. “We knew instantly,” Natalie says.
Just this April Natalie and Austin got married in New Smyrna Beach, FL, and Natalie, an event planner, also planned their wedding. As it got closer to the big day, they were going through childhood photos to pick out ones to feature. Austin’s mom showed them a scrapbook that was packed full of photos of them having a blast, including a photo of them together in a kids’ Jeep. “I remembered that day when Austin invited me over to drive around in his little red, electric Jeep,” Natalie says. It was only a few months until the wedding and she hadn’t planned a getaway car, but she was convinced they needed to a red Jeep Wrangler so they could recreate the photo.
“I basically went to Enterprise, Hertz, every rental car company, trying to find a red Jeep Wrangler for our wedding day — I was even trying to persuade people to go get one so I could rent it.” Eventually Natalie took her frustration to the greater internet and found Turo. “It was great, I was able to filter by location, by date, by color, by car. I ended up finding the Jeep we wanted in Orlando.” Natalie messaged Turo host, Ghli, who was more than happy to share her red Jeep Wrangler.
Now, Natalie can’t imagine her wedding without the Jeep. “It was the perfect symbol to tell our story. We could have replicated any other photo, but it wouldn’t have had the same impact — that crazy exact replica is what really has drawn people in, it evolved into such a statement!” Natalie points out that their childhood friendship isn’t the only thing that’s kept her and Austin together for seven years, and the Jeep embodies their shared past as well as the journey into their future.
“Plus,” Natalie adds, “it’s just a cool car to drive around top down in a beach town, it matched our vibe.”
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