I won’t say that I knew I was going to marry Katie Fillmore the first time I met her. But I knew something was happening.
Let me back up.
Eight months before meeting Katie I had auditioned for, wet my pants over, and officially joined The Garrens Comedy Troupe. The first improvisational and sketch comedy group to ever grace the land of BYU. (Unless you count the short-lived 1876 troupe, Die Brigham!, started by German immigrant Karl Maeser. Yes, translated it means The Brigham; but with the lingo misunderstanding, I don’t think I need to tell you that the troupe was quickly disbanded, a public flogging was held, and we never heard from those folks again.)
At any rate, it was January 1993. It was the year of Schindler’s List, civil war in Afghanistan, and the dissolution of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. So, as you can see, the world was rife with hilarity already! As a society we were infatuated with Jurassic Park and Eddie Vedder’s reality-biting plaid, flannel fashion. Also Whitney Houston would not shut up about how she would always love us. (F.Y.I., Whitney; desperation is so unbecoming.)
On this particular winter-y day, my roommate and yours, Lincoln Hoppe, had seen a flier on campus, wherein some hooligan named Eric D. Snider (Hi Snidles!) was holding auditions so he could convince a couple of chumps to join him in starting a comedy troupe. Lincoln was thrilled with the idea. He was less thrilled with my openly mocking him for suggesting we go audition. (And less thrilled even further when he opened the fridge to discover I had not only drunk the last of his personal stash of Minute Maid, but put the empty pitcher back in the fridge for him to find and then properly relocate to the kitchen sink.)
Don’t get me wrong. In theory, I loved the idea of writing sketches and performing them. In theory, I also loved the idea of getting up in front of a crowd of people and not pooping my pants. So you keep to your theories, and I’ll keep to my unsoiled pants, and round n’ round the world will go.
Well, we both auditioned and became part of BYU history that year by becoming members of The Garrens. The two of us, plus seven more mirthful souls. Our popularity soared! Between the hours of 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on most Friday nights, at the JKHB building on BYU campus, to a crowd that was willing to pay $1 each to see us – we were practically celebrities! And then Winter Semester ended. And some of the cast members left to seek their fortune and fame by becoming LDS missionaries.
So we held auditions to fill their spots.
And in late August of 1993 I sat in the back of that same room in the JKHB building with about five other members of The Garrens; watching for talent, energy, and which girls would most likely let us date them if we let them in the troupe. (I’m 70% kidding.)
Enter Katie Fillmore, center stage.
But I hadn’t seen her yet.
In the back of this darkened theater room I was squinting at my pad of paper as I was still noting some detailed, astute, professor-like observations regarding the previous auditioning individual. Not that funny, I wrote.
For her audition, we had placed Katie in an improvisation with Natalie (a current Garrens’ member), wherein they had both been summoned to the high school principal’s office, and were sitting next to each other in anticipation. Natalie was an angst-y, angry hard rocker and Katie was a cheerleader. I’d heard the scene start, but I was still focused on my notes, and hadn’t yet turned my attention to the stage.
Finally I looked up. There, in all her glory, was my wife. Not yet. But in less than two years, she would change my life and make it better than I deserved.
I could not stop watching her.
The first thing I noticed was her eyes. And though I’ve never asked, I assume to this day that is the first thing anybody notices about Katie. It’s not the color. It’s not the lashes. It’s the light. Those eyes are windows into what makes Katie…Katie. Her very essence. Her personality emanates out her eyes. I looked in those eyes and knew immediately she was a happy and kind spirit. Not just for the fleeting moment, but in her core.
She was wearing a yellow shirt, 1993 jeans, white sneakers, and a huge-normous smile. She was a force to be reckoned with, but not assuming. She didn’t try to take over the stage, but had a confidence in what she was doing. And she was hilarious. A 5’2” ball of energy and enthusiasm and wit and adorableness.
It wasn’t love at first sight in any kind of formulaic way. I didn’t think, “One day I will marry her.” I didn’t think, “Roll the montage sequence, we’re in love.” But it wouldn’t be truthful to say it was nothing either. It was something. Something extremely, profoundly deep, deep, deep in my soul reacted to Katie. Almost chemically. Like I could feel a physical change. Some trace part of me recognized her. Or was drawn out to her. Or something. I didn’t know what it was in that moment. But I did know she would be in The Garrens. Her audition alone was outstanding; but even more, I could just sense she would be a part of my life. Even for just a season. Thankfully, though, it’s been much longer.