Both of us were selected as Presidential Management Fellows in 2010, bringing Laura to Washington, DC, where Aldo had already been studying. Laura works at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Aldo at the Department of Homeland Security.
In September 2011, at an otherwise average leadership training at Mount Vernon, each found someone more interesting than George Washington. Aldo took an empty seat at lunch directly across from Laura, and the two struck up a conversation.
Aldo later shared his umbrella when she, as usual, didn't come prepared. We kept chatting under that umbrella...so much so, that we were told to be quiet. A friendship was born.
After talking for months over Facebook, the next time we saw each other was Columbus Day 2012. Laura invited Aldo to join her friends at a local festival, and Aldo suggested lunch first at The Diner.
From our table for two along the window, Laura's gaze turned toward her apartment building down the street. There, in her window, just this once, sat her cat watching them. Aldo didn't yet know how much Miss Darcy meant to her, but he's come to like her ok, too.
Spending the day with Aldo, Laura also noticed something else: she had come to see him as more than just a friend. Aldo agreed.
Our first mutual interest was good food, specifically, the sumptuous portions of fresh-made spaghetti at Pasta Mia.
After months of friendship, lunches, and happy hours, Aldo officially asked Laura out on a date in February 2012. Antonietta's restaurant is charming in a way that doesn't take reservations or credit cards, but boasts authentic recipes and a romantic environment.
While we didn't share the same noodle a la Lady and the Tramp, it was truly a bella notte.
By chance, we live close to one another. There are lots of neighbors in between our houses, but the absolute best are the furry critters at the National Zoo. There isn't any place in DC where we spend more time -- walking along to say hello to Rusty the red panda or Dylan Walter the hairy screaming armadillo (ask Laura for the names of other animals).
We even slept over at the zoo once because we just couldn't leave. Slumbering out under the stars we got to feed Francois the sloth bear and Laura even got to give a secret high-five to one of the myriad small-footed otters.
Laura has now started volunteering as a Zoo Guide, giving tours and teaching visitors about the animals and the zoo's part in conservation.
Our first trip together was to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. At the age of 3, Aldo chose a poster of George Washington to hang in his bedroom and, through the age of 10, wore a tricorn hat every day like his hero, Thomas Jefferson.
Although not as smitten with the founding fathers as Aldo, Laura appreciated the pastures (and their animals), the architecture, and our peaceful moments together. This would be the first of many trips to come.
Lining the Tidal Basin are hundreds of cherry blossom trees that bloom every spring in a burst of delicate pink flowers. Every year we've been able to sneak out of work for a picnic lunch (Aldo makes a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich) under the shade of the blossoms.
There's always a crowd of folks around coming from Virginia to Tokyo to see the trees in bloom. It makes it a challenge to find an empty park bench to share...but also means it's never difficult finding someone to take our picture as the petals fall all around. This one was right after Aldo kissed Laura's cheek. (See each year's photo under Photos.)
Here are a few more memories:
Laura taking Aldo not only to her hometown (near Fort Worth, TX), but to the stockyards and his first rodeo.
Aldo introducing Laura to his family and their hometown of banana splits, Mr. Rogers, Arnold Palmer, and professional football (Latrobe, PA, near Pittsburgh).
Spending 16 days together for unexpected vacation during the Government Shutdown.
Fancy meals like Minibar, WD-50, Rogue 24, Restaurant Eve, Rasika, and Fiola.
Weekend getaways to NYC, Annapolis, Charlottesville, Cape May, and Rehoboth Beach.
Being part of our dear friends' weddings: Brock and Marian, Rich and Amy, and Aulstin and Jennifer.
Attending sporting events from Baylor Homecoming to American basketball, the Cotton Bowl, DC United, and baseball games to root for the Nationals, Rangers, and Pirates.
Exploring our town, including a Presidential Inauguration and one President's Day, we visited every president's statue we could find.
One place dear to Aldo's heart is Rehoboth Beach, DE. Each time we've been -- either with his family or as a couple -- we've had a romantic date at The Back Porch Cafe. The restaurant is a quiet respite of fine dining on the actual back porch of a former home.
Despite such tranquil surroundings, Aldo was barely able to conceal his excitement and nervousness in June 2015. Sitting right across the table was the loveliest person he had ever met, the woman he couldn't live without. Laura was smiling, so innocently unaware that her dessert would be prefaced with a sparkling present to match her silvery eyes.
And so, between dinner and dessert, Aldo asked Laura the most important question in our relationship. He was more tense than he needed to be because there was no doubt in her mind that the answer was "YES."