Reunion with long-lost childhood crush leads to life long love story

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the seventh entry of Wedding Stories, a monthly column highlighting local weddings and unique love stories, which runs the first Sunday of the month. Do you think your romance should be featured? Contact the author at her email, below.

They will tell you their song is "At Last" and their special place is a beautiful old willow tree at Greeley Park in Nashua.

"At Last" is an appropriate song against the backdrop of the love story between Dan Carlen and Tracy Dionne-Carlen that began more than 40 years ago on the steps of H.O. Smith Elementary School, in Hudson, when they were in second grade.

After not seeing one another for more than 25 years, they were married on July 23 of this year, on the steps of their elementary school, almost exactly 40 years after they met, and where they once played and held hands at recess.

Their story began in 1976, when they were both 7 years old. Tracy can still remember walking around the playground holding hands with Dan and playing with Matchbox cars. For Christmas, Dan bought her a little plastic blue necklace with the words "I love you on" and when you turned to the back of it, it would say the days of the week.

"It was just a connection," Dan said. "That is the only way I can describe it."

Their childhood crush blossomed into dating on and off throughout middle school and high school. They went to their eighth-grade dance together and the senior prom.

Looking back at the prom pictures, Tracy says, "Everybody jokes we had the same hair. I may have asked him to get a perm … he would do anything to make me happy."

They dated after graduation, but as they like to say, "life happened" and they went their separate ways, got married and started families.

They did not see each other again for the next 25 years. Tracy said she thought of Dan and missed him, and had even shown his picture to her son.

Then, a few years ago, an old friend from their high school group was coming back to Hudson for a visit and a reunion was planned. By then, both of their lives had changed.

Once they started talking, they realized it was as though 25 years had never passed. Dan described it as "nothing short of euphoria seeing Tracy after 25 years. It was instantaneous."

"Seeing each other again after 25 years and picking right back up where we left off, made us both take a step back and realize we were right where we should be," Tracy said.

Tracy’s friend (whom she’s also known since second grade) told her at the end of the reunion, "he’s going to be thinking about you all night." She was right. Shortly after, they ended up speaking for hours on the phone. Their love story had begun again, picking up right up where they had left off.

They both describe their relationship as "the perfect combination of appreciation and an immeasurable enjoyment of each other’s company."

"We truly are best friends," Tracy said, saying they have never had an argument and share many common interests.

Tracy said it is their long history that makes what they have today so special.

"I love that we have such a long history together, and have so many photos to look back on from so many years ago," she said. "Birthdays, camping, middle school graduation, senior prom … it’s just a great feeling."

This summer, they were married by a close friend on the steps of the school where they met, witnessed by 30 friends and family, with many of whom they had attended high school.

"It was just so symbolic to us to get married where we met 40 years ago. What better place to get married?" Tracy said.

Dan describes the highlight of their wedding as "Finally, being able to call Tracy ‘my wife’."

"We reconnected for a reason. Life can go full-circle sometimes, and as our friend Tim said about the ‘delay’ in our lives, ‘It just wasn’t time’," he added.

Their parents were there. Tracy’s mom was especially thrilled. "My mother never got over the fact that we never got married," she said. "She just loves Dan."

The nice part is, everyone gets along great.

"My son loves him and I just love his kids." Tracy said.

After the wedding, they went to have their pictures taken under the willow tree at Greeley Park, where they often spent time as teenagers.

"It gave me goosebumps when we walked under that tree after we were married," Tracy says, adding, "Life feels complete."

Paula Fuoco Davis is a writer and certified professional wedding and event planner at Perfect Weddings and Parties, in Nashua (www.perfectweddingsandparties.com). If you have recently gotten married or are planning a wedding and want to share your story, contact her at frably@aol.com. We want to hear your love story and all about the creative, original moments in your wedding.