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The Magnolia Story
By Chip Gaines, Joanna Gaines, Mark Dagostino
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2016 Chip & Joanna Gaines
All rights reserved.
FIRST DATES AND SECOND CHANCES
To this day, I am still not sure what it was about Chip Gaines that made me give him a second chance — because, basically, our first date was over before it even started.
I was working at my father's Firestone automotive shop the day we first met. I'd worked as my dad's office manager through my years at Baylor University and was perfectly happy working there afterward while I tried to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. The smell of tires, metal, and grease — that place was like a second home to me, and the guys in the shop were all like my big brothers.
On this particular afternoon, they all started teasing me. "You should go out to the lobby, Jo. There's a hot guy out there. Go talk to him!" they said.
"No," I said. "Stop it! I'm not doing that."
I was all of twenty-three, and I wasn't exactly outgoing.
She was a bit awkward — no doubt about that.
I hadn't dated all that much, and I'd never had a serious relationship — nothing that lasted longer than a month or two. I'd always been an introvert and still am (believe it or not). I was also very picky, and I just wasn't the type of girl who struck up conversations with guys I didn't know. I was honestly comfortable being single; I didn't think that much of it.
"Who is this guy, anyway?" I asked, since they all seemed to know him for some reason.
"Oh, they call him Hot John," someone said, laughing.
Hot John? There was no way I was going out in that lobby to strike up a conversation with some guy called Hot John. But the guys wouldn't let up, so I finally said, "Fine."
I gathered up a few things from my desk (in case I needed a backup plan) and rounded the corner into the lobby. I quickly realized that Hot John was pretty good-looking. He'd obviously just finished a workout — he was dressed head-to-toe in cycling gear and was just standing there, innocently waiting on someone from the back. I tried to think about what I might say to strike up a conversation when I got close enough and quickly settled on the obvious topic: cycling. But just as that thought raced through my head, he looked up from his magazine and smiled right at me.
Crap, I thought. I completely lost my nerve. I kept on walking right past him and out the lobby's front door.
When I reached the safety of my dad's outdoor waiting area, I realized just how bad I'd needed the fresh air. I sat on a chair a few down from another customer and immediately started laughing at myself. Did I really just do that?
"Hey, what's so funny?" the customer sitting near me asked.
I looked up at him, and before I could even answer he asked, "Wait, aren't you the girl from the commercials?"
"Yeah, that's me," I said, still embarrassed from my awkward encounter with Hot John. I was, in fact, the girl from the commercials. I had some interest in television news. I had even done an internship with CBS in New York City, working under Dan Rather in the news division, and because of that my dad had insisted I go on camera for the local TV ads he ran for his shop.
I was so caught up in my own thoughts that I didn't even get a good look at this guy who had started talking to me. He was wearing a baseball cap and seemed like an average customer. He seemed around my age, maybe a bit older — that was all I really noticed. What did strike me was that he was real chatty, so we wound up sitting there for twenty minutes just shooting the breeze.
Over the course of our conversation, he told me he was a Baylor grad. That struck me as odd. The guys I'd known at Baylor were more the clean-cut type. This guy seemed a little rough-and-tumble, the kind who'd rather work with his hands than keep a corporate calendar. But right off the bat I could tell he was smart — and definitely hardworking. He was just at the shop getting the brakes fixed on his truck. I also found it interesting that he'd stuck around Waco after graduation. "I love this town," he said. "I'm planning to stay in Waco until God makes it clear I'm supposed to move on."
That surprised me too. I loved the way he mentioned God in a way that was so unguarded, and I liked that he wanted to stay in Waco. That was rare for Baylor grads. Normally people shipped themselves straight off to the big cities after graduation.
Speaking of, that whole week I had been debating whether or not to move back to New York City to pursue my dream of broadcast journalism. Most of my friends and family were encouraging me to go, and I was really wrestling with it. It occurred to me this could be my one big chance, but I also really liked it right where I was.
All of a sudden Hot John walked out and said, "Hey, Chip, let's go." I was confused. The man I'd been chatting with — who apparently was named Chip — explained that John was his roommate and that they were business partners. Oh, of course these two had come together. I was still completely embarrassed about my initial encounter with Hot John, but I said, "Hi." And then, thankfully, this Chip went right back to our conversation as Hot John took a seat and joined in.
Chip asked me about New York and what I wanted to do, and how long my dad had owned the shop, and what it was I loved about Waco. He asked about my sisters and my family in general, and what I'd done at Baylor, and if I'd known a few communications majors he'd run around with at school. (I told y'all he was chatty!) Somehow none of these questions seemed intrusive or strange to me at the time, which is funny, because thinking back I find them particularly telling.
At the time, it was just like talking with an old friend.
John finally stood up, and this baseball-cap-wearing customer that John had introduced as Chip followed. "Well, nice talking to you," he said.
"Nice talking to you too," I replied, and that was it. I went back inside. The guys in the shop wanted to know what I thought about Hot John, and I just laughed. "Sorry, guys, I don't think it's gonna work out."
The next day I came back from my lunch break to find a note on my desk: "Chip Gaines called. Call him back." I thought, Oh, that must be the guy I met yesterday. So I called him. I honestly thought he was going to ask me about getting a better price on his brakes or something, but instead he said, "Hey, I really enjoyed our conversation yesterday. I was wondering ... you want to go out sometime?"
And for some reason I said okay — just like that, without any hesitation. It wasn't like me at all. When I hung up the phone, I went, "What in the world just happened!"
So you said okay immediately? I don't even remember that. That's fun! No reservations? Man, I must've been good-lookin'.
What Chip didn't know was I didn't even give myself time to have reservations. Something told me to just go for it.
Cute, Joey. This story makes me love you all over again.
My parents were out of town that week, but I remember calling to tell them, "I'm going on a date with a customer that was in getting his brakes done. I met him yesterday." I guess it's unusual for a twenty-three-year-old to call her parents and tell them she's going on a date, but it was normal for me. I was extremely close to my parents and I was just excited to tell them.
My parents and my little sister, Mary Kay, whom I call Mikey, asked me what this Chip guy looked like, and I said, "I honestly can't tell you. He had a baseball cap on, and the way we were sitting, I didn't really get a good look at him."
When the night of our big date came, I was giddy and a bit anxious. I got ready at my sister's apartment. She and her roommates, Sarah and Katiegh, were all there for moral support, and Chip was supposed to pick me up at six. Six rolls around. No Chip. Then six thirty — still no Chip. I thought, Well, maybe he thought the date was at seven, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. But when seven came and went, I was officially done.
Finally, at seven thirty, a full ninety minutes late, he knocked at the door.
"Don't even answer it," I whispered to my friends. "I don't want to go anywhere with this idiot."
"But we want to see what he looks like!" they said, and so one of them finally opened the door while I hung back out of sight.
"Well, hello, ladies," Chip said as he pushed his way into the apartment. I could tell that he charmed every one of them in about two seconds flat. I finally decided to step out and at least take a look at him. He was not like I remembered at all. This guy had no hair. I'd imagined he had hair under the baseball cap, but nope. Just stubble. And his face was weathered and flushed red, like he'd been working outside in the hot sun all day long. He was wearing a reddish-toned leather jacket, too, and I thought, Is this red guy even the same guy I was talking to at the shop?
It turned out that Chip had shaved his head to support a friend of his who was battling cancer.
A bunch of us shaved our heads for a good friend of mine. It was growing back, but it was just about a buzz cut at that point.
I still don't remember what he said that convinced me to walk out the door with him. He didn't even have a plan for our date. He said, "So, Joanna, where do you want to go eat?" He didn't apologize for being late, either. He had so much confidence. I don't know. I can't explain it. Only Chip could be an hour and a half late and have no one mad about it.
I wasn't an hour and a half late. She's making that up. I was, like, twenty minutes late.
Chip was an hour and a half late to everything. If I'd known that then, maybe I wouldn't have taken it personally.
Well, I think you're wrong. You're cute, though, and you do have me on the no-plans thing. That was bad. I don't know why I'm like that. I just never have any plans. I like the way things just work themselves out. It's more fun that way. I wasn't nervous about the date or where to eat, and I wasn't nervous about being late.
Out in his truck, Chip asked me again where I'd like to eat, so I suggested a place out in Valley Mills, a small town about thirty minutes from Waco — which, looking back, was a gutsy move for a first date. Thirty minutes was a long time to be in a car if you ran out of things to talk about. But there was a restaurant there in a historic mansion where my parents liked to go. It was really charming, and it was the first place that popped into my head.
The whole drive over there was kind of like a dream. Jo wasn't anything like the girls I typically went out with. But she was so cute, you know? We wound up driving out of town through these back roads — I didn't know where in the heck we were going — and we came up to this mansion with pillars on the front that looked like something you'd see in Gone with the Wind.
Everything was going about like I'd expected until we sat down at the table and the owner of the restaurant came over. Everywhere I went in Waco and Dallas, someone was always coming up and talking to me, so I thought maybe this guy was coming over to say hello. Turns out he wasn't coming to talk to me at all. He was coming over to talk to Joanna.
"Hey, sweetheart, how are you? I saw your latest commercial. Tell your mom and dad I said hello, okay?" They talked for quite a while, and my mind started turning, like, Wow. This girl is a local superstar.
Dinner was perfect. We were both comfortable with each other for some reason, and the conversation came easy. When the bill came, Chip quickly popped up and took a big roll of cash out of his pocket. I don't think I'd ever seen anyone carry that much cash. My dad was successful, but he kept his money in a bank. Seeing that, I thought, Oh, that's why he stayed in Waco. He's doing really well for himself!
You thought I was rich. Ha! What you didn't know is that was probably all the money I had in the world. I always carried cash. I'd carry, like, $1,000 on me in those days. I just loved the way it felt. Plus, I worked with a lot of rough dudes, and some of them expected to be paid in cash.
It's funny because I went to Baylor, where I was surrounded by all these rich kids from rich families, and for whatever reason I was never drawn to that. I was much more comfortable hanging out with the guys who dug ditches. I lived like them, too, whether it was carrying all my money around in my pocket or sitting under some shady tree at lunchtime while they laughed at me trying to eat jalapenos.
After dinner the two of us went and sat on that grand front porch for a while. It was a beautiful night, and I could have just sat there and listened to the silence. But Chip, of course — he had other ideas. I just looked at him until I couldn't even hear him anymore. I remember thinking, Nope. This guy isn't even close to done.
In my head, I started to go down the checklist we women put together in our heads and our hearts. I'd always been attracted to people with dark hair. He was blond or redheaded or something in between — it was too short to tell. I would have preferred hair, period.
I'd always been attracted to quiet guys, too, which I knew was a problem because the quiet guys never had the nerve to ask me out, and they certainly never drew me out the way this guy did. Still, he was all over the place. He was talking about the businesses he'd started, and these ideas he had, and how he was buying up little houses and flipping them and renting some out to Baylor students, and I was wondering if he was just a bit crazy.
I liked stability. I liked safety. I liked traditional and I liked being on time. And this Chip with the beet-red face wasn't any of those things. I did think he was kind of fascinating, though.
I know this is going to sound strange to some people, but right in the middle of that — right in the middle of me trying to figure this guy out — a little voice in my head said, That's the man you're going to marry. I swear to you it was clear as day. It seemed like the voice of God, or maybe it was some deep intuition, but I heard it. In fact, I heard it so loudly that I completely tuned out our conversation and lost focus.
My roommates asked me a million questions after he dropped me off that night: "What was he like? Did he try to kiss you? How was the date?" And my response was that it was good. We had fun. He was a good talker. And no, he didn't try to kiss me. I didn't tell them about that voice in my head. It seemed far too ridiculous. But honestly, if it wasn't for that voice, I'm not sure I would have stuck it out through all the ups and downs of dating a guy like Chip. I was spinning a bit, but I certainly didn't fall instantly head-over-heels for him or anything like that.
It wasn't exactly a love at first sight for me, either. It was a fun date, but I'd been on lots of fun dates. Something was different, though. Joanna impressed me. I couldn't stop thinking about that owner coming up to talk to her. I was honestly the one who normally got the attention. She was totally different from the typical blonde-haired, blue-eyed cheerleader type I tended to date. But the more I thought about her, the more I knew I wanted to see her again.
We made plans to go get coffee the following week, but I had to cancel. I hurt my back. In fact, I needed to go into the hospital for surgery, and I let Chip know that. He seemed real concerned and wished me luck — and then he didn't call me again. He didn't send flowers to the hospital. Nothing.
Flowers to the hospital? After one date?
Yes! That would've been the chivalrous thing to do. Everyone thought it was rude that you didn't call after that.
Huh. Well, I apologize, Jo. I didn't even think about that.
It's okay. I forgive you. I think it turned out okay in the end.
Even though he wasn't what I'd pictured as the type of man I might be interested in, there was just something about Chip Gaines that I couldn't get off my mind. I kept thinking about him — and thinking about just how weird it all was.
Our first date happened at the end of October, and it wasn't until after the turn of the New Year — early January something — that I finally got another phone call from him.
"Hey, Jo, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed our date, and I think we ought to stop playing all these games," he said.
I was sitting there thinking, What games is this guy talking about?
I'd made a bet with Hot John to see who could hold out the longest before calling our dates back. I really wanted that fifty dollars from John! That's the only reason I didn't call.
I think Chip was still dating a few girls off and on then.
Yeah, I think you're right. But I did want to win that fifty dollars, and it was killing me because I kept thinking about you and I really did think you were going to call any day now!
"There's a basketball game tonight. Would you like to go?" Chip asked me. Once again, without hesitation, I said yes, and from that night on, Chip and I started seeing each other almost every day. He would come by the tire shop to visit. He met my parents. I met his parents. I went out and drove around with him to see some of the properties he worked on and to meet some of the guys he worked with in his landscaping business. One guy, Melesio, was like a brother to Chip. I had never seen someone bond so closely to the people he worked with.
Excerpted from The Magnolia Story by Chip Gaines, Joanna Gaines, Mark Dagostino. Copyright © 2016 Chip & Joanna Gaines. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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