People think that puppy love is cute but temporary.
But the story played out differently for Natalie Crowe Tatman and Austin Tatman, whose preschool friendship blossomed into the love of a lifetime.
During their wedding this past April, Natalie, and Austin, both now 24, realized that they had to pay homage to those preschool days when they first met. The pair then decided to recreate a 1999 photo that featured them standing side-by-side in a red Jeep Wrangler.
Natalie shared that they were placed in the same preschool class in Ocala, Florida and soon became inseparable.
“We just automatically became best friends and our parents realized it,” Natalie said. “It’s strange when you’re that age — you don’t usually hang out with the opposite sex. But from when we were 2 until we were 5, we were constantly together.”
While Natalie only has a vague recollection of her childhood, her parents’ extensive photo collection have helped keep those moments fresh.
“I have very faint memories, but our parents have told us many stories,” she says. “Like on Halloween in 1999, Austin held my hand in the car on the way to trick-or-treating. Those are little things that our parents tell us, where they knew, ‘This is insane that they’re interacting like this.’”
“Every picture that we have — even in a group — we were together and then everyone else was on the side,” Natalie recalls. “I just basically have memories of always being with him, regardless of whether I remember the detail of the memory or not, I knew we were always together.”
One day she remembers clearly though is the last day she saw Austin.
Natalie’s parents divorced when she was five and she, along with her brother, sister, and mother, moved to Connecticut.
“I remember the very last day that I saw him, not knowing that I wouldn’t see him for over a decade,” she shared. “My last memory of him is [when] we made Rice Krispy treats in his parents’ kitchen… and then we were separated.”
They lost contact after the move but Natalie would think of her preschool best friend from time to time.
“I briefly remember when I was 8 and 10, I would ask my mom about Austin and she would say, ‘I’m sure if you remember him, he remembers you,’” Natalie recalls. “But I had no way of getting in touch with him at the time.”
But on July 17, 2012, a 17-year-old Natalie found her mom’s old address book and saw Austin’s name in the T section.
“I knew his last name started with a T, but I don’t know why — I still have no idea to this day why — I went to his name out of all the names that were in there. This thing was full,” she explains.
“As soon as I saw [his name and old address], I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I remember him.’ There was this overwhelming feeling of ‘I better go find him on Facebook before I miss out on this opportunity,’” Natalie reveals.
Even without mutual friends, Natalie recognized Austin’s face in his photos and sent a message. Austin, who still remembered the fun times they had as toddlers, responded and the pair discovered that Austin still lived in Florida just 10 minutes away from where Natalie’s dad lived. Not only that, Natalie was due to visit her dad for a few weeks.
Because of that, the pair officially reconnected on July 31, 2012.
“Ever since that time, we’ve been together. It was like the second I saw him, it was a friendship that had come back to life instantly,” Natalie said.
However, it was not just a friendship that was renewed because sparks began to fly on their second date.
“We both knew we were in love with each other after being on our second date,” Natalie adds. “We rekindled the friendship on the first day of reuniting and then being alone, it was like, ‘Okay, whatever time that may be, I’m gonna marry you.’”
They had to wait a while though because both of them still had to finish high school and they went to separate colleges. But a little over a year after graduating from college, Austin finally popped the question as friends and family watched in August 2017. The pair exchanged “I do’s” on April 13, 2019, at The Mulberry in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
It was only as they were planning their wedding that the amazing nature of their journey hit home for Natalie.
“After we had picked the place we were gonna get married, that’s when it was like ‘I’m literally marrying my preschool sweetheart.’ This is insanity,” she said.
Their wedding reception area was dotted with photos of their childhood and even included the Jeep.
“We were trying to throw in little details [of our relationship] and when I saw the Jeep in the photos, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we need to do this,’” Natalie says, adding that she was able to rent one from car sharing marketplace, Turo.
“The Jeep was our favorite thing about the wedding,” she adds of her idea. “It was a perfect recreation of it.”
Still, they were careful not to overdo it.
“We had a storyline and a display of our pictures in order,” she notes. “As amazing as our story is, I didn’t want it to be the focal point of us being together… we have this amazing story but the story isn’t what kept us together for 7 years since we’ve reconnected.”
The couple now lives together with their dog in Fort Lauderdale where Natalie works as an event planner and blogger and Austin in sales.
Looking back on their 22-year friendship, Natalie says the biggest takeaway from their experience is how everything happens for a reason.
“There’s a reason that my mom moved us away. At first, she was upset that [we left] Florida where a lot of our family and friends were,” she admits. “But when I look back on it, if we hadn’t moved and I had grown up with Austin, I think it would have been a lot different… I don’t know if we would’ve been together.”
“There’s a reason I went through my mom’s archives and found an address book. And there’s a reason that we went to separate colleges,” she adds. “It was kinda crazy how everything came together so perfectly, and it still doesn’t make sense to me to this day.”
“A 105-year-old Man Visits The Hospital To See His 100-year-old Wife On Their 80th Wedding Anniversary— Entire Family Witnessed This Epic Moment”