Tero and Jamie Lehessalo: The road to romance
Couple's journey begins with the gift of an atlas
Tero and Jamie Lehessalo, who were recently married, pictured with a world atlas, inside their Lakeview apartment on Friday, Apr. 27, 2012, in Chicago. (Joel Wintermantle, Chicago Tribune / April 29, 2012)
Or, to be specific, a world atlas.
Jamie Anderson, 27, had already told her best girlfriend, "I like this guy." But when Tero Lehessalo, 33, gave her an atlas for Christmas in 2010, it became "a huge part" in their developing love story, she says.
First of all, she was surprised and so pleased that he had even thought to buy her a gift. They had been dating just a few weeks.
Then there was the care he had taken to make the present look just right. "It was perfectly wrapped. Probably better than I would have done," she says.
But the clincher was the little notes he wrote on selected pages of her atlas.
There were notations on where he had lived, where they had gone to school. There were also little notes on the pages of the places Jamie and Tero had talked about visiting some day: Australia, the Galapagos Islands, Italy, Bora Bora. He had taken care to mark all of their significant locales — especially on the map of Finland, where he was born and raised.
"I thought that was pretty awesome, and I was pretty giddy over that atlas," she says.
She was so touched that she cried, and "I'm not usually a crier," she says. "I was surprised and happy and (thinking), 'Oh my gosh, this is something so simple but so meaningful.'"
When she traveled from Chicago to her hometown of tiny Bristol, S.D., for the Christmas holidays, Jamie told the story of the atlas to her mom and dad.
"My parents were, 'Who is this guy? He seems like a great person already, and we don't even know him.'"
In fact, the first time Jamie met Tero, in September just a few months before this fateful Christmastime, she came away with "a pretty bad impression of him."
Jamie was meeting her Finnish friend Mary at a Lincoln Park bar, aliveOne, and Mary brought Tero along. "I got a cocky vibe," Jamie says, and she remembers thinking, "I don't care for him."
The following month, at a Halloween party, she was not happy to discover that by sheer chance she and Tero were wearing Greek god and goddess costumes.
Just to be a troublemaker, Jamie's pal Mary — knowing that Jamie was particularly unimpressed by Tero the first time she met him — insisted they pose for photos together.
"When can this be over?" Jamie was thinking. "I definitely wasn't excited about it."
But when about 15 of the partygoers moved on to a Wicker Park bar, "This time he (Tero) was completely different than he was the first time" they met. "So much more talkative, super friendly."
Looking back at their inauspicious introduction, Tero says now, "I just remember, 'Here's a really beautiful girl.' I was, 'OK … I'm not going to start talking to her because she's out of my league.'"
There's a lesson here for couples whose first meetings fizzle. First impressions can be very misleading.
Since that atlas Christmas, Tero and Jamie have been pretty much inseparable. They drove the 10-plus hours to Bristol so he could meet her parents, Deb and Daryll. And they flew to Espoo, Finland, so Jamie could meet Tero's mom and dad, Pipsa and Paavo.
The engagement evolved as they designed a ring for Jamie, fashioned out of stones from two rings her mother had given her, a square-cut aquamarine in the center.
One night after work (she is a media supervisor for outdoor advertising, he works in sales for the shipping firm DHL), Tero got down on one knee in their Lakeview apartment and asked her to marry him.
They were waiting to set a date, but when Tero's parents decided to visit the couple in Chicago, the wedding plans quickly took shape.
Jamie ordered a bouquet of peonies, her favorite, and bought a strapless white dress at Nordstrom. She picked up a tie for Tero at Macy's; she got it in aquamarine (to match her suede platform pumps and the engagement ring).
Jamie's parents and brother came in from South Dakota, and her three best friends (Elizabeth from Florida, Keena from Colorado and Hope from North Dakota) were the bridesmaids at the brief civil ceremony last month in Marriage Court here.
Despite their passion for travel, Jamie and Tero didn't take a honeymoon trip. They're saving that for their first anniversary — perhaps to one of the places Tero marked in that atlas.