Christy Mauro and Eric Lee
May 6, 2017, in Sea Isle City
Christy and friends — mostly old, one new — were walking to a Sea Isle City bar when the top of her flip-flop snapped off.
Seeing her one-shoed shuffle, Eric, whom she'd met in person just minutes before, offered help: "I'll give you a piggyback ride." He bent down, she hopped on.
Eric, a Philadelphia police officer who grew up in East Oak Lane, and Christy, a Lawncrest native and associate director of annual giving at Temple University, met through mutual friend Jim. He graduated from La Salle High School with Eric and from West Chester University with Christy, and now lives in Florida. Several years ago, Jim started a group chat for his Philly-area friends. Eric and Christy met virtually there. By 2014, they had gotten a little flirty, and when Jim announced he was coming north for a Sea Isle vacation, Eric and Christy were almost as interested in meeting each other as they were in seeing him.
The piggyback ride ended at the bar, where the bouncer said Christy couldn't enter with her one bare foot. Eric and Christy told their friends to go without them. They sat on a boardwalk bench for a while, then moved their easy conversation to an empty lifeguard stand.
"We were talking until the sun came up, and some guy with a metal detector came by and said, 'Good morning,' " Christy said.
After breakfast, Christy drove home to Roxborough and Eric to Fox Chase. Christy called her mom. "I met this guy," she told her. "I can't see myself ever not talking to him."
Eric played it cool when he told his police partner, John, about Christy. "I'll talk to her if I talk to her, but if I don't, it's no big deal," he said. But that's not how he really felt.
They mostly texted at first, determined to take things slowly. A month after Sea Isle, they planned to meet at Eric's, then go to a comedy club. Just about the time he expected Christy, a neighbor came running. His wife had just been in a car accident and was having a medical emergency. Eric performed CPR until the ambulance came. Then the driver of the other vehicle started "being a jerk," he said. "I had to go into cop mode." Christy pulled up in time to see Eric cuff the guy.
Eric needed medical attention for a cut, and he needed to report what had happened to work. "If you want to go home, I understand," he told Christy. Instead, she kept him company.
In their first year of dating, her grandmother Esther was in hospice. Eric went with Christy daily to visit.
"His job is so hard, and to me, it seems like he'd have to be tough," she said. "But he's so sensitive and kind."
Eric learned early on that he could depend on her, too. A fellow officer was shot while on duty, and at 4 a.m., upset and mad, he texted Christy. "She talked me through it and calmed me down," he said. "I realized how special a person she is." Plus, she laughs at his corny jokes. "She was really easy to fall in love with."
"I lost my cool at work," Eric told Christy in July 2016.
He might be in real trouble, he said. At first, she was confident things would be fine — Eric is such a good guy. But every day that week, he told her another little detail.
As they drove toward her aunt's Shore house for her family's annual big summer bash, his father called. "Eric, is everything OK?" Howard asked through the car's speakers. Internal Affairs had been at Eric's house, he said, looking for him.
Christy was now panicked. Eric was trying not to laugh. He had set this whole ruse in motion to distract her.
At the Shore house, Eric said he had to call his partner so they could get their stories straight. He really called the Ocean City police officer who was also in on the act.
"Where's Eric Lee?" a voice boomed through the house. The officers told Eric he had to go with them. "Why?" Eric asked in feigned surprise. "You know why," an officer said.
Eric asked Christy to get his lawyer's number from the car. The joke was supposed to end when she found the scrapbook he made of their relationship sitting on the seat. But she was so determined to get into the locked glove compartment that she tossed the book in back without looking. Christy's mom told her the number would wait; it was time to say goodbye to Eric, who was in the back of the police SUV.
She walked around to Eric's side. He got out, knelt, and asked her to marry him.
Christy couldn't figure out why he would propose when he was in so much trouble. Then she realized the trouble was a joke.
"Is this part real?" she asked the kneeling Eric.
"It's real," he said. "What's your answer?"
She knelt next to him, hugged him, and said yes. Her parents, Jim and Maryrita, his mom, Betsy, and the rest of the gathering cheered.
Christy and Eric worked with officiant Diane Smith-Hoban to craft a ceremony inspired by their story. Their pal Jim read a Robert Frost poem. The couple and their parents poured different colored sand into a bottle to symbolize that not only were Christy and Eric joining their lives, but so were their families.
Windy weather changed their plans for an outdoor ceremony, but as soon as Christy entered the ceremony space for her walk down the aisle, she was almost glad. She immediately walked past the memorial table holding photos of loved ones who had passed. "My grandmother was actually the first person to see us, in a way," Christy said. "She would have loved that."
At the reception for 155, Christy's grandfather and Eric showed off their matching funky socks.
Christy gathered the single ladies as though she was tossing her bouquet, then handed the flowers to Lena, the then-girlfriend of Eric's partner, John. "What are you doing?" Lena asked. Christy stepped to the side so Lena could see John, who knelt and asked her to marry him.
The first time Eric saw Christy in her dress was prior to pre-ceremony photos on the boardwalk. "When I turned around, I remember how gorgeous she looked," he said. "Then when she came down the aisle with her dad, I saw how happy she looked, and it was like I was seeing her for the first time all over again. It was like I had two first looks, and they were the most special part of the night."
Christy fully expected to be too nervous to speak, but saying her vows was so easy. "I will always remember standing up there holding hands and being able to get every word out that I wanted to say," she said. "I was just so happy."
A bargain: The couple saved 50 percent on centerpieces by using the Yacht Club's beachy ones on every other table.
The splurge: Once they saw photographer Ashley Bartoletti's work, the couple knew they had to hire her. They hired a videographer as well.
Eight days in Fiji.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: Diane Smith-Hoban of Journeys of the Heart, Jenkintown.
Venue and Catering: Yacht Club of Sea Isle City, Sea Isle City.
Music: DJ Mike Scott of Dinardo Bros. Entertainment, Sewell.
Photographer: Ashley Bartoletti Photography, Collegeville.
Videographer: Muddy Snow Productions, Valley Forge.
Florist: Coventry Crossing Flowers & Events. Stone Harbor.
Bride's dress: BHLDN, Philadelphia
Hair and Makeup: Taffeta Hair and Makeup Design, Hammonton, N.J.