An improbable love story, in short little chapters.

I

Beer made us do it. We were just friends. I had never thought of him in any other way. We went on long bike rides, and sometimes hung out on weekends. We worked well together. One day the weekly softball game got rained out, and we ended up drinking at a dive bar with sticky floors and dimmed lights. By the time the weather cleared up, going skinny-dipping at Hathaway’s Pond seemed like a great idea. And when the police showed up, it seemed natural to huddle against each other behind a big rock to avoid being spotted. And that’s how we stopped being just friends.

II

The afterwards was awful. It was wrong, wrong, wrong. It shouldn’t have happened. The friendship was ruined. It could never work. I couldn’t even look at him. But I wore that purple dress, and he says that’s when he knew he would have to make it happen. We met a day later to talk things out. “I just want you to know,” he said, “that if I could fly us someplace, just you and me, and live with you there forever, I would do it.” He asked for one last kiss, and I gave it to him. I told him it was over. But I think I knew then that it wasn’t.Wedding photo

III

Weeks passed with nothing between us but stolen glances and awkward conversations. I spent hours detailing reasons he and I could never work. He was mild-mannered, and I liked outgoing. He was short and clean-cut; my guys were swarthy, mysterious, with a past.  I wanted to be swept off my feet and left breathless; he offered to take my hand and hold it forever. I found myself re-evaluating, revising, rethinking love. One night I worked late; when I got home, his truck was in my driveway. As I walked into my treehouse apartment, the most unexpected smell wafted through the screen door. He had baked me an apple pie. From scratch. Who does this? I thought. What kind of man takes care of a woman like this? 

IV

We moved together from Cape Cod to South Florida. “This won’t last forever,” I told him over and over. “You’re not my type. No expectations, okay?” I couldn’t marry someone shorter than me, for one thing. And I couldn’t imagine staying with someone who was so kind in the face of my depression. I needed someone to fight back, to keep me in check, to call me out for the neurotic weakling I felt myself to be. “Okay,” he always said. “I understand.”

V

He was offered an editing position in Minnesota. I’ll go with him, I thought. I want him to have a good job and feel settled so he’ll be okay when I leave him. Of course I would have to leave him! He wasn’t my type. I wanted a bad boy – the Marlboro-smoking Cajun boy from the cruise ship, or the Lothario surfer-drummer man who called me every Friday. The British sailor with the windswept hair. The boy who picked up on a motorcycle.

Minnesota was awesome and fun and cold. We spent hours sloshing through the snow, sipping coffee in warm cafes and drinking beer in cozy pubs. We fought and loved and made friends, and slowly, imperceptibly, we merged into a couple. We communicated without speaking; I learned that he doesn’t like zucchini; he teased me that I only imagined to not like coconut. One day we were at the mall and he waited with me as I stood in line for the bathroom. There was a jewelry store across the way. “Let’s go there next,” I joked. “You want to?” he said.

Me: “I was kidding.”

Him: “Let’s go look at rings.”

Me: “Why?”

Him: “Let’s go look at rings. Let’s get married.”

And right there in the mall, in front of the women’s bathrooms, we decided to get married.

VI

Twenty years ago today, we stood underneath a gazebo in Folsom, Louisiana and read handwritten vows to each other. My father had installed a ceiling fan in the gazebo to make sure I wouldn’t sweat in my wedding dress. It was fairy tale wedding, with floating flowers and outdoor torches glowing against the setting sun. He worried about whether his hair was the way I liked it; I worried about whether he was my type. We honeymooned in the British Virgin Islands, returned to Minnesota and soon made plans to move to Jacksonville, Florida. When we arrived, we were both journalists with ambitions. My goal, if I’m being honest, was to make an impression, to do something great, to crack open this giant egg of a world.

But wisdom sticks to a person bit by bit, like freckles accumulating on fair skin. I taught creative writing to kids in jail and learned that some gaps need to be filled regardless of whether the accolades follow. I wrote stories for the local paper that helped change people’s lives, and sometimes their gratitude was all I needed. We tried to get pregnant and didn’t, and I realized I didn’t need to follow the beaten path.

He learned, too. We adopted our daughter, and he stopped wanting to be a journalist. He became a firefighter. He told me we had more love to give, so we adopted our son. When our third daughter’s adoption nearly didn’t happen and I wanted to quit, he propped me up and infused me with a strength I didn’t know I had. We began this journey as an accidental, improbable couple. But today –  today we are a family. We live in a little house by the sea with three children and two dogs and big fat hearts.

“I know I’m not you’re type,” he told me just last week. “Based on your track record, I’m not your type.” But we have rubbed off on each other in two decades of marriage. The quiet young man with wiry arms and a desk job has turned into my Hot Firefighter Husband who speaks up when I’m wrong. I’ve stopped dreaming of fame and greatness, and focused instead on the awesome beauty in simplicity – the perfect lilt of a single sentence, the taste of homegrown basil, the smell of a clean little neck.

“I think the most extraordinary people lead pretty ordinary lives,” he told me once. Yes, darling, I think you’re right. And I think you are one of those people. And I think you’ve been my type all along. Sorry it took me so long to catch up.

31 responses to An improbable love story, in short little chapters.

  1. I love this. So many women need to read this. They pass up the right guy looking over his shoulder for the bad boy. I’m glad you found love with the good boy.

    • tricia says:

      Oh, Sharon, I fear you are right. Thanks for the validation!

    • tricia says:

      Bringing tears to your eyes is a statement indeed. Thanks for reading, Susan. Hope you’re well. t.

  2. Dan Hamilton says:

    That certainly triggered some wonderful nostalgia, this spectator says. Beautifully written.

    • tricia says:

      I would call you a witness, in fact, Mr. Hamilton. Thanks. xoxoxox t.

  3. Tracy Miller says:

    You know the rumor around Avondale was that you two weren’t married and just holding yourselves out as married. I didn’t know you well enough to ask. And look at this! Now I don’t have to. But I still want to go to lunch for crying out loud. WILL YOU NEVER GET BACK WITH ME ABOUT THAT??????

    I

    WILL

    BUY

    • tricia says:

      OOOHHHH! Well, if you’ll buy, of course. There were rumors about us? How awesomely renegade! Alas, false. Love you, tm.

  4. Amy says:

    What a wonderful story. You are an amazing person and I am privileged to know your story of love, marriage and family. Total Boom Sauce!

  5. Missy O'Neill says:

    Congratulations on finding each other. Love you my friend. Missy

    • tricia says:

      Back atcha, Miss Missy. Hope all is well with you. xo

  6. Murray says:

    A wonderfully written story without one F-bomb. I knew you had it in you!!

    p.s.- congratulations on your anniversary!!

    • tricia says:

      Hell, yes, I can do it, Murray! Fuckin-A! Thanks for reading.

    • tricia says:

      Thanks, John. Can’t wait to see you this summer!

  7. Kelly D says:

    Brought me to tears. A beautiful love story for two beautiful people who are anything but ordinary. Xoxo

    • tricia says:

      Thank you dear Kelly – love having you in my world. xo

  8. Laurie says:

    Tears in eyes and warmth in my heart. You have such a way with words. Thanks for sharing your love story. What you said about extraordinary people leading ordinary lives is so true and I feel like we are surrounded by many extraordinary people! You being one of them!

    • tricia says:

      Thank you so much, Laurie – what a lovely thing to hear first thing in the morning. Back atcha!

  9. bridget says:

    Beautiful. I really enjoyed this story. May you enjoy many more years together.

    • tricia says:

      Thank you, Bridget, and thanks for visiting! Come back soon!

  10. Valle says:

    I *knew* from the first time you mentioned Bob that it would be the story of your life. Love you both so much and am so happy that Phil and I were there to witness the courtship, the wedding, and the wonderful family you have created. Happy anniversary! xoxo

    • tricia says:

      Valle, you are perhaps the only person who has seen us from the start. Glad you’ve been there. We adore you. xoxo

  11. Awww.
    My favorite line:
    “But wisdom sticks to a person bit by bit, like freckles accumulating on fair skin.”
    I’m so grateful for the growing wisdom, and that we are not expected to have it all from the very beginning.
    Thank you for sharing your story.

    • tricia says:

      Jennifer, thanks for reading. You’re right – like Socrates! Wisdom is knowing what we do not know. Something like that.

  12. Mary says:

    just had to reread this blog again! Yup. It’s still beautiful!

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