This holiday season, my wife and I celebrate twenty-four years as a couple. I figured I’d mark the occasion by giving you the story of how we met, seeing as it’s at least as cute as your average Hallmark holiday flick, and resulted in our marriage of 18 years now, 3 kids, and an amazing life together.
Here’s the story.
20 years ago, on the day before Thanksgiving, I was working a systems engineering contract in the cold wastelands of central Illinois, and found myself alone with nobody to have Thanksgiving with.
The high school I graduated from was a private boarding school in Oregon, and as such, my friends were literally scattered at every corner of the globe. Seeing as my family was also split between two different sides of the country that year, I decided to look on a map and literally cold-call all of the closest friends I had in order of driving distance, asking each if they’d mind taking me in for their festivities. St. Louis, Omaha, Wisconsin, Chicago, each one said no. Get it – this was Wednesday evening, the day before Thanksgiving – I know, a bit late to be making plans of this type.
Finally a good friend of mine from DC named Tara said yes – though she’d be at her grandparents in New Jersey, a solid 850 miles away. So, I left at midnight, drove 15 hours straight, and showed up, jittery from road fatigue, at 3pm at her grandparents house – just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. After some good fun being “that narcoleptic friend Tara invited” after ingesting plenty of turkey and randomly passing out around her grandparents’ house, I offered to drive her home to DC the next day, just because why not.
On the drive, Tara suddenly turns to me with “this great idea” that she’s been discussing with her mom. This “great idea” is hooking me up with some girl named “Kathryn” that she’s good friends with. I remind her that I don’t live in Washington, DC and had no plans to move there. But, in the end, I agree to allow her to invite her over, and devise an elaborate system of winks and nods which will signal her if I find this “Kathryn” interesting or not. Unbeknownst to me, she’s strong-armed Kathryn to come over despite her own protests and devised a similar wink/nod arrangement with her. She comes over, we hang out, we each wink at Tara just to see her reaction, and then Kat goes on her way home.
The next day, I’m in downtown DC, taking a tour of the Founding Church of Scientology and run into Kathryn again – as she worked there at the time. In saying goodbyes before I get back on the road, I offer to stay in touch via email, and she confesses she doesn’t have email, or even a computer.
Well, I know nothing of romance, but THIS I can handle.
I arrange to show up at her parents house a few weeks later, bearing a computer, and set her up with email and chat so we can talk. Kathryn is bewildered, getting this idea that I randomly drive around the nation, showing up at houses of people in distress with computers and modems, setting them up with email.
Of course, unbeknownst to her, I’ve already decided that we’re going to get married and have kids. I’m already committed enough to the idea that I sell my car and buy a dream sports car entirely because I’m convinced that I’m about to get married and then shortly need to acquire a minivan.
The only catch is, I’m a computer geek and have no experience articulating my love interest to her. After installing a computer in her house for our email traffic, we continue to talk about everything else besides having a relationship, because I’m a dork and probably the only soccer/basketball jock I know who has still, to this day, never asked a girl out. I was CLUELESS on how to proceed.
As I was about to leave, she just says, “OK, Tad. I’m gonna kiss you.” And did.
The rest is basically history.
We got engaged in the Fall of the following year, and have now been married 18 years. We spent years together as staff at our Scientology Church in DC, moved across the country for work for our Church in LA, and became parents 9 years ago to 3 of the most dynamic and outdoor-loving agglomerations of concentrated happiness ever concocted.
We were pretty young when we met (and looked younger), but a plus was that both of us had decent skill in choosing friends. And it was baldly, blatantly obvious (to me anyhow) that she was the one that I wanted to build a lifetime with.
And now, despite the constant randomity of balancing my career with the million-and-one things that being a father of three throws at you, I’ve never been more certain in my life of the strength of our family, or had more pride in the work we put into keeping it up.