Thirteen years ago, today, I met the absolute love of my life. It's kind of absurd how it came about, but my goodness, am I happy that it did. My beautiful Howie, walked into my tiny apartment in France, on a icy cold morning, wearing a rather loud, and rather out of place, Hawaiian shirt and simply made me smile. This isn't a story of that crazy weekend, most people have heard that story before, three French bouncers, a black eye, etc. This is instead just a little story about a girl making the best decision of her life. Let me back up a little first.
I spent the first 18 years of my life with my crazy family, in the strict confines of Southern California. We never took vacations and never left town. We used to go camping but that stopped by the time I was four. We didn't take weekends away, day trips, anything. My grandparents took me two hours away to San Diego when I was 12. My senior year in high school I went to San Francisco with my boyfriend, but that was it on my traveling resume. By the time college came around, I couldn't wait to escape and get as far away from LA as I could. And I did. I picked the snowy, sooty paradise of Central NY. I was THRILLED! I loved how different everything was! My junior year came and I wanted more. I chose Strasbourg, France and had an absolute blast. I met one of my closest friends there and she is now the aunt to my children. It was a fun semester away. A few weeks before the semester was to end, my roommate insisted that I move up an upcoming weekend trip I had planned for Dijon, so that I could meet her friend. She had no romantic intentions for the two of us, she just said that he was such a character, a great guy and I had to meet him. I listened to her, maybe I was meant to. Let me just say, that I had no romantic ideas either. I was just getting out of a long college relationship and was ready to just be 20 years-old and not be attached. I was "that girl" that was never, ever single. I had not been single for even one day since I hit 16 and I needed a break. I intended on a long one.
I went out the night before and got very little sleep. I came out of my bedroom early in the morning because I wanted to finish the book I was reading, Franny and Zoey. I had a major case of bed head and I can still remember that I was wearing my favorite light pink, Petite Bateau shirt. My roommate had gone to the airport to pick up her friend at the airport. He was flying into town for 48 hours only, from Chicago. He had forgotten his passport at home and was supposed to get in the night before. If he had remembered it, I wouldn't have met him when he came in. (I sometimes curse his forgetfulness but I should remember not to do that sometimes.) My roommate and I shared a little apartment which had two bedrooms and one shared bathroom. As I walked out of my room, in came my roommate and her friend, Howie. Standing in front of me was this guy with a friendly smile and a truly ridiculous shirt. It was December in France and he was wearing a really loud, Hawaiian shirt, raver pants and CLOGS. Yep, you read that right, clogs. I still cannot wrap my head around why a 24 year-old man would be wearing clogs. He had shaggy hair and was carrying a Phish mix tape. All I was thinking was, "Is this dude for real?". If you had told me, just the day before I would be falling in love with a frat boy in clogs from Staten Island, I would have called you a horse's ass.
In those first few minutes of conversation, I just kept thinking, "where did this guy come from?" He was really nice, uncommonly nice but also a real goof. He had spent the last few years working, traveling the world and just being crazy. Howie was young and he was fun. He made sure everyone around him had fun too. We talked for a few minutes, he gave me a few packs of cigarettes (seems like an odd gift now, but to a poor, smoking, college student, it was like winning a mini-lottery. A really unhealthy lottery, but a mini one, nonetheless.) He wanted to take a shower after his long plane trip. He didn't yet realize the horrid shower situation in that part of the world. Our bath time routine consisted of a bath tub and a long hose inside of it to hose yourself down with. It sucked. Howie asked for a tape player (yes, a tape player, this was 13 years ago, after all) so that he could listen to Phish while he took a bath. What? Listening to jam bands while you hosed yourself off? My roommate and I giggled thinking about him naked, long guitar riffs and that hose. Oy, that hose! No matter what you did, you felt like an animal getting a spray down in that wretched bath tub. I think I may have heard him singing too...
That weekend was pure nuttiness and with each passing moment with him, I was completely drawn in. I don't need to tell the story of three bouncers jumping him, or the crazy lady that I lived with screaming in a drunken rage that we were dogs, in the street no less. That story has been told many times. It was an absurd weekend but at the end of it, I knew that I had never in my life met someone like him before. He was special. He had this happiness, this goofiness, this goodness about him. As he sat there and told me about his mother dying just the 2 years prior, I was moved by his view on it all. He didn't dwell of the pain, the loss or the missing her. He did miss her, immensely (and still does). She was his best friend and this is what he decided to think about. I can still remember him saying, "I had the best mom in the world, for 22 years of my life. Don't feel sorry for me for losing her, feel happy for me that I had her as my mom, at all." He still holds on to this unique perspective on so many things in life. As the hours flew by and I knew he would be flying thousands of miles away from me, I didn't have any notion of a relationship, I just knew that I wanted him in my life. I wanted to learn from him, laugh with him and say that he was my friend. Just 48 hours after meeting him, I said goodbye to him at his taxi and didn't stop thinking about him for even a day since then.
I flew back to California for Winter Break and he went to NYC for New Year's Eve. He called me from NY and we started. We have talked every single day since that phone call. I went back to college and he would fly and see me every other weekend. My brain fought hard against it. I was just 20 years-old and I truly thought I should spend some time alone and not in a relationship. My heart didn't listen to that. My heart felt safe with Howie. My heart kept pulling me in. I didn't want to listen, but thank the world that I did. I think that most people who call Howie a friend would say their life is better because he is in it. People just truly like him. There isn't a lot bad to say about him. How many people can you really say that about?
We have had 13 fun years together. We have lived all across the country and seven years ago decided to settle in the PNW. We have three awesome boys and as cliche as it may sound, I can't imagine my heart with anyone else. He isn't just a "nice guy", he's a good, good man. I have learned to be a good person, too. I'm not so convinced that I was one while in college. He is kind, he is funny and he is my heart. He makes me laugh. Doesn't everyone want someone who makes them laugh? I know that he really loves me and I also know that if I went out tomorrow and bought him an ugly pair of birkenstock clogs, he would wear the damn things.
My oldest son asked me today if I kissed his Daddy in France, and when I said yes, he blushed and smiled. I went to France to learn more about myself and planned to pick up some fun stories and souvenirs along the away. I also picked up the perfect partner for a fun and sometimes crazy (we do have three boys, ya know) life.
A few months ago, I gave birth to our third, beautiful son. He is such a sweet, sweet baby. Unfortunately, it was an intense birth. I wished that it had been a calmer day for him to enter the world and for us to meet him. During my unplanned c-section, I hemorrhaged and lost over half of my blood supply, among other complications. I was barely coherent after he was born and was shaking quite intensely from a reaction to my anesthesia. Neither Howie nor myself had slept in 48 hours and were barely holding it together. In the five minutes before they wheeled me in for another surgery to attempt to stop the bleeding, I looked over and saw my husband holding our newborn son. They were looking at each other and saying hello for the first time. I was filled with immense love for the both of them. I was thanking the world for that little baby and thanking the world for my husband. There could be no better man by my side. 13 years ago, I was a silly 20 year-old girl who was impulsive and short-sighted but I made the best decision of my life. I opened my heart to that goofy boy in the Hawaiian shirt and the rest is history.
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