Updated: Dec 31, 2020
When people ask me when my wife and I met, I like to tell them that I met her in 2004 and that she met me in 2005. I can explain.
We met at a New Year's Eve party. I talked to her slightly before midnight, but she doesn't seem to remember that conversation. It was just small talk, you know. I'm not sure I even introduced myself yet. She does apparently remember talking to me after midnight. I know this because I've heard her telling people that we met at a New Year's Eve party, so I have to assume she has some recollection of the event.
She almost didn't go to the party. My friend –– the one who was hosting the party –– called her about an hour before midnight, wondering where she was. The two of them knew each other from school. They had classes together at the university. My future bride was having doubts about going to the party, but luckily my friend talked her into coming.
But let's back up.
It hadn't been a good year for me. I had been coming off a divorce and felt like the last decade of my life had been taken away from me. I needed to find a new direction. I needed to find a purpose. And fast. I wasn't getting any younger. When my friend told me she was hosting a New Year's Eve party, I jumped at the opportunity to get out and possibly meet some new people, mingle, drink, have fun. Ringing in the new year with old friends and new acquaintances seemed a fitting remedy, a symbolic fresh start, if you will.
When I arrived at the party, it was mostly the usual crew. There were a couple of faces I didn't recognize, but the usual cast of characters were all present. It was a potluck affair; I brought my Crockpot into the kitchen, took off my coat and joined the party.
It was a pretty casual gathering. Nothing fancy. My friend lived in a small apartment in south Minneapolis at the time. There may have been a dozen people at the most. I introduced myself to the ones I didn't know, mingled, ate, drank and tried my best to be merry.
There was a knock at the door. The first thing I noticed about her was her eyes. She had a big smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes that I've been trying to describe for the past ten years.
She was alone. A good sign. There were no other single guys at the party. Another good sign. Let's be honest, in the state I was in, I wasn't prepared to lock horns with anyone over a potential mate. I knew from the moment she walked in the door that I wanted to meet her.
Eventually, as she made her way into the party, I approached her for some small talk. The TV was on and we were watching people gathered in Times Square, getting ready to welcome the new year. I asked her if she'd ever been to New York. She told me about the one trip she'd had to the Big Apple and the serious car crash she was involved in. She wasn't driving, but she and some friends got in a bad wreck. Of course, I remembered this story for ten years, but she doesn't remember even meeting me? No problem. I can save that one and use it whenever I forget something important.
I proceeded to tell her about the time I visited New York. I told her my Times Square story. It was 1988. We had been walking the streets of midtown Manhattan. We weren't really sure how far north we had gotten. I started noticing magazine stands with pornographic magazines on display; no colored covers, like they have in gas stations or convenience stores; just pure, unadulterated porn, right there on the street for all to see. This went on for blocks. I had begun to wonder what sort of neighborhood we had wondered into. I turned to my left and saw the famous Sony sign. Holy crap! This was Times Square! At the time, I had heard people talking about Times Square and all the adult theaters, and what the once-proud theater district had become, but I hadn't given it much thought. Stumbling onto it in person was a bit of a shock.
She didn't seem super interested in my little story. She was polite, but not enthralled with anything that I had to say. Not my best stuff, of course; but I was out of practice, after all. Someone struck up a conversation with her and that was it.
After midnight, we all sat around and played Catch Phrase. If you aren't familiar with the game, everyone gathers in a circle and you pass around this electronic device from player to player. Each player tries to get people to guess the "catch phrase" that is displayed on the screen. When they get someone to correctly guess the phrase, they push "next" and pass the game onto the next player. The catch is, you can't get stuck with the game when the timer goes off. The timer lets you know when it's getting closer by beeping. It beeps the whole time, speeding up, faster and faster until the buzzer finally goes off and the whole room explodes with laughter.
I was fixated on the look of pure joy on her face as we played the game. To this day, whenever she gets that look of excitement, I melt.
After the game, I saw her sitting on the couch, talking with a woman in Spanish. "Hey! No talking in Spanish," I chirped. In jest, of course. They both laughed. "It's not really fair," I continued. "I can't tell what you're talking about."
I joined their conversation and proceeded to get to know them. Well ... let's be honest here. I was getting to know my future wife. The woman she was talking with was only along for the ride. I learned that the love of my life was a teacher, that she was here because of some program called "Amity" and she was living with a host family in St. Paul.
As it turns out, it was my sarcasm that won her over. Go figure. Usually that can be a bit of an acquired taste. But she threw a few barbs my way and I threw a few back at her, and we hit it off. I was getting up to get another drink and I asked if she wanted anything. She said she would have what I was drinking. It was a hard cider. I wasn't sure if she knew it was an alcoholic beverage, so I said, "It's got alcohol ... is that OK?"
"It's OK ... I'm old enough," she replied with a smile.
"Well, I know that," I replied. "I just didn't know if you were planning on drinking alcohol tonight." I don't know why I phrased that way, the words just came out.
When I returned with our drinks, she was shaking her head at me. She leaned forward and assumed the posture of someone about to school someone else. "Let me 'splain you something about women," she said, with her sexy South American accent. "If a woman tells you she's over twenty-one, you don't tell her it's obvious."
She was smiling, but I knew I was in trouble. I needed to think fast.
"No. You misunderstood me," I said. "Certainly you don't look like you're obviously over twenty-one. You told me you're a teacher, right? Well ... I know you need a four-year degree to be a teacher. Ergo you must be at least twenty-one. I figure you to be ... what? twenty-two? twenty-three?" She was twenty-nine at the time and adequately flattered for us to continue our conversation.
Then came the end of the night and I made what could have potentially been the biggest blunder of my life. I didn't get her phone number. One of my other friends was planning a party for the following night. I convinced her that she should go. We could talk some more, get to know each other, and who knows? We could fall in love, get married and spend the rest of our lives together. It wasn't really a bad plan, except that my friend cancelled his party at the last minute.
Standing in the doorway of the party on New Year's Eve, I got cold feet. There had only been two other occasions in the previous ten years that I had asked someone out, and they didn't end well. I was gun-shy. It's not as though my confidence level was at its peak at that time. I knew if we had another party at which to get better acquainted, I would feel more comfortable.
I called my other friend, the one who hosted the party and asked if I could get her number. Luckily she agreed to have my friend give me her number. And here we are.
So remember, if someone invites you to a New Year's Eve party, just go. And if you meet someone you like, make sure to get her number. Don't leave anything to chance.
Some day I will tell you all the story of how I met her parents (who didn't speak any English at the time) only one day before our wedding. And then maybe I'll tell you the story of how they joined us on our honeymoon. Yep. True story.
Ah ... the things we do for love.