This post isn’t really fitness-related, but I feel it’s important in terms of understanding me, and if you like a good love story you might like this one. Here in Arizona, my main people are my husband and my son, and how I acquired my husband is a bit of an interesting story. Do you know how we met? I’ll tell you how…
Third grade. In 1990. We were eight years old.
He was my best friend third grade through fifth grade. I was pretty sure his parents were millionaires or something… they lived in a big, nice house by a lake. His mom drove a Mercedes, and was always willing to take us places. She actually taught me how to swim. We were paired up together to do the maypole dance for May Day in 5th grade. I remember “rehearsing” in his driveway with both of our moms watching and sort of laughing at us. And because we keep it real here, and we really like embarrassment, here is the oldest existing photo of me and my husband together that I am aware of, courtesy of my mom:
I remember him as being a huge geography nerd. I came in 2nd place in the school geography bee in 5th grade, losing first place to him. He was into cartography. He could draw an extremely accurate map of any U.S. state from memory. (This will be relevant later, believe it or not.) We both liked “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”. In 5th grade for Valentine’s Day, our teacher had us make little heart-shaped books and we were supposed to pass them around and write something nice in everyone’s book. He drew a state in everyone’s book. He drew Illinois in mine, along with a note that said it was his favorite state to draw. (We are not from Illinois. I’ve still never even been to Illinois.) I remember thinking it was cool that he drew his favorite state in my book. It was the beginning of a nerd-crush.
At some point during our 5th grade year, his millionaire parents (okay, not millionaires according to him, but considerably more well-off than my family) took him to Hawaii on vacation. When he came back, he had a gift for me (which I suspect his mom made him get me). It was a ring carved out of a seashell. I remember I wore it every day until it got accidentally broken in P.E. class. I was quite saddened by that, and I actually kept the pieces in a box well into my adulthood. This will be relevant later.
At the end of 5th grade, my family moved to another town about an hour away. I only saw him once after that… his mother drove him all the way out to our new house to spend a day. There were two litters of feral kittens under the front porch (our new house was out in the country and people would dump unwanted cats in our area) and we spent most of the day trying to catch/tame kittens and getting scratched up and bitten. Good times, right?
I called him once or twice after that, but it was kind of… weird. We didn’t really have too much to say anymore, and eventually we lost contact entirely.
I married my first husband in 2001 (who I’d gone to high school with) and had my son the same year. We were separated before our son’s first birthday. I barely even dated for the decade that followed. I had a long-distance quasi-relationship with a guy I met online who lived in England, but nothing super serious. I was full-time single-momming, working up to four (yes FOUR) part-time jobs at a time, and I didn’t really go out or have a social life. As time went by, I decided I was just meant to be by myself and I was cool with that.
Out of the blue, in late June of 2012, while sitting at my desk in the office of the apartment complex I’d only started working at two months prior, I got a Facebook message. All it said was, “Hey, remember me?” Hell yes, I remembered him! Because I’ve never known anyone else with a weird, Finnish last name, and I told him that exactly. By that point, it had been nineteen years since we’d last seen each other. Last time we saw each other, he was just barely eleven and I was almost eleven. Now he was just barely thirty and I was almost thirty (our birthdays are almost exactly 4 months apart). We exchanged a lot of Facebook messages catching up, then exchanged phone numbers and switched to text messages. My sister (who had been two years old last time he saw her) was getting married the following week, and I half-jokingly asked him if he wanted to be my date for my sister’s wedding. “Hell no!” was his response. (What, you thought that was going to be our first date? Please…)
We made arrangements to meet up the Saturday following my sister’s wedding, which was the first Saturday in July. I was actually sort of hesitant about it. I was like, “I haven’t seen this kid in almost twenty years… he might be a serial killer for all I know!” So we met up at a McDonald’s on a very busy street corner. I walked there. I didn’t want him to even know what my car looked like at that point. I had zero expectations for this meeting. I figured I’d have a cheap lunch with an old friend, and if he was completely wackadoodle I could just put him back out of my life.
By the time we were done with lunch, he was trying to convince me to get in his car. He said he wanted to take me to the beach. Knowing full well that we were a three-hour drive from the nearest ocean I was very skeptical, but he persisted. In the end, though, I got in his car and let him take me to his “beach”. It turned out that his intended beach was less than half an hour from my house, and it was on a river, not the ocean. Also, it was right next to an airport, and I quickly learned this wasn’t an accident. My geography nerd had morphed into an airplane nerd. Every time a plane took off overhead, he’d tell me the airline, the model of the plane, and a likely destination city based on direction of travel and the time of day it took off. Yes, he studied flights well enough to know roughly what time of day planes departed that airport for certain cities.
In between airplanes, we were sitting side-by-side on the beach, staring across the river to the city on the other side (which was in another state). He started drawing in the sand, and I wasn’t really paying him much attention until he elbowed me in the side and asked, “What’s that?” I looked, and he was pointing at his drawing. “That’s Illinois,” I said, recognizing it immediately. He quickly erased it and proceeded to draw a few more states and have me guess them, then he moved on to foreign countries. So… no change there.
My son was spending the day at my mom’s that day (he would spend every Friday night with her and I would pick him up Saturday evening). By that Saturday evening, we had ended up at my apartment and were playing board games. So much for not letting him know where I lived… I finally told him I had to go pick up my kid, but we should hang out again sometime, and he agreed and left.
“Sometime” ended up being the very next Saturday. And on the third Saturday, when I told him I needed to go pick up my son, he said, “Maybe I should go with you.” I was like, “Why?” and he said something about not having seen my mom in twenty years or so and wanting to say hi. But this also meant introducing him to my son, which I was kind of on the fence about. Eventually, though, I agreed and he rode with me out to my parents’ house, complaining about how it took “seven hours” to get there (it was 45 minutes).
The next Saturday he went with me to pick up my son again, and then suggested that we should all go to the river on Sunday. I wasn’t quite sure why he wanted to hang out with both of us, but my kid loves swimming. So I agreed.
I should probably point out at around this point in my narrative that I am not good with subtlety. It is completely lost on me. I am also a bit emotionally incompetent, and very slow to pick up on emotional things. This is about to become really relevant.
One Saturday night, he suggested I go out with him and two of his friends, who lived in a nearby city. They were a couple. The man was an Air Force friend of his. The friend’s wife seemed very interested in me, and asked me all sorts of questions about myself. Finally, she asked me, “So what exactly is your relationship to Train anyway?” (“Train” is my husband’s Air Force nickname, and what most of his friends call him.) I had had a couple of drinks by then, and I sort of shrugged and said as far as I knew we were just hanging out. She immediately got up, seized her husband by the arm, and dragged him outside. Strange behavior, I thought, but I wasn’t too worried about it. Moments later, they both came back in and the husband grabbed “Train” by the arm and dragged him outside. “Wow, these people are odd!” I was thinking at that point.
Finally, they came back inside and “Train” came and sat down next to me. He said, “So, it’s been brought to my attention that you’re unclear about the status of our relationship.” Thoroughly confused by that point, I made some comment to the effect that I hadn’t been fully aware there was a relationship to have a status of. He said, “Well, as far as I am concerned, we are together and we probably will be for a very long time… as long as that’s okay with you, that is.”
As we were walking back to the other couple’s house that night, the wife was walking with me and she was just gushing. “I knew he was into you!” she told me. “He was talking about a girl, and I’ve never heard Train talk about a girl before!”
Things moved pretty quick after that. By that point he was spending Friday night and Saturday with me, then Sunday with me and my son. I gave him a key to my apartment so he could wait for me to get off work (I managed the apartment complex I lived in at the time). Once I got a text from him while I was still at work telling me that he’d cleaned my bathroom. And on Sunday evenings I would walk out into the parking lot with him, watch him drive away, and be sad. I’d always been very territorial of “my” space and not wanted anyone in it. I wanted him in my space. He moved in with me at the end of August. Told you we moved pretty quick.
We went to my parents’ house for Independence Day the following year. As I was helping my dad grill burgers in the front yard, he said, “So… when are you two going to get married?” I said that we hadn’t really talked about it. My dad said, “Well, I think everyone just assumes it’s going to happen at some point. And I like this one. I didn’t like the last one, but I like this one.” (“The last one” was my ex-husband.) I told him his opinion had been noted and kind of shrugged it off because dads are weird sometimes.
Not too long after that, “Train” started trying to convince me that we should all three go on vacation to Hawaii. And he told me about how much it would cost. I balked at that, I’m not going to lie. I grew up poor, and spending that much money (which was still an amount I could barely even wrap my head around) just to go to a place for fun was almost incomprehensible to me. He seemed so disappointed when I told him I didn’t think we should spend that much money just to go somewhere that I eventually changed my mind. He got all excited then and started telling me that he wanted to go to Maui, where his parents had taken him when he was about my son’s age. And suddenly I was like, “I remember when you went. You brought me a ring.”
“I did?” he asked. He clearly had no memory of this, lending credence to my hypothesis that his mother made him do it. I told him about it, how it had gotten broken and I’d kept the pieces until right before I’d moved into the apartment we’d first lived together in… only a few months before he’d contacted me on Facebook. He laughed and said he’d get me another one if I wanted.
We went to Maui in December of 2013. All three of us. We did all the touristy things… we snorkeled at Molokini Crater, we went up Haleakala, we hung out on the beach. Train made a topographical map of Maui in the sand, and then went on to add the rest of the Hawaiian islands (“But it isn’t to scale,” he said, dismissing his own handiwork). The hotel we were staying at was in Lahaina, and we spent a fair amount of time just kind of wandering the downtown area. And he kept disappearing and reappearing. I remember my son remarked on how Train “got lost a lot”.
I had sort of a weird side quest in Hawaii… I was trying to find a ring like the one he’d gotten me in 5th grade so I could make him buy it for me. I couldn’t find one anywhere that looked like the one I’d had before. Finally, on our last full day in Hawaii, we were in Kihei and I found a whole basket of them at a roadside stand. They were all too small… like for child-size fingers. Whatever sort of shell they were carved out of apparently didn’t get that big. I was a little disappointed, but pleased that I’d at least been able to prove that these rings existed, which Train was beginning to doubt.
On our last evening in Hawaii we went to the beach. Toward sunset, I noticed that purple flowers were washing up in the surf. They were the same flowers that were used in the leis that the hotel handed out, and I assumed someone had worn theirs into the ocean and it had broken, but for no reason really I was running in and out of the surf trying to pick up these flowers. I had a whole handful of flowers and I turned around and there was Train. Down on one knee. He had a ring for me, and it was made from a shell, but wasn’t like the one I had as a kid. It was made of abalone.
Suddenly all his disappearing in Lahaina made more sense. I told you I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes. And I did say yes, if you’re wondering. My son was nearby and saw the whole thing, and he immediately ran over and asked if that meant he could call Train his step-dad now. We told him not until after the wedding. But as it turned out, the entire trip to Hawaii was a plot to propose to me on the beach at sunset, which was why he’d been so disappointed that I’d initially vetoed the idea of the trip.
Just a couple of weeks later, after discussing getting married “in September maybe”, we were at my parents’ house on Christmas day (Train’s parents had both passed before he and I reconnected, which is why we never do anything at their house). Train was looking at airfare, which is a thing he does for fun. And he said, “Remember how I told you I’ve always wanted to go to Bora Bora? Well, there’s a really good deal for tickets right now… but it’s at the end of March. Should we go?” I said, “Well, that sounds like a honeymoon trip to me…”
We got married on March 22, 2014, just barely three months after he proposed to me in Hawaii. Neither of us was interested in a huge wedding (we’d both been married before), and I was in fact advocating for a courthouse wedding. He said he did that the first time and wanted a real wedding this time, but a small one. So we did, and it was vaguely tropical themed. I got most of the decor at Dollar Tree, and my sister did amazing things putting together centerpieces and my bouquet with $1 items. She also made our cake.
A week later, we set off on our honeymoon to Bora Bora. Like, somehow I married my best friend from elementary school, got proposed to in Hawaii, and honeymooned in Bora Bora. I’m not sure how on earth this fairytale story happened to me, but I am grateful.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Bora Bora is awesome.
At the time of this writing (about 11 PM on 3/8/19) we’re about 14 days away from our 5th wedding anniversary. We’ve been together for almost seven years. We’ve been through a lot together, and I can’t imagine my life without him now. He’s been the dad I always wished my son had when he was younger. My son doesn’t call him “dad” (he’ll sometimes say “my father figure” because he has my sense of humor), but they both know the sentiment is there. And Train has taken us both lots of places that I never would have thought to go on my own… most recently to Europe. My little boy is 17 now… almost grown up. Before we know it it’ll be just the two of us in the house, and who knows what kind of trouble we’ll find to get into…