Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Story Of How We Met

I'm going to get very personal with this entry and tell the story of how David (my husband) and I first met.  I realized I never put this down on paper nor in digital format anywhere.  How sad would it be if I died and this wonderful story remained untold?  I've given some of the details to a few close friends and family, but I'm pretty sure not one living soul has heard the full story.  And it's a story worth telling, I assure you.

The first time I met David was when I was working as Marketing and Promotions Coordinator at Northfield Park, a harness racetrack in Ohio.  It was about to become Northfield Park Harness and Microbrewery, and I knew the president and general manager were interviewing for the job of Master Brewer. I also knew that I'd be working closely with whomever they hired, since it was my job to advertise and promote at the racetrack.  I was busy working on my computer when I heard the GM call my name.  I turned around to see Tom (our GM) and Myron (our president) standing with a strange young man just outside my office doorway.

I stepped forward with my hand extended toward the stranger as they introduced him to me as Northfield Park Microbrewery's new Master Brewer.  He smiled, shook my hand and said something.  I really can't remember what, probably "nice to meet you," but my eyes were drawn to two things:  his gentle blue eyes and his mouth, which housed a shining set of silver braces.  We exchanged a few more casual comments, and then he was off on down the hallway with my employers to meet the rest of our crew in the general office.  I watched him leave and then nodded in disbelief as I walked back to my desk.  The guy had a pony tail.  Our leaders at the track were as straight-laced as men can be, so that sort of surprised me.  But then again, what did I know?  Maybe all brewers looked like hippies. I had a lot to learn about brewers and brewing and looked forward to the task of advertising a whole new animal, far from the four-legged kind I was used to.

The next time I saw David was in our weekly advertising meeting.  He was dressed more casually then, and I noticed some unique aspects of his attire.  He was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, a pair of Vans, pathetically worn at the toes and an intriguing necklace laced with three Ivory pieces.  The focal piece was roundish and about an inch in diameter.  I couldn't tell what it was but later learned that it was a symbol of Bacchus, God of wine and merry-making.  I didn't know too many men who wore necklaces.

We all sat down at the table to discuss the design of our microbrewery, the beers we'd offer, etc.  David, at first glance, looked like a blonde surfer dude. We learned he was from California originally but had recently left another brewery in Utah.  Only in his early thirties, and he had lived in three different states.  I liked and admired his gypsy spirit.  He was an anomaly.  He had been hired to operate our new brewery, and I knew he had to have talent to do that.  I also knew the crazy high standards of my employers. But David's appearance was throwing me off completely.  I mean, he was a long-haired hippy dude.  I had no doubt about that.  Was he going to live up to their high expectations? Was he going to fit in?

And then he began to speak, discussing his ideas for the brewery, sharing his technical knowledge, as well as his creative genius.  I was floored.  This guy had brains... real brains.  And he had the documents to prove it.  I learned he had studied and graduated from two different colleges in CA, earning two Bachelor degrees and one Master's.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I worked closely with David and learned everything I could about brewing.  We built the brewery and had a successful launch several months later, featuring four main beers, Crimson Colt Ale, Silks Cream Ale, Winners Wheat and 40 to 1 Stout.  Before, during and after the launch, David and I had multiple meetings.  I wanted to ensure the advertising was perfect and needed his input every step of the way.  I enjoyed all my conversations with this guy. He was intelligent, engaging, humble, gentle, but had this great, twisted sense of humor.  When you spent time with him, one-on-one, he was pretty mellow and listened more than spoke, but then he'd reel off this crazy zinger or witty play on words that had me laughing constantly.  And the more we got to know each other, the more he spoke, and he had such great stories to tell.

Very quickly, I was struggling not to like him too much.  We were co-workers after all.  But something about this guy, despite the fact that he was nowhere close to my physical "type," was really attractive, almost magnetic to me.  My mind kept wandering back to him, even when he wasn't around, and it was really irritating to me.

"I have to stop thinking about this guy," I remembered telling my best friend one weekend. "He's a hippy dude.  His shoes have holes in them.  What am I thinking?"

My friend's response was something to the effect of, "If you're having fun, just go with it.  Stop stressing about it."

"He drives a VW van.  It's rusty," I whined.  "He's unkempt, not my type at all."

"But didn't you say he rides a motorcycle, too?  That's hot," she rebutted.

I sighed. She was right.  Motorcycles and guys who rode them were hot.  "And he's funny and kind and so smart... but he's not in your face about it, you know?  He's humble.  Damn.  I really like this guy, Sharon.  I really really like this guy."

Soon after that, it was beyond my control.  I, being the romantic, looked for and found all the signs I was looking for.  We had so much in common!  We had both worked at a Renaissance Faire.  We shared a common ancestry from bonny Scotland.  We were both "free-thinkers," rebelling against organized religion.  We both loved to travel, loved animals, loved spicy food.  We both liked kids, but neither one of us wanted to have kids.  For both of us, life was about adventure and laughter and not being afraid to be silly or have fun and it was about continuing to learn and grow as individuals.  We both liked to read.  I read Gregory Maguire and E.L. Doctorow and he read Cycle World and The Science of Brewing and Distilling.  We were meant to be!

Despite all these signs and common interests, David happily enjoyed the moment without any suggestion to go forward, to "take it to the next level."  So I made all the first moves in our relationship, but he promptly agreed to or went along with everything.  I invited him to a New Year's Eve party and then out for a drink and after that, we were inseparable.  We worked together.  We played together.  We were stuck like glue.  And I loved it.  I quickly fell madly in love with him.  And he fell in love with me shortly after.

About a year later, we were eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and he excused himself to go to the men's room.  While he was away from our table, I wrote him a message on a tortilla chip.  In purple ink, I wrote:  "Wanna live together?"

Upon his return, he picked the chip up from his plate and read it.  He was silent for some time.  It seemed like it was a long, long, long time, when in fact, it was likely only a few seconds.  I guess he was digesting the proposal.  David isn't one to respond quickly to anything. He takes his time before speaking.  And then he looked at me very seriously and said something like, "Well, it's something to think about."

I was heartbroken that he didn't immediately jump at the idea or jump up from the table and throw his arms around me, saying yes let's do it!  After crying in the bathroom for a while, I wiped my eyes and returned to the table.  I didn't say much after that, and we left the restaurant.  We sat in the van and talked about it.  He said he wasn't against the idea, but that he just needed time to process it.  I don't remember when we finally decided to do it, but we did, and we've been together ever since.

So not only was I the one to ask him out on a date first, but I suggested we move in together... and I said, "I love you" first.  Every overture was returned in full, and many many years later I suggested we get married... which, as you already know, we did.  I'm a go-getter, what can I say?  And he's very agreeable.  Over the years, I've come to realize just how different we are from each other.  We couldn't be any more different.  Me, the whimsical, high-spirited, fast-moving feeler and David, the laid back, gentle, slow-moving thinker.  But it works.  Somehow it just works.

We've stuck together through thick and thin, rough times and sad times.  Even a challenging and heart-breaking sale of our house and move from Ohio to Wisconsin didn't dismantle us.  And then another transition from a tiny dollhouse in Waukesha to our own cozy home here in the Mukwonago countryside.  We couldn't be happier here.  But really, it doesn't matter where we are, I'm madly in love with my hippy dude and he couldn't be any more my "type."  He's exactly what I needed most and cherish most in this world.  I keep him fired up, and he keeps me grounded.  We complement each other.

As I've always said about "us," after fourteen years together, "We have good glue."