That is, I've thought a lot about romantic love for as long as I can remember...
...all the way back to my very young years watching "The Sound of Music" with my mother on holidays and thinking how great it was that Maria finally ended up with Captain von Trapp.
That movie taught me many important lessons about finding true love. Here's what I had figured out by the age of four or five:
- Love doesn't always arrive at convenient times, or when both people are ready
- Love isn't always neat and tidy
- Sometimes there are other people's feelings involved (Captain von Trapp's girlfriend, for example...)
- Careers can get in the way of relationships (i.e. "Nun" doesn't go hand in hand with romance)
- Sometimes even religion can pose a serious obstacle to romantic happiness
I also saw that love makes people happy causing them to sing a lot... but other times, it makes them desperately sad - as with Rolf and Liesl. When Rolf chooses career above love, Liesl is left broken hearted and their relationship ends abruptly and painfully.
All in all though, Maria and the Captain made dancing and chatting and hugging (and even bickering) with someone attractive look pretty great. I may have been four years old but already I was sold.
Someday, I would find a true love of my own... and we too would live happily ever after!
Climbing the Alps with our ridiculously large family.
* * *
Of course, it isn't easy to find a handsome Austrian naval captain in southern California. Possibly because Austria, to my knowledge, doesn't have a navy any more ~ and hasn't had one since the end of World War I.
So finding my own Captain von Trapp didn't happen quite as hoped or planned.
Between the ages of fourteen and twenty-six, several lovely guys (ok, and a few lousy ones) floated in and out of my life. Some I dated casually, others more seriously. One in particular broke my heart, while another will always hold a special place in it.
I've gotta say though, in the end those relationships pretty much universally smacked of Rolf and Liesl... starting with attraction, singing and fun; ending with arguments, abrupt conversations, changes of heart and tears.
Ultimately, I always had to steel my shoulders to the wind and start to climb the Alps next to my own family (brothers, sister, parents) again... without a dreamy life partner by my side.
* * *
In 2001 a few important things happened in my life.
First, I returned to my hometown from Los Angeles where I'd been trying to make it in the music business. I enrolled in a one-year teacher credentialing program and got a job at a local school teaching creative writing.
During this time, a good friend of mine who managed a fantastic local band and knew how passionate I was about music asked me if I'd like to work for him. I put together a lot of press kits, contacted a lot of folks at major record labels, enticed A&R guys out to watch their shows, and negotiated gig contracts with bars across the country - clarifying the band's rider (special requests) and hotel arrangements. I saw a ton of live music when I wasn't teaching or taking classes. It was a lot of fun.
Then came September 11th, 2001. A lot of things changed for me around then. My perspective shifted dramatically.
I was in the classroom when the planes hit the World Trade Center and later that afternoon I sat with my parents at their home, stunned by the images we saw on television. I hugged them and held their hands and cried for my country, wept for all of the families in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania and beyond who would not have their mother, father, son, daughter, sister or brother coming home ever again.
I thought a lot about my value system, and what mattered the most to me.
I thought about what I could do to actually change the world for the better.
As much as I loved working with musicians, I couldn't see that working for a record label getting bands signed to contracts would actually help create anything positive for anyone in the world other than, hopefully, the musicians.
Teaching, though - that had possibilities. As a teacher I could positively impact a whole lot of children... and potentially even change their sense of confidence and academic success. I might be able to inspire a kid to go to college, stay out of a gang, get off drugs, stop bullying others or even to become a teacher!
By the time I earned my credential in late December I knew that I needed to teach; teaching was my true calling in life.
In January, right as I was applying for teaching positions in town, the band that I'd been working with made a momentous change. They broke up, reformed without one of their members and the manager that I'd assisted... decided to quit their jobs and move to Los Angeles. My friends wondered if I'd be heading back to LA with them, given my past there and all of my music connections. My five closest friends in the city at that time (two women, three men) were all moving away.
After long hours wrapped in thought at last I made my choice.
I would stay in my hometown and find teaching work. I would say goodbye to my closest friends and the band, at least for a while, and give back to the world a little by focusing on children.
The date was January 19, 2002.
I called a friend from my credential program.
"Nell*," I confided. "I'm not moving back to LA. I'm going to stay here and put down roots."
"Really?" she squealed. "Yay! I'm so happy! I'm glad you're sticking around!"
Then she issued the mandate that changed my life:
"Let's go out tonight to celebrate! Find a band playing at some bar you've never been to before and we'll go have a beer and toast to new beginnings."
* * *
So that is exactly what happened.
I picked a bar. A band was playing that I'd heard of before from musicians I respected, and at the very least it looked like a decent lineup.
Nell and I (along with her boyfriend? I can't remember...) got dressed up and went out on the town. We grabbed dinner and then arrived at the bar about an hour before the headlining band was set to go on.
The bar was crowded. The show went on to sell out. We played pool.
And then, somewhere along the way, Nell (who had a loud, vivacious personality) said to me -
"Check OUT that guy over there. He's been looking at you. He's HOT."
Ever so casually, I glanced in the direction she was mentioning. I saw not one, but three guys hanging out at the bar. I made eye contact with one of them and smiled. Within about twenty minutes, the three of them were talking up the three of us.
One of those guys, the one with the glowing blue eyes and luminous smile, turned out to be my Captain von Trapp.
* * *
Of course, as with Maria and the Captain, it didn't work out perfectly right away.
All told, nearly nine months passed between the day we met and the day we finally "got together" and began to date.
My husband remains the only man I have ever been friends with before we began to date romantically. By the time we shared our first kiss, we'd shared a great deal of history. Made a lot of memories. Gotten to know each other extremely well.
There had been some complications. Misunderstandings. Emotional triangles with other romantic interests. Even some arguments and long silences along our journey toward true love.
By the end of that first summer my husband and I had also been on countless "friend-dates" to the movies, out to dinner, to weddings, to see shows, just hanging out. We'd spent a lot of time together.
I'd dreamt about him for months. Written little notes in my journal about how my heart raced whenever he was around.
You see, I'd known by April 2002 that I had a huge crush on him. I'd had five long months to be sure that he was someone I really wanted to date.
After a long summer, he'd begun to figure things out too.
* * *
One evening in October (the 11th, to be exact) we enjoyed a nice barbecue and then went out to a bar with one of our best friends to get a drink. Unexpectedly, he announced that he had to leave - had to get an early start in the morning.
We found ourselves alone, with newly ordered drinks standing full on the table. The air was thick with sexual tension and we sat staring at each other for a few moments.
When he spoke at last, his words coursed directly into my heart.
"I have so much regret over many things that have happened this year," he said, referring to our complications. "You are an amazing person. I just wish we could go back to the beginning. I wish we could start again."
The room began to spin and in my memory (looking back) it was also illuminated with a golden hue.
He kissed me, right in the middle of that crowded bar - and our world was never the same.
* * *
From that night forward my husband and I have been together. We dated for two years. Got engaged. Married each other. Had 1-2-3 babies!
Sometimes friends have asked us our secret for staying together. This is our response -
"Before dating we'd already seen the best and worst sides of each other... all of the most annoying and frustrating traits, and all of the fantastic ones. We still chose to be together. This is probably why we've stayed together, when most of the other relationships close to ours in the beginning fell apart around us."
I think there is a lot of truth to that.
Here we are, nine years later.
We're right in the thick of the life we've built together, or perhaps more accurately, the lives we've created together.
Our world now consists of books and bicycles, babies and backrubs, cooking and cleaning, working and playing... with some music and a lot of friends thrown into the mix. We're looking forward to a future of traveling, volunteering and giving together. We're looking forward to hiking (biking?) over the Italian Alps together someday... with our young children by our side.
Like Captain von Trapp my husband is a charismatic, brilliant man. He's well-rounded, athletic, kind and sincere. He believes in things. He's an amazing father. He is witty and wise. Like Maria and her captain, sometimes we disagree and then make up. We love each other truly. My husband looks handsome all the time, even when he hasn't had his morning coffee.
On occasion, he even sings.
* * *
So that's our love story, with special thanks to Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer who first made love look really good.
I love you with a full heart, honey. You're worth climbing every mountain.