I hope you’ll continue to hear your mom and I exchange “I love you’s” with each other throughout your life, and if the past two years are any indication of the future, then you’ll also hear us follow those three words with a “Can you believe we’re married?”.
Your mother and I met when we were in eighth grade. We were twelve. It was my fourth year in Beijing and it was your mom’s first (both of our dads were working in China). It was the beginning of the school year and the last class of the day just finished. I was making my way home when I felt my arm yanked by a short jelly bean of a kid named Calvin.
“Come here, there’s someone you should meet,” he said.
“I’m going home,” I told him, intent on getting back to do what I still do now – play computer games. Despite having five inches on him, he had no trouble latching onto my skinny wrist and taking my scrawny person with him.
Ryan, his partner in crime, got behind me and pushed to speed up the process. “You really should meet her!”
They dragged me into Mrs. Trefts’ classroom and inched me over to the cubbies where her homeroom students stored their books. The room was still buzzing with students packing up to leave. I kept my head down, eyes trained on the pale blue industrial carpet as Calvin positioned me to face the back of a girl with shoulder-length hair and who was roughly the same height as him.
She has to be cool, I thought, she was the new kid in school and already talking to a group of other girls. (As an aside, this is one of the few times I thought your mom seemed too cool for school.)
I don’t remember the expression on my face, what clothes she wore, or what clothes I wore for that matter, but that next moment, when Calvin would tap your mother on the shoulder which would cause her to turn around, is one I will never forget.
It was the face of the first woman I fell in love with, a face radiating with youthful exuberant charm, the same beautiful face I see everyday now with the same teeth-baring smile (and how straight and white those teeth naturally are!), the same deep left dimple, the same multi-fold wrinkles at the corners of her eyes that told me her squinty eyes belied large innocent ones.
Being in eighth grade, I said nothing else other than a “Hi” before running out of the classroom. I must have left quite an impression because your mother attempted to approach me in the following months, but I’d always duck out of the way, walking into random classrooms or into the nearest bathroom whenever I saw her. The romantic notion is that she left me speechless for about nine months, but the truth is that I was just an all-around nervous wreck back then.
We had some skirmishes along the way – stories for another letter – but it was really only at the end of the eighth grade when it finally hit me that our time together was coming to an end at which point I brushed all fears aside to talk to her and ultimately ask her to the last dance of the year (the theme of it aptly titled “A Time to Remember”).
We both left Beijing that summer and would go on to share our lives with other people in different places for years to come. Some thirteen years later, we came back together, and we’re just as amazed as the next person at the history of it all. It’s been a long road getting here, and I hope an even longer road to who knows where, and I suppose it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s her by my side.