Caramel Apples and Bean Dip

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Sixteen years ago today I walked down the aisle. Back when I was still a blonde.  I was a slobbering mess, in full on ugly cry. I remember when it started. As soon as I heard the opening strains of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” I could feel my chest tighten, my breathing go shallow, and the tears started flowing. I tried to stop it. I knew I was ruining my makeup, and I knew that 200 people were about to witness my emotional breakdown. My mother looked at me and said, “I think this means you understand the significance of what you’re about to do.”

It was true. This day was four years in the making. Actually, 4 years and 5 days. The day after my 21st birthday, Jeff dropped a note on my desk at work asking what I was planning to bring to the department potluck the next day, he was making his famous bean dip, and did I want to combine forces. I wrote back that I was going to attempt to make caramel apples and suggested that he come over after work for dinner. (I later learned that Jeff himself had never made his own 7 layer bean dip, but that his mom had always done it for him.)

Up until this point, we had just been good friends. Our co-workers often teased us that our friendship couldn’t possibly be platonic, but it was. I had come to work there about 9 months before. When I came in for my interview, Jeff had peeked his head in and given the supervisor interviewing me the thumbs up. He requested that I be seated next to him. He tended to do that with all the girls he thought were cute. He would often pass me funny notes that would cause me to burst into laughter while speaking with a client on the phone. Sometimes we would write stories together. One of us would start and the other would continue. We would take turns adding to it. He usually took my stories in a completely different direction than where they were headed. We would go to lunch, or just hang out. We enjoyed just spending time together, talking.

But we had both recently come out of long term relationships and, for the first time since we had met, we were both single. We weren’t each other’s types. Our previous boyfriends and girlfriends couldn’t be more different. His ex-girlfriends were athletic, type A, energetic, highly motivated. I was more “go with the flow.” And my ex-boyfriends were… nothing like Jeff. I remember having conversations with him and realizing he was like no one I had ever met. He was extraordinary. He was smart in a way I had never encountered, he was people smart. He knew how to read people, he knew how to get them to do what he wanted them to do, and still leave feeling they had gotten their way. He read interesting books, and had a singular focus towards success. He made me laugh constantly with his absurd and lightning fast take on any situation. He was going someplace, and I wanted to go where he was going.

We didn’t share our first kiss the night of the caramel apples making debacle. (It’s harder than it looks, trust me.) But we laughed the whole evening. And though nothing was said or done to indicate it, something had changed between us.

I won’t pretend that the road we took was the smoothest, easiest road to take. There were many times I didn’t think we would make it. Only a year and a half into our relationship, we had our baby girl Sydney Anne. She was a surprise, but one we’ve never regretted. Doing things backwards makes for some tough times. We fought to make a family for her where none existed, but our love for her was strong motivation.

By the time we said, “I do” on May 31, 1997, Sydney was 2 1/2 years old. She was our flower girl.

In the years since, we’ve had 3 more babies, lived in 3 states, started our own business, struggled through loss and uncertain times, made mistakes, celebrated victories and accomplishments,  enjoyed vacations and adventures, and through it all, we’ve laughed. If anyone asks me the key to marriage, I’d put laughter as number one every time.

Sitting at the pool yesterday I asked Jeff his favorite memory of our marriage. He said, “It has to be in the last 72 hours, because that’s as far back as I can remember.”

He did surprise me by telling me the things he remembers about our honeymoon in Cabo- that we danced a conga line at Cabo Wabo and that our plane tickets were $357 each. (He wants me to clarify that he doesn’t remember that because of the money, but because he’s a numbers guy.) What I remember about our honeymoon is being told I was no longer allowed to speak during negotiations at the street market because I was working with the merchants against him ( I tend to do that). I remember that we went on a sunset dinner cruise where they threw Jeff in a chair and attempted to shoot tequila down his throat as he cried out “no mas!” They forced us to do the macarena, and then allowed him to steer the ship. I am always amazed at the things he can talk people into.

So 20 years together, 16 years of marriage later, here we are living it up in Las Vegas. While many things have changed, we still know how to have fun. Tonight we are headed to a nice dinner, followed by a comedy show. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our life together than laughing until we feel like we’re gonna pee our pants.

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