In honor of celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary and 19th year of togetherness, I decided to write about our love story.
Our love story consists of cucumbers, friendship, Wet Beaver Creek, a blown head gasket, and James Taylor. To some this may sound like a weird strand of events… to me it sounds like the kind of love that was meant to be. Here’s our love story…
I moved back from Seattle, Washington because I was broke, I wanted to continue my college education, and living on my own at 19 was very, very hard to do. So, I accepted defeat, I chalked it up as a life experience, and I drove home back to Arizona to move back in with my parents.
Upon my return, I accepted a job as a waitress in Sun City. February 13th, 1994 (Valentine’s Day Eve) was my first night on the job. After my shift that night, I was doing my prep work of cutting cucumbers. I had cut a few buckets of cucumbers when this guy approached me and said, “That’s too many! We’ll never use that many cucumbers.” I just smiled and laughed. But, in my mind I thought, “Who the hell are you to tell me how many cucumbers I can cut?! What an arrogant ass!” I was a bruiser back then! He’s lucky he didn’t get choked or get an ice cream scooper thrown at his face… those are all other restaurant stories for another time!
After working there for a few weeks, I got to know the cucumber guy a little bit better. Come to find out he is not arrogant after all. He’s actually a really nice guy. He has a name too… it’s Frank.
Frank and I became great friends as we filled our quota of folded cloth napkins each night at the restaurant together. We talked a lot. He was a good listener. He was funny. He was kind. He was handsome. We’d go out to the bars together (with my fake id). He taught me how to play darts. He would roller blade to my parent’s house to see me. We became great friends.
It was about this time that I got back together with an old boyfriend. This guy and I had an on-again/off-again relationship for about 5 years or so. He really wasn’t good for me… I think it was more out of comfort and familiarity that we would go back and forth like we did. He loved me the best he knew how, but I knew it wasn’t enough… he wasn’t what I really wanted in a life partner.
Frank was a good listener about my boyfriend too. He never gave advice. He just listened. I remember what I really liked most about Frank was that he never judged. No matter what I told him he was still my friend… just unconditional love. That was probably the first friendship that I ever had in my life where the other person just accepted me for the beautiful mess I was… maybe even because of it!
Let’s fast forward…
Frank and I had been friends for about 5 months when we decided we’d go camping together… as just friends though… remember, I was on-again with that other guy. On June 24th, 1994 we went camping in Wet Beaver Creek, Sedona. When we arrived at the camp site we got set-up, ate dinner, and decided to go for a hike. There were paths from the camp site that we followed and we walked along the creek for a while too. We just enjoy being together. It was natural… effortless.
The sun was setting so we thought we should head back to camp. Well, with all that hiking, path following, creek walking, and natural conversation… we got lost. We tried our best to follow the creek back, but some mountains got in the way. We tried to find a path, but ended up in a bull pin. We stepped off the path and we sunk in leaf piles up to our knees. We laughed a lot. He was helpful, encouraging, patient, and kind. Even though I was scared… I felt safe and comforted just by Frank’s presence.
One wrong turn after another lead us to give up on finding our camp until the sun rose again. We found a big tree to lie under. He gave me his sweater to keep me warm. He let me rest on his chest so I could get some sleep. He was a perfect gentleman.
The sun came up barely over the red Sedona mountains and that was our cue to find our way back to camp. As we began walking, we found a path almost immediately that lead us back to our camp site. All night long we laid there just steps away from our way back. Almost as if we needed to go through this sojourn together… almost as if this was one of those life changing moments… almost as if it was meant to happen… almost as if God orchestrated all of this just so that we’d fall in love.
Once we returned to camp we were exhausted. We packed up and began our drive back into town. On the way back, Frank’s Volvo blew a head gasket. I still don’t really know what that means… but we were stranded on the side of the freeway with a broken down car. As we sat there trying to figure out what to do next, a Jeep pulled up with a young couple inside. They asked if we needed a ride into town. Of course we did… so we hopped in their Jeep. They were listening to a James Taylor tape. It was like the sound track for our trip…. he sang of friendship, love, and getting through difficulties together.
It was during this evening when we were lost in Wet Beaver Creek that I knew I would spend the rest of my life with Frank. I remember thinking in the midst of it all that if we could get through an experience such as this and still like each other and still laugh and still feel safe… we could get through anything life threw our way. At that moment, my eyes were open to the man he was, my heart was open to receive his kind of love, and I wanted to embrace that love for the rest of my life.
On this camping trip, Frank and I remained friends. Not even one kiss was exchanged. I did not want to explore our relationship beyond a friendship while I was still in another relationship. So, when we got home… I broke-up with my boyfriend for the last time. And, I have been Frank’s girl ever since. That was 19 years ago this month.
Frank asked me to marry him on February 13th, 1995… exactly one year to the date that we first met… exactly one year since the cucumber incident… on Valentine’s Day Eve. I said, “Yes!” of course.
Then, on June 27th, 1998, almost 4 years to the date that we got lost camping… we got married at Wet Beaver Creek camp site in Sedona. And, we lived happily ever after.
Ohhh… and the buckets of cucumbers that I cut that first night on the job… we used every last one of them the next day! 19 years later and he’ll never live that down!