I was perusing the greeting card aisle to find the perfect sentiment that would relay in words how much I cared about him. I laughed out loud as I was sure that my husband of nearly 14 years would have preferred a sweaty night between the sheets for his Valentine’s gift instead of a greeting card any day of the week. As I noted the time, I quickly grabbed the card that was simple and to the point without mush and rushed to the check out lane with slightly enough time to drive back downtown to pick up my daughter before I was considered late.
My journey down the greeting card aisle reading all those cards of love left me with a lot to think about. With the current stresses of life, the young girl who dreamt of fairytale romances had been replaced by one who was tired and worn out over the years. I had been with my husband since the night after we finished the bar exam nearly 17 years ago. I recalled fondly that magical summer. My husband and I spent many long afternoons studying in the law school library sitting just a seat away from one another. On break, we found ourselves inviting the other to sit in the breezeway just to get to know one another. Day after day, I would look for his car in the parking lot. Day after day, I would smile when I saw him at the small cubicle surrounded by books. Day after day, I enjoyed his company more and more. I learned so much about him from our brief encounters, each a happy reprieve from the long hours of study. I learned about his hopes for the future. I learned how we both loved to go to the movies and the beach. I even learned about the people in his Italian family that mirrored mine. As weeks passed, I grew more attracted to this intelligent man with a gentle demeanor and a kind face.
At the end of the summer, we both traveled to where the bar exam would take place. When I arrived at my hotel room, the courtship continued when surprisingly I received a message from him wishing me luck. On the morning of the first day of the bar exam, the large conference room was packed with thousands of people. We were all arranged by our last name and as I looked around the room to where section “S” would be, I saw him waving with a huge smile as our eyes met. My heart skipped a beat. I knew there was something special between us. I also knew that if I did not focus on the exam and pass it, this love story would be over even before it started. Having worked too hard over the past three years, I refused to allow the promise of “love” distract my focus on a dream of being a lawyer. While I was excited to see where this was going, our story would have to wait until the two long days of essays and multiple-choice questions were over. But there was no denying the fact that at the end of the day two, when I was no longer focused on the task at hand, I was thinking about him looking forward to seeing where this would go.
When the exam was over and my friends and I set out to celebrate, I was hoping to run into him. Towards the end of the night when I finally did, I enthusiastically waited for him to come over so that finally we could enjoy ourselves without distraction. While I was a bit intoxicated at this point, I was quite affectionate leaving no doubt that I was interested in something more than friends. To my surprise, it appeared that he was more interested at that point in being WITH his friends. And after only a brief time, when his friends came up to him indicating that they were ready to leave to go to a popular strip club in the area, I looked at him asking whether he seriously was going to abandon this opportunity just to go ogle naked women whom he would never see again. He tried to explain to me that he knew the owner of the club and had promised “his boys” all summer that they would celebrate in style. I still could not believe there was even a question as to what he would do. As he struggled, I did know his decision would have lasting implications on our future and I had to weigh in. When it appeared that he was leaning towards loyalty, drunk enough to speak my mind, I pulled him towards me and spoke clearly to him within earshot of all of his friends as they waited in the cab “why would you go with them and pay for it when you could stay with me and get it for free?” And, with those words I got his attention, he decided to stay and the rest is history.
Over 17 years ago now, we both passed the bar, were married in a wonderful celebration, have been blessed with two beautiful children, have been surrounded with loving family and friends, have a beautiful apartment on the bay and enjoy good careers. We have experienced incredible joy in the good times and have survived challenges in the bad times. With this in mind, I thought about the greeting card aisle again and knew I would never find a hallmark card that could truly embody our life together, one where two people committed to a make a life, learning as they go how to interrelate, to look for balance in sacrifice and to find a way for both to realize their dreams. I thought of the words I realistically would write to my husband on a greeting card:
“In gratitude for staying that night all those years ago, taking a chance on me when it could have gone either way. For what would my life be like if I had never met you? That is hard to even think about. You have brought me friendship, joy and love. You have taught me to fight for the things that meant the most and let go of the things that hurt the worst. You have built a family with me. How can I ever put in words how I value the day that I met you so long ago in a law library of all places? In a world where trust is a forgotten commodity and people run when it gets hard, you have stuck with me and never given up on us. And what we have created is a house filled with love. I love you.”
Our modern day fairytale began long ago when we connected in the library breezeway. It continues to this day with the gift of realization that love can endure anything especially when two people are vulnerable enough to risk and commit to a life together filled with both ups and downs. And, just imagine, all of this wisdom I gratefully discovered courtesy of a Hallmark holiday and the search for the perfect card.