March 28, 2014

How I Met Your Mother - The Night of the Rose

Hey kids, have I ever told you the story of how I met your mother? It's not the kind of fairytale you'd find in a Disney movie (and I would know because we own all of them). There's not really a prince or a princess or a witty talking crab named Sebastian (though, admittedly, that would have been totally awesome). It isn't a story quite like that. But it is the story of a boy who fell in love and it's one that, much like the final episode of "Saved By The Bell," will always hold a special place in my heart.

The year was 1997.
I stood there, my heart racing a mile a minute. The anticipation of waiting for your mother to answer the door was killing me. It was 11 p.m. and I was a young 18-year-old dude, about to leave for senior trip with three of my closest buddies in the world. The car was loaded with supplies that all 18-year-old boys pack for a senior trip to Florida—snacks, swim trunks, cases of … Pepsi. They were parked at the end of the driveway, hanging outside the car, waiting for me as I stood there all alone with a rose in my hand.

It could have been 30 seconds. It could have been two hours. Time stood still for me from the moment I rang that doorbell until your mother's door opened. Only it wasn't your mother, it was her mother (your Nonni). 

She stared at me, giving me the once over. It was hard to tell what she was thinking. Was she wondering why I was ringing her bell so late at night? Was she wondering why I was standing there holding a rose? Was she wondering why one of my buddies was peeing in her neighbor's yard?

I concentrated not to stumble over my words.

"Is Brittany here?" I asked.

Without much hesitation she smiled. While I'm not quite sure what raced through her head at that moment, that smile indicated that she saw me as her daughter's knight in shining armor (if you count 90s grunge-wear and a chain wallet as shining armor), and that she'd been waiting for me to come and sweep her daughter off her feet. This was the moment she had been waiting for. It was the moment I had been waiting for. Destiny had finally arrived, and she topped it off with three magical words:

"Are you Jeff?"

Well this suddenly got awkward.

Your mother and I had actually met months before.
You see I had just split up with a girl at the beginning of senior year. She was nice and sweet, but she liked Dave Matthews and I, like many young high school boys at the time, pretended to like Dave Matthews. We ended on kind of a sour note and I swore off girls.

But a funny thing happens when you suddenly meet the girl of your dreams—you can't stop yourself from falling in love. It just happens.

Your mother had been hanging out with one of my good friends, Jennifer. They were eating dinner at a Perkins one night when I stopped by with a friend.1 I remember that night because it was the first time I looked deep into your mother's eyes. They were beautiful. It was also the night I realized how awesome I looked in sweater vests. I didn't say anything, mainly because when you're young and in love you have no clue know what to say. And if you do have the courage to speak, you usually say something stupid like, "Did you know I'm in a band? We're super awesome and totally going to make it." 2

There are a lot of other stories I could tell you—like the night of my graduation party or the Ben Folds Five concert where we both attended with friends and my friends, all of whom lived by the high school guy commandment "When You Have A Chance to Embarrass Your Close Friend, You Do It," did all they could to "help" me get close to your mother. Or the party where our friends debated whether or not your mother would date me (I don't think they were taking into consideration this newfound information about me and sweater vests).

But I don't want to ramble on for what will feel like nine years. So I'll get back to the key story, the one where I stood on your Nonni and Poppi's front porch in the middle of the night, with a single red rose in my hand, just before leaving for Florida with my friends—who were now all peeing in the neighbor's yard—trying to win over your mother.

I had been called a lot of things in my life before, but I had never been called "Jeff."
I'd later find out from your mother that "Jeff" was her friend's boyfriend3, but for all I knew at the time, he was her boyfriend or worse, a Cubs fan. My confidence shrank faster than a post-PED Barry Bonds head and it took everything in me to muster up a response.

"Uh, no."

"Oh," your Nonni said. "Just wait right here a minute while I get her."

I could hear her call up to your mother's room. If there were a time to bail, this was it. But like I said before, you can't stop yourself from falling in love.

When your mother arrived at the door, she looked like an angel. And for the next 90 seconds I professed my love to her, telling her I couldn't stop thinking about her and how I wanted to spend more time with her. She didn't say much, but she didn't have to. I was wearing a sweater vest. 

With that I left for Florida with my friends. We had a lot of fun, drank a lot of … Pepsis, narrowly avoided getting beat up (twice) and more. But I couldn't get your mother out of my mind. And when we got home, she was one of the first people I called.

So that's the story of how I met your mother—or, at least, the most important moment of when we met. I hope you girls have a fun story to tell describing the amazing night when you meet your future spouse. Of course, this can't happen until you're 55. And I'm dead.

1 When your mother tells this story she claims I stopped by after a high school dance where I was someone else's date. In truth, her memory is a little foggy because that night she had a little too much … Pepsi.
2 No bands ever make it. Though my band, Optimus Prhyme, totally would have made it. But we chose to step away from future glory to focus on something even more important—our softball careers.
3 I'd like to think that he actually spells his names with quote marks around it.

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(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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