50 Stories, Week 29: To Beginnings…

Our first couples photo (on our first trip together.)

Nine years ago today, I was contemplating whether or not to meet up with the brother of an old acquaintance on a blind date at a bad Mexican restaurant. 2011 thus far had been monumental. Early in the year, I finished my yoga teacher training and volunteered in Brazil. In the spring, I was on holiday in Hawai’i when I was served a 90-day owner move-in eviction notice after ten years at our place in San Francisco. By summer, I had accepted a job offer in NYC and then left my 13 year old son to live with his father full-time. And in August, I’d ended a two year long-distance relationship. 

While I was open to meeting a new man, I was also feeling free and unencumbered for the first time in decades. Plus, after a year like the one I’d had, I was hoping to slide into 2012 by exploring New York as a single woman. 

But my first rule after accepting the new job was to say yes to everything – as long as it wouldn’t physically harm me. So, when I received a Facebook message from a woman I hadn’t seen since doing an acting workshop together almost ten years earlier, I figured I owed it to myself to respond. 

  • Conversation started August 24, 2011
  • Rosemary Griggs 8/24, 10:31am Rosemary Griggs
  • Hi Christine!  What’s going on?  I just saw your post, did you move to Brooklyn?  I was just out there, my brother lives in Hoboken.  Did you get a new job out there?
  • Christine O'Donnell 8/31, 12:30pm Christine O’Donnell
  • Hi Rosemary! Yep, I got a job offer in Manhattan and decided to go for it. My son, who is 13 now (what?!) stayed behind w/his dad in SF, so I’m on my own here. How are you? Did I see that you’re a flight attendant, and still performing? So great.
  • Rosemary Griggs 9/10, 10:46am Rosemary Griggs
  • Hi!  Yes, I still am acting actually, I have an agent and do little jobs on the side and then indie films up here, it’s fun. Still flying. I just went on a sibling vacation to Rome.  I had a poetry reading in Brooklyn a couple months ago.  My brother lives in Hoboken, NJ.  He has 2 daughters and is recently divorced.  Anyway, his situation reminded me of a conversation we had way back when you told me about being a single mom with a son and how men felt threatened by it, and I tried to share your wisdom of the situation with him having daughters.  When I saw your post of your new apartment in Brooklyn, I felt like it was such a coincidence that I had just been there and thought of you.  I would love to set you and Jason up as friends if you’re interested.  It seems you’re both going through a transitional time and I think you could be good friends, you are both such good hearted people. (And if it one day blossomed into something more of course that would be lovely-he’s such a good person, he’s fun, he has a great job, he’s handsome..) But REALLY, I just want to set you up as friends if you’re interested.   It was just all the coincidences made me think of it..  I mentioned it to him and he said he would love to meet you as friends.   Maybe you already have a lot of friends there and you’re super busy.. I don’t know.  No hard feelings either way and congrats on your new job!!!
  • Jason Griggs 9/26, 3:45pm Jason Griggs
  • Christine, hi there.  Rosemary Griggs is my sister and I was with Rosie a few weeks ago in Rome. She shared you recently moved to the New York area.  I live over in Hoboken New Jersey and work in Manhattan a few days per week.  If you would ever like to meet up for a drink/ dinner let me know.  I was with Rosie about 1 month ago in Brooklyn – some great restaurants.  Enjoy your day.  Jason

I agreed to meet for lunch at Dos Caminos. I had lived in California for twenty years so going to a chain Mexican restaurant known for its happy hour was not something I looked forward to but I had said yes.

When I arrived, I was brought to his table and after we shook hands, I took a seat. I’d seen a photo before meeting him and knew he was cute in shorts and a t-shirt. That day, though, he was wearing this funny oversized grey suit with shoulder pads that hung off of him. He also had an old school leather briefcase, which I thought was both charming and weird.

“So! My sister Rosie tells me you work in advertising. How is that?”

“The advertising world is kind of depressing but it makes me a good living, which I needed as a single parent living in San Francisco.”  I’d always been guilty of giving a bit too much information up front, and was afraid I’d set the tone for an awkward conversation, but Jason seemed to appreciate my honesty and we jumped right in.

“Yeah, I’m just experiencing single parenting now. Its hard! My girls are 5 and 8 and a little crazy sometimes but such a joy, too.”

“Oh, girls? Wow.” I don’t know why this was my reaction. I like little girls. I was a little girl. I know girls – and they are emotional and dramatic and back then, I wasn’t sure about being seriously involved with someone who had children, let alone girls. But his eyes were blue and sparkly, and he was nice enough to be completely authentic with me. Although, in the moment, do we ever really know if someone is being truthful? Sometimes we have to stick with it and find out.

“So… how long have you been divorced?” I figured since we were already in it…

“Oh, I’m not officially divorced yet. Just waiting for the paperwork to come through, though. We separated about a year ago. In the process of selling our place, where I’m currently still living, and I’ll move in a few months. Its been a long year!”

“Wow, that’s not that long ago.” Again, I just couldn’t help but be a little skeptical that he was on a date … already. Is a year a long time when you’ve been married for more than 10 years? But seriously, what did I know? It was a knee-jerk fear reaction because I could see how earnest he was, how kind, and how calm I already felt with him. And his huge smile was all kindness.

He went on to tell me about their marriage, their breakup, and how he fought for 50/50 custody. The conversation flowed naturally, and before I knew it, I was no longer silently judging my underwhelming burrito but simply enjoying his company. I told him about my life and how I wondered if it was a big mistake to leave my son but then he said something about following your dreams and I knew he meant it with all his heart. 

When we walked outside to say our goodbyes, Jason shook my hand firmly and said he had a great time. I remember laughing a bit at his formality but thinking he was the nicest person I’d ever met. It took another two dates before I knew I’d spend the rest of my life with him.

Since then, we’ve tried to blend our families, grow as individuals and a couple, traveled around the world, left unfulfilling jobs and embarked on new careers, and continued to be grateful for his sister, Facebook, and fate for bringing us together.

Falling in love is like being suspended in time – everything is elation, every smell, every vision, every feeling. I know what we have today is deeper and more meaningful than when we first began dating, but I can’t help but be wistful for those early days. And so, here is something I wrote to him after a few months together that encapsulates everything I was feeling…

sometimes when we are together and you say something to me, I respond in my mind – and I truly believe that you can hear me, that you can feel what I’m feeling, that if I look at you this way you must know… but I see that its a bit like mind reading, and most of us humans aren’t that evolved yet.

so, please know this. 

I love everything about our time together. I love the way you look at me. I love the way you kiss me, the way you hold me in your arms. I love waking up next to you after never really falling asleep. I love that I think about you all day, that I think about ways I might impress you. I love that I want to look better in my body because you might find that more attractive, that I’ll be healthier and able to stick around for you longer. I love how you feel inside of me, on top of me, behind me. I love that you want to take me to costa rica and that I will get to swim in the ocean and bake in the sun with you. I love that we will be in a big tin box together, jettisoned across the sky. I love that you listen to me, even when my voice makes you sleepy. I love the look on your face when you are deep inside of me. god, I love the way you taste, and how your lips feel on mine. I love your willingness to do anything with me. I love that you buy organic eggs now and even that you eat a half dozen for breakfast every day. I love how you talk about your girls, how you describe each of them to me – it makes me feel like I know them a little bit. I love that you aren’t afraid, like me. I love that you make me feel safe, always. I love that I can trust you with my heart. I love that I believe you – that we will go to Paris together, and do a triathlon, and that you’re falling in love with me. 

because I am falling in love with you, too.

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