‘My folks met in a bar. Mum opened her beer with her teeth so Dad gave her his necklace.’
“How did Mom and Dad meet?” I recently asked my sister.
“In kindergarten,” she replied. “Or preschool. I don’t know. They kissed on the bus or some shit.” Ever the romantic, my sister.
While my own parents’ romance might not be the stuff of storybooks, I’m fascinated by stories of how people fell in love and chose to get hitched.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve assembled a collection of parental origin stories from friends and colleagues with a little more depth and heart than my sibling’s nonchalant take on Mom and Dad’s marriage.
Bar trick brought them together
My folks met in a bar in Canada because mum opened her beer with her teeth so Dad gave her his necklace. Two months later she had to fly back to Australia and Dad was like “Can I come?” and Mum was like, “Okay,” and he’s only been back to Canada once in 24 years. She still wears the necklace he gave her every day.
Cruising the strip
My parents met at a gas station in Quincy, Massachusetts during February of 1966. My mom in her Dodge Dart with her girlfriends, my dad in his Pontiac LeMans with his guy friends. They were cruising the strip. She’s from Hanson, he’s from Brockton. They were 20 years old. He proposed one week later. They got married February 1967. Honeymooned for two years, had me in February 1969, my sister in February 1970. They’re now 70 years old, married 50 years and still crazy about each other.
Chivalrous fan stands guard
My mom had to pee at a concert and there was a huge line for the women’s room, so she grabbed my dad and made him guard the men’s room so she could use it.
Donkey basketball (yep)
My parents met in high school on a blind date. They went to a donkey basketball game. If you’re wondering what a donkey basketball game is, don’t. It is exactly what you imagine it to be: people riding donkeys and playing basketball. (NB: They did not live in West Virginia. it was Pennsylvania, in fact.)
My parents went to different high schools. My mom’s carpool passed my dad’s school in the mornings. After they started dating, he would stand in the parking lot and wait for the carpool to go by just so he could wave to her.
A salesman’s persistence
Actually, my dad dated all my mom’s sorority sisters. Then, when she was older and hotter he bumped into her at St. Ray’s High School where she was a teacher and asked her where the faculty room was. He thought she was a student. She walked him to the teachers’ room and walked him right in. Once he realized she worked there, he showed up at her house 10 days in a row asking for a date. She finally said yes. They dated for seven years. Had a beautiful baby girl (me), two homes and a fiery divorce?—?but a funny, loyal friendship.
Three nations, one marriage
My dad is a Kiwi and gatecrashed a party in Sydney and my mum happened to be there as she was visiting from England.
Want a wife? Stalk a ballerina.
My dad used to creepily watch my mother’s ballet practices through the glass windows before finally working up the nerve to ask her out. I should probably add that he was on scholarship for wrestling at the time, and his practice was in the same building. Still creepy.
Grungy dishwasher wins the day
My dad was a rebel from a big Irish-Catholic family. Ten brothers and sisters. He fled the legitimately mean streets of Newark, NJ in the winter of ’76 to live the life of a ski bum in Colorado.
My mom was a second generation Italian-American, also from a big family, fleeing the notably tamer streets of rural upstate New York. She was presumably in search of something more interesting than the boring-ass small town where she?—?and later I?—?grew up.
By chance, they ended up working at the same restaurant at some ski town in the Rockies where they couldn’t even afford to live. They both commuted from 20 miles outside of town in something resembling a trailer park community for workers at the various resorts. He was a dishwasher, she was a server. He walked to work every day, or hitchhiked when he could. Every day she would drive right by.
Of course, they saw each other at work, but she wouldn’t give him the time of day. You wouldn’t blame her if you saw him at that stage of his “prime.” He was a good skier, but he was more focused on pursuing an education in partying, which must have been apparent from his general appearance and personal hygiene. He was a decent singer though, and would belt Springsteen lyrics while washing dishes.
One morning my dad was walking past as my mom was filling up her tank at a gas station. He couldn’t take it anymore. He knew they were going to the same place at the same time very day. Yet she refused to give him a ride. As she got back in the front seat he walked up and knocked on the window. “Would you please give me a lift? You know we’re going to the same place.”
Her friend in the passenger seat agreed, but my mom stared forward out the window and started to put her keys in the ignition. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic bag. “I’ll get you stoned,” he said. She hesitated for just a moment, but eventually conceded and let him in. Fast forward a few seasons and the two had been skiing, partying, exploring, and falling in love with each other like the couple of young, naive hippies they were.
Eventually it got old … for one of them. My mom was finally ready to slow down the ski-bum lifestyle slightly before my dad was. Eventually, she decided she had put up with enough shit and delivered an ultimatum: When my dad inevitably partied through another dinner date, he woke up the next day to an empty closet and a handwritten note. She had gone back to New York to get serious. He quickly realized he needed to get serious too, so he partied for one more week before driving halfway across the country to get her back.
He arrived at her door with nothing but a skateboard, a toothbrush and the shirt on his back. My grandfather opened the door, and after a brief?—?but undoubtedly fascinating?—?interaction, directed my dad to a bar in town. My mom was meeting her old high school sweetheart at the local pub. She was deep in conversation when he tapped her on the shoulder. I don’t know what he said, but it was enough for her to get up, apologize to her date, and walk out of the bar with him. They haven’t left each other’s sides since.
Stories have been lightly edited for clarity.