Frank and I are going on 18 years together, and like any long-term relationship, it has had its ups and downs. Yes folks, normal life.
We dated and were in a committed relationship for 3 years, 3 months before we married—it is noteworthy to mention that my favorite number is 3, and no we did not plan on marrying on our 3.3—serendipity is an amazing thing.
I was just shy of my 29th birthday when we met, immersed in my teaching career, and, well…dating freely as time and desire permitted. I might have had a little bit of “wild and free” going for me as well…just sayin’.
My cousin Dianne, who is more like a sister to me, called me to tell me that she knew this “really great guy”—a firefighter at that, and a coworker of her husband Chuck who was a Captain on the same fire department—who she thought I might like to meet.
“Tell me about him”, I asked.
“Well…he likes to dance—like you…he loves Mexico—like you…he is a firefighter (bonus points!!! does he come delivered in uniform?!); he is really nice, easy going, and an overall great guy.”
Hmmmmm…my interest was piqued. But what was she not telling me, I wondered.
I inquired more…”What does he look like?” (Yes, very shallow, but important nonetheless.)
“Welllll…”, she continued, “He has red hair, is in good shape, medium height, and has a mustache.”
A mustache?!?! Now this was the late 90’s and while very much “the thing” and in style in the fire department—then, and now—it was not so much my thing or a feature in a man that I would normally be attracted to based on looks alone.
Admittedly, I was drawn to the dark, tall, latino, bad-boy, smooth-skin type…and none of them had red mustaches…(sorry honey).
Dianne then went on, after my nudging her to tell me more about ‘Frank the Fireman’, to share that he was 35, divorced with two young children. Oh. That was something to wrap my mind around for sure. After all, I was in my 20’s, never married, no children, other than the ones that I took responsibility for in my classroom.
“But, but, cousin….I really think the two of you would have FUN together, even if just as friends. Can I at least give him your number for the two of you to talk?” she persisted.
FUN?! She had me at `F´! No matter where or how, no matter the trails that life can throw one’s way, I have always been about the fun and adventure! I mean, really, why not…if not now, in this lifetime, when?
Frank, according to my cousin Dianne, fit that bill of a carefree, unadulterated spirit that I also embodied, and she saw something in the two of us, that…what-da-ya-know, would lead to marriage and the creation of our two little miracles, Liam and Mairead…a.k.a. “The Reds”. And to think that I had no intentions of ever marrying, and Frank—no intentions of having more children! Love is an amazing thing!
Thank you Cuz…for your vision and insight and amazing matchmaking abilities!
Frank and I spent the first few months just talking on the phone (not having met yet in person) while he was at the fire station, in between calls. I remember his voice—deep, strong, solid, manly; his sense of humor, his intelligence and wit, that fact that he intrigued me, kept me on my toes, and most importantly, made me laugh…a lot. And, he seemed to “get me”. Imagining him the “hero in a uniform” didn’t hurt either.
After getting to know the “phone Frank” , we made arrangements for an actual in-person, face-to-face date. The fact that he was divorced with two young children, and my envisioning him showing up with a big red mustache, seemed to take backseat to the fact that I really enjoyed our conversations of laughing, connecting, and getting to know each other in a very easy, unpretentious way. He was down-to-earth, easy to talk to, and quite frankly, a breath of fresh air!
Feeling slightly tentative while waiting for him to arrive for our first date, I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw him walk through the front door…in fact, something to the effect of “hot damn!” might have rolled through my mind.
I saw his profile first, his chiseled features, and strong stature—dressed in jeans, doc martin shoes, a nice shirt and NO red mustache. We were off to a good start! The in-person Frank was just as great as the over-the-phone Frank and it didn’t hurt either that he was easy on the eyes.
That first date back in October of 1998 was one of many nights out on the town dining on sushi, day trips down to Mexico, runs on the beach, home-made meals at Frank’s place—complete with demonstrative signs of his affection like this “humble” flower arrangement he gifted me the first time I came over. We both had a good giggle at the grandiose presentation of it—not one he had designed himself, but rather had given the florist a dollar amount and clearly, full creative say!
About eight months into our dating, I met his two older children. When I observed what an incredible, present, loving father Frank was, I realized even more what a solid person he was and that our connection was beyond casual. Great guy, great dad, great person…a powerfully winning combination! In no short order, I took them into my heart and life forever and being a “step”, “other”, “special” (my preferred term) mother to them caused my heart to dig deep and grow in ways that escape explanation.
A couple of years later he showed up on my doorstep at my studio in Hillcrest, San Diego—still in uniform after getting off shift—and asked for my hand in marriage. I said “no”, that I wasn’t ready. Another year later, he gave it his best college try again, got down on both knees, professed his deep love for me in the garage after I got home from teaching…this time I was ready, and I responded with a big resounding “Yes!” (And yes, what you read is true…Frank proposed to me in a garage…AND, I said, “yes!”.)
This summer we celebrate 18 years together of a union and bond based first in friendship. Without a doubt, the honoring of it as the foundation and core of our relationship has carried us through some of life’s more trying times. It always sees us out and through to the other side, back to the fun and rejoicing that we get to share this earth experience together.
Our shared love of Mexico is a natural extension of our friendship and a vehicle to deeper understanding of each other. Mexico is not for the faint of heart—there are times and places where it feels very wild westy and when marching forward requires a certain amount of guts, determination, and picking ourselves up from the bootstraps….a healthy sense of humor goes a long way as well. No doubt Frank’s and my combined backbones make for a formidable duo. We have always been a good team, but something about life here in Mexico has made us even stronger, more solidified, exploring our own paths but always converging together with a mutual focus to live our lives to the fullest and provide the absolute best that we can for our children.
In many ways, Mexico shows you what you are made of, how self-reliable and industrious you are, and that your choices and their consequences are first and foremost your responsibility.
Frank and I embrace our wanderlust and nomadic tendencies…and at the same time know that our number one priorities are the hearts and well-being of our two incredible children Mairead and Liam. There are times when we feel like pioneers, paving a brave new way for our family in a new culture, a new world. Living outside one’s “norm” or the “prescription” that might have been culturally indoctrinated into you, requires a certain degree of solidarity, courage, determination and focus—even if that focus wavers at times, but a focus nonetheless.
Our twin children’s first introduction to Mexico was to our place in Bahia de Los Angeles—a little fishing village on the Sea of Cortez on the Baja Peninsula and an over 400 mile and two day drive from San Diego with lots of potty stops. They were just seven months old, although technically their first trips south where when they were still in-utero, as we ventured on down when I was three and six months pregnant with them. I will never forget being out in the middle of the glass-like calm bay, fishing pole resting at the apex of my very pregnant belly…a sight indeed!
Our Baja years laid the foundation for our full time move to mainland Mexico—both unique regions of one amazing, dynamic country.
Our children too took no time falling in love with Mexico—her beauty, the free, fun, family time she represents; the opportunities for unstructured, unregulated play, and the ability to connect with Mother Earth and all her amazing gifts and beauty.
Mairead and Liam have been fearless warriors since a very early age, always up for the next adventure. Their time and experiences in Mexico have undeniably impacted and contributed to who they are.
From clamming in estuaries and learning about tidal flows, to dune buggy rides and open sky nights by the bonfire, to learning how to surf and horseback ride in the jungle, to quad riding in the central high desert plains, to climbing pyramids, swimming in natural springs watering holes and living in a 16th century historic colonial town…their story has just begun!
Daily life in Mexico is an opportunity and call to tune in to that which is around you…to connect to that which is important and disconnect to that which is not.
Thank you Mexico…you have changed our destiny forever.
How has Mexico changed you or made your life better? Would love to hear about it in the comments section below this post!