Twenty years ago, we walked amongst the bustling crowds on those Barcelona streets, surrounded by the mosaic, winding lines of Gaudi’s breathtaking architecture. We were in our early 20’s, uninhibited by the weight of anything but midterm exams and making it to class on time. Your Spanish—a broken cacophony of mispronounced inflections and hopeless garbled half English-half-Spanish words.
I remember we met that first day as my roommate and I re-arranged the furniture in our hotel room in fits of sweat, trying to perfect the flow of this 12 x 12 space that would become our home base for the next three months of our study-abroad program. You were this lanky blonde kid in glasses with your roommate inviting us to join you for a movie down the street. We shrugged you off, more interested in getting our room into tip-top shape and excited to set out to explore the city on our own.
If I’m being honest, you didn’t particularly catch my eye—I was too enamored and wide-eyed over this new city, this new language, this new culture, this life over 4,000 miles away from any place I’d ever called home. My only comfort being forty other college students from our University, only a couple of whom I had previously known back home.
It wasn’t until those shoes you needed to buy that I even thought twice about you. Walking together on those paved, Barcelona streets after class in a slow, oblivious, inconvenient gaggle of American students. You loudly solicited for any poor soul willing to help you buy some shoes as the ones you had brought were falling apart and your Spanish was choppy at best. I volunteered, eager to put any of my Spanish to use. And so this is how our love story began. Buying those black Camper walking shoes in the back corner of the mens’ shoe department in Barcelona. I never left your side that day. We bought the shoes, we laughed the whole way home, we went to dinner, and we stayed up talking until our eyelids were barely keeping themselves open.
A friendship began and strengthened as we were left alone on a week long break where all our other study abroad peers jet-set to France and different parts of Spain. We explored Barcelona during the day, and fell asleep in your room to the winter Olympics of 2002 at night. I remember falling asleep next to you on your bed. Half asleep, I remember how you gently lay me down on your bed, and then plopped yourself on your roommate’s twin bed across the room. I remember trusting you so wholeheartedly and thinking nothing of it, but now I see how that 21-year-old boy that showed me so much respect as my 21-year-old self would always be there to be my gentleman and stay here right by my side.
Even at that time, oblivious to what was to come, I thought of you as a friend. But a friend I could spend literally every waking minute with. You made me smile, you made me laugh, you made every day so much more fun. The only time I left your side that week was to stop by my room to shower and change clothes. It felt so easy, so natural, as if this is where our script together started and interweaved and this is how it was always meant to be written.
Something in the air changed that day my friend and I decided to recreate the sorority event we were missing with our sorority sisters back home. She selected you as my date, and it was the little nudge we needed to see each other in a different light. Nothing and everything changed, and our hearts started falling faster towards one another. Our hands seemed to naturally fold together like perfectly created origami and we breathed each other in with electric excitement and passion.
I emailed my best friend back home. “I think I’ve met someone . . .”
We were transformed, we were inseparable, we were better together and now better as ourselves than we were without one another. Each day was lighter and fuller with you there.
Here we were, on the edge of the beginning of our lives, so lucky to have found our person. We fell in stride alongside one another as we continued to pursue our biggest dreams and goals. We only made one another stronger and more determined. Each hardship only further cemented our relationship. This is what it was like to have an unconditional love that would be there with me to face the greatest challenges, pain, hurt, pride, joy, laughter, love, and so much unexpected along the way. Through everything we have experienced, this—you and me—is the one thing in life I cherish the most.
We have seen one another through two college graduations, one law school graduation, one medical school graduation, one residency, three law internships, innumerable cities across the country, endured anxious first-time meetings with parents and siblings, developed two careers, wept through the loss of miscarriages and loved ones, moved into new cities and homes, made new friends, experienced the indescribable joy of meeting our three kids for the first time, learned the true meaning of sleepless nights as first-time parents, and since watched our kids become these amazing humans we are so insanely proud of. There is too much to recount, but no matter what it has been, we have been unwavering. Your hand in my hand, my hand in your hand, it has always been you and me.
This morning, on our 13th anniversary as a married couple, I rolled over in bed and kissed you and told you I loved you, like I’ve done a million times over. But everyday, I could not mean it more. I am so thankful you were too helpless to buy your own shoes 20 years ago in Barcelona. I likely would never have given you the time of day if you hadn’t needed help. (Kidding!!!) I don’t know the perfect recipe for a successful marriage, but I know there is no one more perfect for me than you. There is no one else I’d rather experience this life we have created with. You are my one and only. I love you forever.