Jack and Su

The Next Family

By: Heather Somaini

Everyone has a love story – some have many. My parents have a great one and I love to tell it. They’re seriously two of the most amazing people I know and I love them dearly.

You see, my parents met when they were 15. They grew up on different sides of the same, small Vermont town. I remember my grandmother telling me that there was never any question about how my Dad felt about my Mom. One evening as they were driving home, my Dad saw my Mom walking along the road and he told my grandmother right then and there that she was the one. The first time he brought her home to meet his parents, my grandmother said that she knew he would love her forever.

As a teenager, my Dad was a “greaser”, a bad boy. He wore jeans, a white t-shirt, slicked back hair – that classic James Dean look. My Mom says that she would lean out the window at study hall and talk to him while he hung out in the smoking section. In comparison, my Mom was the good girl from the right side of the tracks.

When they met, my Dad was actually dating my Mom’s best friend. Mom wasn’t very impressed with him and was convinced he was a two-timing jerk. She desperately tried to convince her friend to dump him but to no avail. To prove to her that he was as bad as she thought he was, she decided to ask him out to verify that he would cheat on her. I’m sure she was ecstatic when he agreed to the date. She was right – he was a two-timing scumbag!

My Dad broke up with the other girl the next day. I guess he wasn’t such a scumbag after all. My parents dated through high school and into college. As graduation neared for my Mom (Dad was now in the Air Force), my Dad proposed. I’m sure she loved him terribly but she just had other plans for her life. She really wanted to take her newly minted teaching degree to work with kids from another culture and travel. She already had a position lined up on an Indian reservation out west. She told him no.

A funny thing happened soon after that – me. Yes, I am a love child. Mom wasn’t sure what she wanted to do so she went to talk it over with her older sister. My Aunt’s advice was that they should make pasta. I guess all things become clear with pasta dough in your hands. They barely spoke but once the pasta was made, Mom had her decision. She went back to my Dad and asked him if his offer was still on the table. He hesitated and said he wasn’t sure.
She gave him two weeks to make up his mind. Anyone who knows my Dad will tell you that this was the most ridiculous arrangement ever; there was no way he wasn’t sure. He knew exactly what he wanted.

Two weeks later, my Dad came back and said he wanted to get married. Needless to say, Mom didn’t go out west. Flash forward ten years and our family was falling apart a little. I was 10, my brother was 7 and my parents were very unhappy. So unhappy that they had made decisions that were affecting everyone – divorce was imminent. My Mom decided to do the one thing she always wanted to do – teach overseas. She was accepted to teach for the Department of Defense Dependent Schools system for military kids overseas. She packed me and my brother up and we left for Germany in the fall of ’79.

For that year, my parents lived very much apart and had completely separate lives. But when we were all together, we were a family again. Every holiday we saw my Dad; he begged my Mom to come home. Every time, she said no. During the summer of 1980, we spent a lot of time with my Dad and it was obvious he wanted her back. The three of us still left in August headed back to Germany.

A few weeks passed and my Mom had a change of heart. She called my Dad and asked if his offer was still on the table and would he move to Germany to be with us? He said he wasn’t sure. Mom gave him two weeks to make up his mind. On the fourteenth day, he called and said yes. He quit his job, sold our house, and packed up what remained. All of our lives were changed forever, especially theirs.

My parents have been together ever since. Their marriage isn’t perfect but it’s theirs. They’ve been through the good, the bad, the most wonderful, and the most terrible. I love them with all my heart for showing me that all is never lost.

I wonder sometimes if my parents really know how much I love them. It’s not always the easiest thing to show. My time with them is always fun and loving and safe. They protect me regardless of who I show up as that day. They love me when I don’t love myself. They love my children more than life itself. I would do anything for them. Sometimes I do things only for them.

I truly hope they know that I wouldn’t be who I am without them and that my life is only as I know it because of them. I hope they know I love them in the most profound way possible…unwavering and forever. I suppose now they always will.

A few years ago, I was regaling my parents with my version of their love story when my Mom made a small revelation. That night back in the fall of 1980 when she called my Dad to ask him to move to Germany was after she had been out with her girlfriends. They had enjoyed many glasses of great German wine and she was a little tipsy. My father was incensed to learn that his entire future at that point had hinged on a few glasses of red wine! I like that there’s always something unexpected even when you think you know the full story.


[Photo Credit: top photo by Teness Herman]

[Photo Credit: bottom photo by Diana Lundin]

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