There are only a small handful of days in a lifetime that are true milestones, when the larger story unfolds in a new direction. Weddings, births, funerals, graduations, new school, new house, new job, and so on. We mark them on the calendar, wait with great anticipation, acutely aware of the significance.
But history doesn’t flow predictably, and there are other equally significant days that don’t announce themselves with great fanfare. They sneak up on us. In fact, we’re usually oblivious to these plot twists as they are occurring, unaware of how the story is about to change. It’s only in hindsight that we may trace the larger arc and understand what may have gone unappreciated at the time.
But history doesn’t flow predictably, and there are other equally significant days that don’t announce themselves with great fanfare.
Such was one key moment, back on August 20th 1991 when a foolish young guy was out for the evening and did not realize he was about to encounter a person who would change his life forever. That fool was me, and this is the story of the night I met Megan, my wife of 23 years, mother of our three kids.
Back then when we were in our 20s, we'd just go out to be part of whatever scene was happening around midtown. That night, there was an art show at the Sierra Community Center. It was called the ONO show, One Night Only. The girlfriend of one of the guys in the band Cake had some pieces in the show. After a while, people were milling around outside of the gallery trying to figure out what to do next. Christine Farren was there, with her pink mid-sixties Plymouth Barracuda. People were idly admiring it. Someone said there was a party down in Curtis Park. It was the sister of the girl who owned Greta’s Cafe, the local hangout. I had nothing better to do, so crashing this party seemed like a good idea. I jumped in a car with Tony Duke and Keara Fallon, and away we went.
We idled along the dark, leafy streets near Franklin Blvd trying to find the place. When we got there, we came in through the driveway, and saw a big old house party that had spilled out into the back yard. People were dancing on the brick patio, a merry band of hipsters and slackers gyrating madly to the music. The DJ was wearing a thrift store Shriner fez. Someone said his name was Sho-Sho. Sure, why not? And there was this girl in a little black party dress who caught my eye.
Eventually I was introduced to this girl, Megan, and her sister Amy, the hostess. To this day, it remains unclear whether Tony or Keara made the introduction--but they still both take credit for it. We were standing out in the yard beside a lemon tree. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I ended up out on the dance floor with this girl, dancing to the seventies spoof song Kung Fu Fightin. Yes, our first dance was this goofy, one-hit-wonder song, whose lyrical genius is evidenced in the chorus:
Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those kicks were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightening
But they fought with expert timing.
As was customary with this song, people around us were feigning Karate chops and doing over-the-top spin moves. I don’t think we did any of that stuff, having just met. While we were dancing, she told me she had driven back early from a Tahoe wedding to make it to her sister’s party...that she almost didn’t make the drive. At some point, I ended up in the kitchen with Megan and Amy. This had been their Aunt Bessie’s house, and the kitchen had a retro feel, with bright yellow accents and an early seventies wrought iron light hanging from a chain over the kitchen table. They told me I had to do shots of Jaegermeister with them. Pretty girls offering up booze--this was a no-brainer.
Later in the evening, news spread through the party that the police were at the door. Without hesitation, Megan stepped out on the porch to handle the situation. At that moment I realized this beautiful, sweet woman was also highly competent and fearless.
The next day, we went out to the Feather River together. And we have been together ever since.
So many little things happened just right on that evening--the start of a long chain of contingencies that brought our family to right here, right now.
Are there lessons in all of this? Maybe:
All of these, and especially that last one. Randomness--the universe intervenes and leads two characters into an unlikely connection. We spend a lot of time planning. But sometimes the best laid plans can't match spontaneous, seat-of-the-pants living, the realm of happy accidents and good fortune. Coincidence is too prosaic a word. Kismet, destiny, karma, luck, predetermination. It spans from the haphazard to the religious. I’m not especially religious or fatalistic, but when I remember that magical night, it’s enough to turn a rational guy into a believer in the strange and powerful forces beyond our own control.
The universe intervenes and leads two characters into an unlikely connection.
A fool kid walks out of his apartment one evening, and after that, everything is different. I owe my life to the stupid beautiful happenstance of the universe!
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