In 1984, a BS in journalism from the University of Oregon in my pocket, I crammed my life’s possessions in my 1965 Dodge Dart and headed for my parent’s new home near Seattle. The idea was to take a couple months, then hit the pavement in search of a job in advertising, preferably as a copywriter, but already my heart wasn’t in it. The closer I got to earning my degree, the more I felt that I’d made a mistake. I didn’t want to spend my life persuading people to buy things, but that’s what I was “qualified” to do, so that was the plan.
As luck would have it, my parents’ real estate agent clued me into an unpaid internship at a small public relations firm in downtown Seattle before I was even a month into this “last summer vacation of my life.” I was reluctant to pursue it at first, but was finally persuaded by the idea that I probably wouldn’t get it anyway. This must have given me just the edge I needed because business partner Sheila offered me the position on the spot and I was to start the following day.
When I say Richardson-Hurshell Public Relations was a “small” firm, it is to say that my hiring grew the staff by 25 percent, me being the sole male in the office. Sheila seemed like a seasoned, no nonsense business type, while Caroline, the company’s only paid employee, was a dynamo with a British accent that came and went depending on circumstances. I didn’t meet the other business partner, Jennifer, until a couple days later when she came up behind me, put her hands on my shoulders and said to the office at large, “Someone needs to tell this guy that we don’t wear suits around here.”
Jennifer immediately struck me as a dreamy, earth-mother type, with her wild red hair, and casual office attire. I liked her right away. I was to later learn about her widely-held reputation as a hard-driving, ball-busting, razor-smart entrepreneur. She was only dressing “down” during that period of her life because R-H’s largest client was a sportswear company. As wrong as I seem to have been about her, I now know that there is a dreamy, earth-mother inside her that only I was able to see.
Today is our wedding anniversary.
Today, 23 years ago, we impulsively (well, as impulsively as Washington State’s 3-day wait period will allow) went to the King County Courthouse, having swept up a couple R-H employees to serve as witnesses, and said, “I will.” This lack of ceremony is a tradition that will continue today. I don’t think either of us have ever remembered our anniversary without my mom prompting us. In fact, Jennifer was out of town for 7 of our first 9 anniversary dates, which were celebrated with little, “Woo hoos!” over the phone before moving on to more pressing business.
I joke sometimes that we’ve been married for 23 years, but it only feels like 22, and as cynical as it might sound there’s a beautiful truth in there. When Jennifer and I committed ourselves to one another, it emerged out of 2 years of having worked together shoulder-to-shoulder. Of course we laughed and played as well, but the core of our time together has been as partners, counting on one another, learning to take advantage of each other’s strengths and covering for weaknesses. We fell in love at work and it’s when we’re pulling together, side-by-side, counting on one another, that we are at our best. There can be no better foundation for an enduring partnership. The work of marriage is not always easy, but it is infinitely rewarding.
We have done so much together. We’ve survived and thrived together. We’ve coasted and we’ve struggled. We’ve lived in palaces and hovels, traveled the world, rubbed shoulders with royalty and paupers. We’ve made friends together and fought enemies together. I never even try to imagine life without her – sometimes it’s best to avert ones eyes from horrors. When I look into her face, I see a reflection of myself perfected. I don’t walk the world as a solitary man; there are always footprints in the sand that parallel mine. I love her with every fiber of my being.
I’ve never been more happily married, nor more proud of any accomplishment, than I am today. On my dying day, it will be as the luckiest man on earth for having found my female half when I was young enough to spend my entire adult life with her. The world may take away my money, my home, my reputation and my pride, but those things are nothing to me as long as I have Jennifer.
I love you, Nif. Happy anniversary!