Thursday, May 21, 2020

How I Met Your Father...

In one of my previous posts I touched on the subject of a band called The City Drive...without whom I don't know if I would be in England right now.

I get asked quite a bit how I came to live in England:, 'why did you move?', 'where are you from?' 'Why would you leave Sunny California to come HERE?'

Well kids, this is the story of how I met Smushy's father:

I was 17 and promoting my favorite band, The City Drive. On their Myspace page I spotted this cute emo kid from England and my little heart yelped.

I comment on his post on the City Drive's Myspace page and added him as a friend. We started talking about the band first, then it developed into more. I said how I loved and wanted to visit the UK, and he said the same about visiting America. We made a promise to one another that if we had enough money to visit either country, we would put the other one up at our house.

We communicated with each other nearly every day, sending each other private messages on Myspace, and even wrote each other 'old fashioned love letters' in the post. I still have those letters actually. it's funny to look back on them now and see what a softie Ben was when he's infatuated with someone.

Fast forward to when I turned 18 and graduated from highschool....

My grandmother had set aside money every year on her grandchildrens' birthdays for them to access later in life. It went through the ups and downs of stocks so when we each accessed our money was our choice and we all got different amounts.
There were 3 stipulations to access the money:
1. We had to be 18
2. We had to graduate from high school  and get our diploma
3. We had to use the money on something *worth* it. Not just blow it on food, or drink, or gambling, or something superfluous.

I decided that I wanted to use the money to go on a trip to England for a little over a month to go visit Ben. So I asked him if he was serious about his offer to come let me stay with him. He said yes, and I started planning my trip to go see him in the English countryside.

Little did I know, that my parents (overprotective as they were) would meet Ben before I did. Whilst I was planning my trip, mum and dad had already planned a trip to Paris and London for themselves and went out there before I did.

On the letters that Ben wrote me, it had his phone number and address on the letter head. My parents had google mapped his address to prove he wasn't cat-fishing me and he did actually live where he said he did, but they weren't okay with me going out on my own to meet 'this guy Ben'. So, while they were in London, they called the phone number on the letter head and spoke to Ben's parents. Basically the conversation went something like this, or so I've been told:

My parents: Hi, This may seem a bit strange but we're the parents of Jennifer. She's been talking with your son Ben online?

Ben's Parents: Oh Jennifer! Yes, we know they have.

My parents: We understand you are okay with Jennifer coming out and staying with you?

Ben's Parents: Oh yes! It's absolutely fine!

My Parents: Well, we are in London for a few days and we wondered if we could come out to you, to meet you and Ben and make sure it's safe and still okay that Jen comes to visit you.

Ben's parents: Yes, absolutely! We can have lunch! When's good for you? We can pick you up from the train station. Do you know how to get to us?

Blah blah blah....So THAT happened. They met Ben before I did, but I didn't know about it until after the fact when he messaged me online and said "Uuuh....your parents are at my house." I went mental. In hindsight I know they just wanted to make sure I would be safe abroad, on my own, for the first time in my life, but as a 19 year old I was fuming that my parents didn't trust me to do my own fact checking.

That aside, in June 2009 I went on my first adventure abroad in England. It was an amazing trip, I got to see lots of English countryside, see some well known sights, and meet some of Ben's friends while I lived at his parents' place.

SIDE NOTE: While looking for pictures for this blog, I was reminded that before I even moved to England to live here, I made a short appearance on British Radio! One of Ben's mates was a DJ for Youthcomm Radio at the time, and so one day while Ben was at work, I went and hung out with Adam and got to be on the Radio one afternoon. Moderately cool fact.

Anyway, despite spending so much time with Ben over the summer and thinking that we were 'boyfriend and girlfriend' (FYI according to him we weren't) I sung a different tune when Ben took me to a house party and I met Robert James Vidler.

Rob was (and still is) one of Ben's closest high school friends. He was 'funniest boy in year 11' so he was the jokester of the group. On the way to the party we picked up Rob from Hereford train station and I can remember meeting him there for the first time. In the car he talked about how he had just finished his final performance piece at school. He said he went to theatre school in Birmingham and that he had to perform a monologue as part of his final assessment.

When he mentioned acting, he piqued my interest. The whole night I kind of hung around him, as well as Ben, because Rob was fun to talk to. He even made some cheesy pick up line that I'll never forget. He said I was the 3rd hottest girl at the party in terms of looks, but the 1st hottest in personality. Not the smoothest thing to say to a girl you just met who's maybe kind of dating your best friend, but it made me laugh and it was endearing that he tried to save himself with the neg.

As the party raged on, I felt Ben ignored me more to hang out with his bros, I got drunker off Scrumpy Jack Cider (urg, never again), and Rob became more and more interesting. To the point where we ended up kissing in his section of the group tent we had set up for the night.

Things between me and Ben didn't quite work out. As I said before, he never really saw us as dating. I think I was just a bit of strange -- that American girl who was good for a bit of fun, until he got bored and found someone new. I got home from California and found a friendly message in my inbox from Robert James Vidler, which was timely because the few days after I got back Ben had changed his status from 'Single' to 'In a Relationship'...with another girl, not me.

I was distraught, but Rob was there on Myspace/messenger/Facebook to pick up the pieces of my broken heart and show me that not all Englishmen are pricks.

We messaged each other every day, using Myspace to start, then Instant messenger, and Facebook and eventually moved to Skype. Rob had to sequester his brother's laptop that had a built in camera so we could skype, but eventually he bought his own so that we could have more time to video message one another. We also discovered Rebtel - a phone service that uses routing numbers to call other countries so you didn't have to pay international calling charges.  

We talked about him coming to visit me, so I saved money, did my driving test, & got a car so I could show him the sights around LA. When we talked about me coming over to visit him, he did the same for me. He took driving lessons, and passed his test so that when I came out, he was ready to take me places.

Less than 6 months after we first met, in Januray/February of 2010 Rob came out to California to spend some time with me. While we were together, we decided to start dating, and we spent our first Valentine's day together

Then in December 2010-January 2011 I went to England to visit Rob and stay with his family for Christmas and New Years. Fun fact: It was the first Christmas in a very long time in England where it snowed on Christmas day... I for sure thought that every Christmas would be like that one, but no. That was a fluke. The snow is a lie!

Anyway, in January Rob and I took a trip to Ireland to visit some of his extended family in Kilkenny and spend a weekend in Dublin while we were there. It was then that Rob proposed to me. We got to our Dublin Hotel and while I was looking around the room to see a bottle of Champagne and chocolates on the dresser, he was getting down on one knee behind me. Turns out he got his aunt who lives just outside of Dublin to plant the treats in our hotel room before we arrived. 

Going home to California after that, leaving my new fiancee was one of the hardest airport goodbyes (the only other time was saying goodbye to my frail, dying father -6 months before he passed- after our last family holiday. In that moment I thought I would never get the chance to hug him again...and even then I couldn't hug him the way I wanted to because his body hurt so much. It broke me).  

But it was time to start planning the wedding which we set for the date we 1st met - July 8th - of that year. We planned a wedding in less than 6 months and on July 8th, 2011 we were married in California. 
Photo Credit: Cherie Starke

People comment on how we went from knowing each other to being married SUPER quickly. In the space of 2 years we actually only visited each other 2 times. It's true, those two times were for like a month each visit and we lived with each other in our parents' respective houses so we were 'living' together, but people forget that before seeing and hearing each other through calls and video chatting we just texted & wrote letters. We messaged back and forth and got to know one another in detail EVERY DAY: what our favourite things were, chatting about ideals and philosophies, sharing funny stories of our childhoods, etc. 

Whenever I got a letter in the post from Rob my heart fluttered and it brought us closer together to smell each other's cologne/perfume on the envelopes so we could feel like the other was right there with us. I think I also stole a pair of his boxer shorts when he came to visit me so that I could wear them as short shorts/PJs -- is that weird? That sounds weird and stalkerish, but it was comforting to know I had something of his until we were together again.

For two years, besides the time we spent living with each other and our families, we had no physical contact and instead we had to rely on getting to know one another intellectually. We knew that we were meant for each other pretty early on because of the conversations we were able to have and how easy it was to just talk to one another.

That's not to say there haven't been trials over the years, but we got through them and now we have a beautiful son after a decade of knowing each other, and nearly 9 years of marriage. 

I remember a comment that was made to me about going to visit Ben... I was warned, something to the effect of 'You know it's not going to be like The Holiday, right?' meaning that I shouldn't expect some cheesy romantic comedy movie about falling in love with a fit Englishman. Well, I certainly didn't get that with Ben, but I did fall in love with a fit Irishman instead. And I wouldn't have had it any other way. 

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