Call me crazy, but when I told you in "My Something Special," that I had entered the "Glamour Magazine" Essay Contest, I really did believe that I had the winning story. I submitted my entry in September, and waited patiently, as the rules stated that the essays would not be read until on or about February 1, 2011. I had no idea how long it might take them to read all of the submissions and chose a winner, so even up until a couple of days ago, I still remained optimistic. At the beginning of this week I decided that ignorance was definitely not bliss; so I checked to see if they had announced a winner somewhere, and surely they had.; but obviously, it wasn't me. I was disappointed to hear that I hadn't won; but I'm not going to let it stop me. I am choosing to believe that my rejection does not mean no forever, just not right now.
I previously promised that if my essay did not win the contest, that I would share it once and for all, here on "The Bumpy Ride," where it really belongs. I had considered waiting until July 2, since that's my wedding anniversary; but since we never know what tomorrow will bring or if there will be a tomorrow for that matter; I say, there's no time like the present. So, without further ado, I am very happy to share my real life love story with you.
In November 1993, I was 26 years old, living in New York (where I was born and raised), working as a Social Worker at a Residential Treatment Center for emotionally disturbed children, and attending graduate school for my Masters degree in Community and School Psychology. I’d had an unusual life up until this time, as both of my parents had passed away by the time I was 19 years old, and shortly thereafter I lost my grandparents as well. I had a younger brother, but we were not close; and so my friends became my family.
Thanksgiving was approaching and in the years that followed my parents deaths, I found that the holiday didn’t hurt so much, if I spent it on vacation rather than with a friend’s family. My friend Stacy graciously agreed to sacrifice her family holiday and go on vacation with me.
In March of 1992 I had made my first trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with my friend Hollie. The only thing that I knew about Puerto Vallarta, was that it was a “Love Boat” port; but the price of the trip was right, so I was willing to give it a try. On two earlier vacations I had gone to Cancun, but I thought that Vallarta was heaven on earth. I had never been to a place with so much to offer. Between the ocean, the mountains, the jungle and the colonial town with its cobblestone walkways, I found Puerto Vallarta captivating.
I made two more trips to Vallarta between May 1992 and May 1993 but Stacy was unable to join me either time. So, while we were planning our Thanksgiving trip, we felt certain that Puerto Vallarta should be our destination. We spoke with several travel agents, but for some reason, no one was able to find us a good deal for Vallarta. We considered going anywhere and everywhere else, but nowhere appealed to us as much as Vallarta.
The day had come when we HAD to make a decision about our vacation, and as luck would have it, a travel agent called with an offer that we couldn’t refuse. The agent had found packages for two beautiful properties, both for the same price. We just needed to decide which one to choose. Ultimately we booked the Sheraton Buganvilias because I remembered that my friend Kate, (who was very well traveled) had once told me that the Sheraton Buganvilias in Puerto Vallarta was the nicest hotel that she had ever stayed at.
Thanksgiving day was very low key and exactly what I had hoped for. We took a walk on the beach and relaxed by the Pool. Stacy decided to go back to our room and a little while later, I did the same. As I was walking through the lobby (make-up free and frizzy hair abounding;) I stopped dead in my tracks when I noticed the handsome, sales agent that was sitting at the National car rental desk. I took a moment to discreetly check him out and quickly took off for my room, before he’d had a chance to notice me.
As soon as I walked through the door, Stacy said “I SAW THE MOST PERFECT GUY FOR YOU.” I said, “I KNOW. ME, TOO.” And at the exact same time, we said “THE NATIONAL CAR RENTAL GUY!!“ Then Stacy said “You know that you have to meet him, right?” And we joked about how this might be accomplished. We showered and got ready to go out for the evening, and as we walked through the lobby there he was again. Stacy started clapping her hands and I was completely mortified. I asked her what she thought she was doing and she explained that she didn’t know how to whistle or snap and she was trying to get his attention. I was desperate to leave the hotel immediately, but Stacy would not relent and she walked over to look at some plants. While pretending to be interested in the foliage, a timeshare lady (who sat right across from the car rental desk) called us over; and for proximity’s sake, we went. While the lady was offering us the moon and the stars, I glanced over my shoulder a couple of times, (okay, three times,) to look at the man of my dreams. Well, I guess three times really was a charm because he crooked his finger and called me over. Just as fast as if someone had lit a match under my butt I was sitting at the car rental desk, directly across from my heart’s desire. Luis introduced himself. He spoke perfect English though with a bit of an accent. He told me that he was from Vallarta, and that he was 28 years old. He also told me that his birthday was on Christmas day and I was flabbergasted, because Christmas was Stacy’s birthday too. I chatted nervously about the picture of the Yellow Geo Tracker that he had on his desk, because I had that exact same jeep at home, same color and all; and I thought that all of these coincidences seemed quite unusual. Luis asked where we were going and I told him that we were going to have dinner and then go dancing and I invited him to join us. I don’t know what it was about Luis that made me so excited. I had dated very attractive men before and I didn’t usually have any trouble meeting guys but there was just something about Luis that sent my heart reeling from the get go. Luis met us later that night after he’d finished working and it was the best time that I’d ever had. We danced, we talked, we walked through romantic Vallarta and for the first time in a long time, I truly felt that I had something to be thankful for. Luis was off from work the next day, so I didn’t see him at the hotel but he did call to ask me out that night. After our second incredible date I did something that I never thought I would do. I asked Luis (half joking) if he wanted to get married and come back to New York with me. Although many people may have been shocked by this question, Luis softly asked “You want to marry me?” And I said “I think so.” Luis then said “Well, I think that if you come back a few more times; I will marry you.” Crazy, I know but somehow it just felt like the right thing to do. Back in New York I was always on my guard and trying to figure everything out. I wasn’t happy at my job, and my personal life had been a bit of a mess. I don’t think that I had a chip on my shoulder about losing my parents so young; but up until that point, I didn’t think that life had treated me well. When I was with Luis I felt positive, and hopeful and safe; and these weren’t feelings that I was accustomed to. So, I got caught up in the moment and let my spontaneity get the better of me. I knew that most people would suspect that Luis just wanted a green card. But, I had to trust my heart and I KNEW that this wasn’t the case. Luis was one of six children (and the only one who spoke fluent English.) His family all resided in Vallarta and he had no interest in leaving, although he did have an interest in me. I told Luis that as a Social Worker I got four weeks vacation per year and I had quite a bit saved up. I told him that if he was serious about trying to have a relationship with me and if he was willing to commit to not date other girls, then I would come back in a few weeks to see him again and he fully agreed.
Saying good-bye to Luis was excruciating and I think that I cried all the way back to New York. I had finally come to understand why I felt so compelled to keep returning to Vallarta. It was because there was something there that I was meant to find. Once I got home I couldn’t wait to tell my friends my exciting news. People were skeptical of course; but my friend, Hollie suggested that Luis and I apply for a fiancé visa. Hollie explained that if we were given the visa, Luis would get to come to the states for 90 days, but if we didn’t get married within that time, Luis would have to return to Mexico. I thought that the fiancé visa would give us the opportunity to get to know each other under real life circumstances as opposed to the fantasy of vacation and so I called Luis to see what he thought. Luis sounded happy to hear from me, but he told me that he had lied to me about something. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach and I was fearful of what he was going to tell me. I asked what he had lied about, and he explained that he wasn’t 28; he was actually 23. I asked why he lied, and he said “When I saw you, you stole my heart, but I knew that you were older than me and I didn’t think that you would take me seriously if you knew how old I was. So, I lied.” I asked if his birthday was really on Christmas and he said “No” I asked why he had lied about his birthday, and he wasn’t sure. I told him that I understood why he did it but that he could never lie to me again. In all fairness though, I have to say that both lies actually worked to his advantage. He was right. If I had known that he was only 23, I wouldn’t have taken him seriously. During our time together, he never gave me any reason to suspect that he was younger than what he had originally told me. Learning he was only 23 was not a deterrent to me. After lying about his birthday, it turned out that Luis was really a Scorpio, and I’d had other UNSUCCESSFUL relationships with Scorpio men in the past; so if I'd known that he was a Scorpio, I probably wouldn’t have given him a chance. Once we had moved past the lies and I could breathe again, I told Luis about the fiancé visa; and he said “Get the papers.”
In late January, Stacy and I returned to Vallarta again. Luis and I had been speaking on the phone at least once a week, in addition to writing each other letters. I couldn’t wait to see him. We had another amazing, week together, and we completed all of our paperwork to file for the fiancé visa. As difficult as it was to leave Luis the first time, the second time was even worse. As we drove to the airport, our cab driver asked if Luis was going with me. We said no and questioned why he was asking. The cab driver explained that he had picked us up from a club a few nights before and he couldn’t believe that Luis was letting me leave without him.
I went home and filed for our fiancé visa and Luis and I increased the frequency of our phone conversations, to the tune of $2000 phone bills for me. On St. Patrick’s Day I found out that our fiancé visa had been approved (after providing copies of our letters, our pictures, and a testimonial from Stacy). After giving them copies of my phone bills and flight and hotel receipts, the government had believed that Luis wanted to come to the states to marry me. And, so did I. I started to think that I might be crazy. Was I honestly considering marrying a man that I had spent less than two weeks with? I decided that I had to go back to Vallarta to spend more time with Luis, and that this time, I had to go alone. So in April 1994, I went to Vallarta for two weeks and I fervently hoped that by the time I had to return to New York, Luis would have all of the necessary paperwork to come with me.
This trip was the best thing that I could have done, because instead of lounging by the pool and going to clubs, we were living our day to day life. Luis hadn’t officially proposed, but I sincerely believed that we were going to get married. I told Luis that Disney had started doing weddings and that it was something that we could plan via phone and fax; so that if we did decide to get married within the 90 days, we could have a “REAL” wedding and not just a town hall ceremony. Luis told me to start planning the wedding. He explained that he didn’t want to propose to me until he was in New York and I saw for myself how much he wanted to be with me.
In addition to talking about the wedding, we had many serious conversations. We talked about religion, because I was Jewish and he was Catholic. We talked about children, and education and where we would live. We agreed that he would come to the states since he spoke fluent English and I didn’t speak fluent Spanish, but that someday (sooner than later,) we would move back to Vallarta. We spoke with his parents and his dad questioned me about my commitment to Luis. He wanted to make sure that I was taking this matter very seriously, since his son was going to be leaving his family and moving to another country to be with me. I assured him that I was going to take care of his son for better or worse. It all seemed like everything was happening so fast, and yet nothing was happening fast enough. And then one night we were taking a walk, and I suddenly felt a great sense of peace come over me, because I had a realization that changed my life. After both of my parents had passed away, I had a strong feeling that something very special was going to happen to me - something uncommon; something that others wouldn't experience. It’s wasn’t that I thought that I was owed anything; it was just a notion that I believed wholeheartedly and that I took great comfort in. At times I would wonder what that something special would be. Maybe I'd be the first woman President, or achieve an uncommon goal; but walking down the street hand in hand with Luis I finally knew what it was. I KNEW that Luis was MY SOMETHING SPECIAL and that we were going to have a love that was beyond compare. Luis’ paperwork did not arrive by the time I had to go home to New York; so once again I had to say good bye and leave Vallarta without him. Although it was painful, I left knowing that this time was different because within a few weeks, Luis would be flying to New York and we would be starting our life together.
I planned a small, Fairy Tale wedding for July 2, at the Disney Yacht and Beach Club, with Stacy as my maid of honor. I moved into a one bedroom apartment; and I prepared for Luis to arrive. Luis and I spoke on the phone daily, and I couldn’t wait for him to get to New York; despite the cynics that surrounded me. Since Stacy was the only one who had met Luis; she tried to explain to people what she had witnessed between us; but our friends found it hard to believe. Luis arrived in New York on May 12, 1994 and he proposed to me that night. We were married, as planned on July 2, 1994 in a beautiful ceremony, surrounded by my closest friends and sixteen years later, I STILL believe that Luis is MY SOMETHING SPECIAL.
Although our life hasn’t been perfect, I don’t know anyone whose is. All I know is that loving Luis has changed me for the better and that I am so glad that I didn’t let reason prevail and that I listened to my heart; because my relationship with Luis has made me the person that I am today. Luis has sacrificed all that was important to him to be with me and I love him even more today than I did sixteen years ago. We have three beautiful children. We live in Peoria, Arizona. And, to the best of my knowledge, since his original fibs, Luis has NEVER lied to me again.