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It was February 2, 2007. I was at a party on the bay in San Diego and my friend Trevor told me a girl he knew was coming.
"She's got blonde hair and blue eyes...New Jersey chick too" he told me. At the time, I didn't think much of it, so I blew it off with a "Yeah? Cool."
A few minutes later, I watched someone cross over the grass and onto the sand towards me. I was blindsided by her beauty. The attraction was instant (from my side at least). I'm normally very comfortable speaking to the opposite sex, but for some reason I was very nervous to approach her. I had one chance. I couldn't blow it. I watched her get introduced to other friends as I contemplated my move.
"Hi, I'm Mike."
"Hi. I'm Jackie."
So far so good.
"I hear you're from New Jersey -- I'm from New York."
Our east coast roots was a sure thing -- we had an instant connection. Right?
Apparently I was wrong. That's all I got from her. I quickly made my exit from the bay with a bruised ego. I needed to regroup and hope to see her again.
Later that night a group of my friends were headed downtown to another friend's birthday party. After my pitiful performance at the bay, I wasn't really interested in going out so I decided to pass on the festivities. Then I heard Jackie might be going downtown. Not being one to pass up a good party, I was in the car headed towards a second chance.
The slight buzz I was rocking helped calm me down and I was able to engage her in a deeper conversation than our not-so-uncommon roots (to put it into perspective, the East Coast was heavily represented in the area of San Diego that we lived -- I guess it wasn't as earth shattering as I had originally thought). But, the stars aligned as I had hoped and we hit it off.
The next morning I called my mother and told her the great news.
"Ma, I met my future wife last night! She's amaz --
"--Yeah, yeah that's great. Where's she FROM?"
"...New Jersey, ma."
"SHE'S FROM THE EAST COAST??!!?!?!!"
You have to understand my mother, she had this fear that when I moved to the west coast I would meet a west coast woman and never return home. When she found out Jackie was from the East Coast, her worst nightmare turned into an answered prayer from Saint Anthony.
Jackie and I dated, moved in together, got a dog, and basically became a family. Then in January of 2010, we decided to call it quits on the West Coast. We packed up our life into her Honda CRV and drove from San Diego to New York -- our soon to be new/old home. We did the drive in 10 days, stopping in Tucson, AZ, Fort Stockton, TX, and Austin, TX. We took an unscheduled detour in Lake Charles, LA for 2 days after Jackie drove over a rod in the middle of the road that punctured our gas tank, then headed to New Orleans, up the eastern seaboard and finally arriving in New York on February 2, 2010 (our 3 year anniversary).
I told Jackie that we had dinner plans that night in Manhattan and that watching the series premiere of LOST would have to wait one more night (she wasn't too thrilled about that). We drove down to the Ritz Carlton in Battery Park and had drinks before dinner. I told her I had a present for her, it was nothing big, but I wanted to get her something for the special occasion. I gave it to her outside near the water overlooking the Statue of Liberty.
She opened the gift, which was a picture book I had made of the last 3 years. It told the story of how we met, and how the last 3 years of our lives went. At the end of the book was a two page spread of abstract pictures -- anything from tree branches, to rock piles -- that when you look at it at one whole picture, you can make out the words: MARRY ME?
It took her a few seconds to realize what was happening but when she finally did, she looked at me and I got down on my knee and proposed. It was a great moment and I'm so thankful I have it on film to relive over and over.