Dear Charlie and Jack,

Happy New Year 2015!

I’m going to start the new year by telling you a love story.  I’m going to tell you a love story because according to the internet, according to the Dalai Lama, our universe doesn’t need any more successful people but rather more storytellers and love.

But first let me backtrack to a conversation your Papa and I had a month ago or so.

Your Mama: There’s the Filipino Bar Association of Nor Cal Christmas Party on the 12th in downtown San Francisco. I hear there’ll be an adobo cook-off and some karaoke. Can you make it?

Your Papa: Sure! (A thoughtful pause.) You’re not embarrassed to go to that, with me?

Your Mama: What do you mean, embarrassed? Why would I be? Where is this coming from? Are you seriously asking?

Your Papa: I mean, you a strong Filipina, married to me, a goofy white guy.

Your Mama: No, of course not, silly! (A thoughtful pause.) Hmmmm…

As I looked at your Papa steaming broccoli for dinner, I examined all the thoughts that crowded in my brain as a result of his question: Why did I fall for him eleven years ago? When it came to dating, did I discriminate against (Filipino men, Asian men, brown skinned men) my supposed own kind?  Did I like your Papa because he was white and, somehow, “better”?  Was it all the Hardy Boys and Sweet Valley High books that I read, or the James Spader and John Cusack movies I watched, when I was young and growing up in the Philippines? What did my being a Filipina immigrant have to do with any of it? Was your Papa my way of climbing up the social ladder?

And what about your Papa? Did he think of me as “exotic”?  Did he have the so called yellow fever?

Ah, all the serious topics I could be writing you about in this letter! But I’m not (yet) up to the task.

Instead, I want to tell you a love story of sorts, of how the the universe conspired to get the “strong” Filipina together with a “goofy white guy” and beget you two beautiful part Chinese, part Bukidnon, part Irish, part Italian “mutts”.

MikeAndJustine_BuffalosYour Mama and Papa, young and confidently in love, watching the buffaloes at the Golden Gate Park

I.

I first met your Papa in the summer of 2000. At that time, I lived in a San Francisco flat, on 7th Ave. and Balboa, with three other housemates. Our 4th housemate was leaving for good and we needed to interview a replacement. Your Papa, along with over twenty other hopefuls, responded to the craigslist ad we posted.

Your Papa sat on a vinyl chair, across from Housemate 1, an aspiring twenty something year old actress who, at that moment, for some reason that confused me, was wearing her negligee.  Her legs seemed strategically crossed to expose her thighs while she lounged on the vinyl couch that matched the one your Papa sat on.  She regarded your Papa with a coy smile.

“What brings you to San Francisco?” Housemate #2, eyes droopy from the pot he’d been smoking, asked. He was sprawled on the dingy orange carpet which had not been vacuumed in the three years that I had lived there.  He was 40 years old and an aspiring journalist.

“I’m starting law school, at Hastings” your Papa replied, probably wondering what was up with the empty beer can collection displayed on the shelves all over the living room and whether he could really live with us. But it was the dotcom boom and the competition for rooms in the tight SF rental market was fierce. He really was not in the position to be choosy.

A law school student.  Hmmmm.  There was silence as we all mulled over this piece of information.

“Cool,” I finally said.

I wondered if he really would survive in that 7×12 room. I had that room for three years. When the fourth roommate who occupied the room that had an enviable street view announced she was leaving, I decided I could afford the $350.00 rental with my publishing job. It was my time to move up in the world.

SanFranciscoHoodthe enviable San Francisco street view

 

If you ask him now, your Papa will tell you that this housemate interview experience is prime example of the triumph of mediocrity. (He is self-deprecating like that.  But trust me, your Papa is the smartest, wittiest, kindest, most handsome, and most charming man I know.)  I hated Housemate #1 and #2’s top choices. They hated mine. However, none of us had any strong reaction against your Papa. He was everybody’s second choice. He, the biologist, who talked about going to law school to work on bird conservation policies.

A week after the interview, your Papa became a part of my daily life.

II.

I learned from your Papa how to make sushi and nigiri rolls.  “It’s easy,” he said, “I’ll make us dinner tonight and I’ll show you.”  That night, for dinner, he sliced generous chunks of salmon, tuna, cucumbers, carrots, mango, and green onions. He showed me how to spread seaweed, sushi rice mixed with some vinegar, and whatever else I wanted in my roll. So that’s what that little bamboo mat is for! I exclaimed, happy and well-fed.

At some point, we decided to co-purchase a used Playstation for $75.00. He tried to show me how to run forward and backward without running uselessly against a wall.  “See that dot up on the upper right corner?  That’s you.  It tells you where you are.”  (Up to now, I still haven’t figured this one out, I still run against the walls.)

For my birthday, he gave me a collection of Raymond Carver’s short stories.

When I won tickets to the Alonzo King Dance Company performance and my then boyfriend couldn’t go, your Papa gladly stepped in.

We watched a Benicio Del Toro movie (I can’t remember the title now) and we agreed that Benicio was one hot dude.

Dear Universe, I wrote on my journal, if I don’t get together with this guy, could you please send me somebody else just like him?

I told a good friend and co-worker: My housemate doesn’t know it yet but I’m going to marry him.

A year flew by.

III.

In 2001, I became a US citizen and I decided it was time to make my childhood “’ambition” to “travel all over the world” a reality. I decided to live in Florence, Italy for a year and visit as many European spots as I could. Before leaving, your Papa and I went out to dinner at a sushi restaurant on 9th and Irving. We talked about his girlfriend troubles. “You need to get out of this relationship, you silly boy,” I advised. He nodded.

We headed out to walk along Ocean beach. “I will send you a pocketknife to ward off all those crazy Italian men,” he promised.

I left in August 2002.

IV.

I didn’t hear from your Papa for almost a whole year. I wrote him whenever I missed home and San Francisco and sushi. But I never mailed my letters.

During my trip, I had a major crush on this one guy with dark thick hair, big hazel eyes fringed with long lashes, and a ready smile.  I  eventually I figured out it was because he looked like your Papa.

At the end of the year, the pocket knife arrived. It came with pages and pages of letters dating back to the beginning of the year.

V.

In August 2003, when my year in Florence was up, I came back to the US. I called your Papa, asked to crash at his new place for a few days while I figured out my housing options. He had just broken up with his girlfriend, the same girlfriend from the year before, and he was starting to feel hopeful. (Long story best told by your Papa.) He was also unemployed and waiting for his bar results.

I missed Geary Street, I told him. He took me out to the neighborhood spots to play pool, drink beer, and scarf some greasy fries. Then we moved on to another bar across the street where we drank gin tonics and played chess. We stayed up all night. I puked on the tire of his car the following day. In the afternoon, we biked down to the local gym near the Golden Gate Park and worked out.

Dear Universe, I wrote on my journal, remember me and my wish from last year? I don’t want anybody like him. I want him.

A few weeks later, in October, we decided to drive down to Mono Lake and camp for a week. I’m guessing that was when we officially started dating each other.

I never really moved out of his flat.

VI.

In December 2003, before I left for a three month trip to the Philippines, your Papa asked me if I would marry him. He then gave me a ring with a red star in the middle, a ring which he got from some boxed cereal.

We were married in October 2004 at the San Francisco Stern Grove. When he said his vows, he sniffled.  His eyes looked red and watery.

“It was too damn cold and I had allergies,” he told me afterwards.

MIkeandJustine_WEdding

That was ten years ago.

_____________________

So there.  Now you know how your Papa and Mama met and fell in love.

What would it be like when you boys start to date?  What kind of identity crises, if any, would dating trigger?  However way it goes, I hope to hear from you heartwarming love stories.  Let’s give the universe what it needs.

 

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