Boy meets girl, they date, fall in love, he proposes, they get married, a family–and live mostly happily ever after. That’s how I grew up thinking it would go. But that’s not quite how it went.
It was a Friday night five years ago 12/17/2011. I was living in Honolulu and went out with my friend Megan to blow off steam after a long work week. After several bars we were about to call it a night when Megan dragged me to one more spot. She was drunk and I was sober. It was about 2:00 in the morning and the place was relatively quiet, but I saw a cute guy at the bar in a white polo. Megan talks to everyone, so she went up to him and his friend and brought me over. “Hi,” he said, “I’m Ridge”. “Rich?” I said. “No, Ridge”. It took me a minute. We talked for a while then I asked him how old he was (I’d just turned 27 and wanted something serious). “21” he told me in an adorable southern accent. I choked on my water and ruled him out in my head. But Megan was having a blast so we kept talking. Ridge was easy to talk to and I felt comfortable right away. He told me he was in the army and just returned from deployment in Iraq. He asked me to eat lunch with him the next day at Cheesecake Factory. I loved that place and figured, what have I got to lose? Lunch turned into an all-day date and we spent the next 24 hours together.
We fell in love…hard. Ridge didn’t play games and showed me how much he cared about me. I could talk to him about anything and we quickly became inseparable. It was perfect– two people in love, living in paradise and exploring it together. But after a few months I started paying attention to our differences. We came from different backgrounds and had vastly different life experiences…and then there was that age gap. I thought I had to make Ridge more like me to have a future together. It sounds silly now, but no joke that’s how I was thinking!
We made amazing memories and had our fair share of bumps in the road. Eleven months later Ridge’s tour in Hawaii was up and he transferred to Fort Riley Kansas. His move forced us to ask questions– it made our relationship more serious but disrupted it at the same time. Two months later in January 2013 I went to visit Ridge. We had a wonderful three days (aside from the freezing cold!) but got into a real argument the last night. It had a lot to do with next steps in our relationship and the seeming impossibility of the situation (I wasn’t moving to Kansas and he had another two years in the army). I decided it was best to go our separate ways, which devastated Ridge, before I caught my flight back to Honolulu. Moving on wasn’t easy but I was trying. A few weeks later I knew something was up and I took a pregnancy test…it was positive. It wasn’t the best situation: me in Hawaiii, Ridge in Kansas, both our families on the east coast–and all this right after the relationship was over.
I worked for a large national company that had positions across the country. I told my boss the news and that I was requesting a transfer to Charlotte, NC to move near family. Ridge and I spoke periodically; I told him it was a girl and gave him the information to be there for her birth. On October 16, 2013, Juliana was born. It was the most amazing day of my life, and even though we weren’t together it was incredible to see Ridge hold our daughter for the first time.
A few days later Ridge went back to Kansas. Truth be told, I was in full-on mommy mode and at that time a relationship with anybody was the furthest thing from my mind. About a year later Ridge’s time in the army was up and he moved back to South Carolina—less than an hour from Charlotte. With Ridge in driving distance, we were able to establish a visitation schedule. At this point my emotions towards him had run the full gamut and we’d both said and done things we regretted. Dropping Juliana off with him every other weekend was difficult; I loved that she got time with him but felt I didn’t get enough already. During this time co-parenting I realized I still had feelings for Ridge. It was a scary and vulnerable feeling–we had a whole lot of history and I didn’t know where he was in his romantic life or if he had feelings left for me. I put feelers out and it seemed perhaps there was something there. Then one Sunday after picking up Juliana I texted him, “I still get the butterflies every time I see you”. BAM. I tried to ignore my phone because I was on pins about how he’d respond…if he would at all! A few minutes later I got back, “I do too, every time”. I couldn’t believe it. We spent the next weekend as a family. It felt natural, crazy, surreal, and wonderful at the same time. And Juliana couldn’t have been happier.
Things progressed quickly but it didn’t feel fast–I think because we’d known each other for nearly five years and had Juliana. Two months ago we decided to move in together and the pieces fell into place finding our new home and a tenant to rent out my house. I’ve always tended to be an upbeat, optimistic individual, but I realize I’m happier now than I have been my entire adult life. Each day with Ridge and Juliana is full of beautiful memories. It feels right. It feels like everything is just the way it’s supposed to be.
When I look back I think of everything that had to happen for us to be where we are. Ridge and I met 6,000 miles away, yet our homes happened to be within an hour of each other. When Juliana was a year old, I changed companies and started working remotely…I had no idea this would be the perfect setup for me and Ridge since I just had to be in driving distance of the airport. And I think Ridge and I both needed the time apart to finish growing up and coming into our own. It’s crazy how it all fell together.
Two weeks ago Ridge and I went to Miami for a weekend getaway. We were in South Pointe Park at the very tip of Miami Beach overlooking the ocean. Ridge got on one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. It was perfect.
Next Sunday Ridge, Juliana and I will celebrate our first Christmas together. In the middle of the presents there’s one so much better than the rest–Juliana has her mom and dad, I have the love of my life, and he’s got me. And that’s a gift I will never, ever take for granted.