Love Stories: Dan & Marie
I met Dan on September 14, 1990. He was in the navy and six months away from leaving Newport, RI, after a three-year tour at the Naval War College. We were introduced by a mutual friend who was actually friends with my parents. She and I went out together exactly once, but that was all it took! Earlier that same night, I’d had dinner with a guy I’d been casually dating before he went to work the night shift at the local police department. I never saw him again after that night, which was the same night I met Dan. The first time I saw Dan he was drinking beer from a pitcher like it was a mug. Charming, I thought. He would tell you it was a SMALL pitcher, but I always say a pitcher is a pitcher! He went on to tell a positively filthy story about a woman he’d once dated, leading our mutual friend to remind him that she was trying to fix him up with me, and he wasn’t doing a very good job of impressing me. I was seriously UNimpressed. LOL Luckily for Dan *haha*, the DJ was playing music neither of us liked, and when Dan offered me a ride home, I gladly took it to get out of there.
I think a lot about that odd night and whether I ever would’ve seen him again if I had liked the music. I honestly never expected anything to come of it with him, but we went for a ride through downtown Newport and listened to music we both liked and had some laughs. I vividly remember listening to music on cassette tapes that night, which seriously dates us. I figured that would be that after he drove me to my car. Imagine my surprise the following week when I got a fax from him at work that said, “I’d like to ask you out on a date type of thing…” I still have that fax SOMEWHERE, but do you think I could find it? This photo is from May of 1991, and our daughter Emily says it’s proof we’re her parents. I was 25 at the time, and she will be 25 in July, and 25-year-old Emily looks an awful lot like 25-year-old Marie. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about that first official date and how it took 25 years for us to close the circle on that first date.
PS: No comments on the fact that my natural hair color isn’t actually blonde! 🙂
We made plans to go out the following Friday night. Dan said he wanted to take me to Ocean Cliff, which is a fancy hotel/restaurant on Newport’s famous Ocean Drive. I had a little panic about whether he could afford something like that and suggested we go somewhere less fancy. That’s how we ended up at the Mudville Pub, another Newport institution that has since closed. The most vivid memory of that night is one that is still mentioned on a regular basis. When our dinners arrived, he leaned in and said, “How much of that are you going to eat?” We still laugh about how his ravenous appetite was on display from day one. That Sunday, we were celebrating my parents’ 25th anniversary, and I invited him to come to the party.
He met my parents, brother and extended family at that party and then scored mad points with my dad, who wanted to have people back to the house after but had no beer, and liquor stores in RI were closed on Sundays back then. Dan said, “I can get some on the base.” Off he went, returning to my parents’ house with a case of beer that endeared him forever to my dad. My parents talked forever about the first time he came for dinner at their house, for my dad’s favorite turkey dinner, and ate everything in sight. There were no leftovers that night! My dad used to joke that he hadn’t had a home cooked meal since he joined the navy.
Dan fit right in with my family from the beginning. My cousins frequently tell me they like him better than me. 🤣We had a lot of fun together, lots of laughs and good times. But hanging over everything was his looming departure to an overseas duty station in March. This was before email and FaceTime and cell phones. But that was six months away, and I tried not to think about what was coming…
This is also the story of my changing hair over the years!
Dan left Rhode Island in March of 1991 and spent three months in at a school in Pensacola, FL, where I visited him for a week. I went with him on a road trip to Indiana and Pennsylvania in June so he could see his family before he deployed for 15 months to the Azores Islands. That was an interesting time. We had a rusty phone connection once a week, letters, cards, etc. No email, no FaceTime, no texting, no Skype. None of that existed yet. The long-distance thing was rough. No way around that. Ups and downs punctuated by my visits there and his trips to RI to see me. I was visiting him in February of 1992 when we got engaged and set our wedding for October 24, which would be after he left the Azores and before he went somewhere else overseas. Gulp.
Dan was offered a number of options for where he could be stationed next, and together we chose Rota, Spain. So here I was getting married and moving to Spain after having never lived outside the state of Rhode Island. Sure, I’ve got this…
I’ll never forget Dan’s parents arriving in RI for our wedding with his drum set attached to the top of their van. “You get him, you get his crap,” his mother famously said. That drum set has made about 15 moves and is still with us. I loved his parents. They were so fun and funny and the best in-laws anyone could’ve asked for. After being raised in a family of four, I was stepping into a big family of six kids, seven nieces and a sprawling extended family. Having 19 first cousins of my own helped to prepare me for the Forces!
Our wedding was fantastic, and people still talk about how much fun they had. I think back to that day and everything that’s come since then, starting with three years in Spain. It’s been an adventure, that’s for sure! The first pic is from our rehearsal dinner. The others are from the early days in Spain, including our first neighborhood and our first “babies,” Consuela and Roscoe.
Living in Spain was a lot of fun, but I was also pretty homesick, especially at first. My niece was three months old when I left, and I felt like I was missing so much with her. But, I eventually got used to being so far from home, and my mom was awesome about sending mail, baby pics and VHS tapes with my soaps and other favorite shows. She learned to program a VCR for me! And she came to Spain four times, three times on her own, which was amazing. After she died, I found all the letters I sent her from Spain tied with a ribbon and tucked into an envelope on her closet shelf. My dad, brother, sister-in-law and niece also made it to Spain as did three of my cousins and several of my close friends.
After being apart for 18 month, Dan and I were now together ALL the time, which had its own challenges. We were both very independent, so it took us a while to find a groove as a couple. The best thing we did during those early days in Spain was adopt our sweet Consuela. She was one day from being euthanized and we had her for seventeen years. I took her home and gave her a bath, which is how I found out our little brown dog was actually yellow! We adopted Roscoe from the animal welfare league a year later. We LOVED being dog parents and took them with us everywhere we went. We also made great friends there, who are still part our lives today.
While we lived in Spain, I worked as the publicity director for the recreation department on base, and started taking graduate-level classes that led to a master’s degree in public administration. We added Emily Jane to our little family three months before we moved back to the states where we’d be stationed in Maryland—a quick 8-hour car ride to home in RI. It was right down the road compared to where were coming from!
First pic is me with my niece, Isabel. The last one is her with her new cousin, Emily.
Emily and I flew home to the US in September of 1995 so we could have some time at home in RI before we moved to Maryland. Dan brought the dogs home in November. That began a complicated time in our lives when Dan worked four to midnight, Sunday through Thursday, at the National Security Agency at Ft. Meade while I commuted to my new job working for an association in Alexandria, VA, as the communications director. Fifty-five miles each way in BAD traffic. Dan was the daytime dad in charge with Emily during those years, and I had the night duty when I got home. We saw each other on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sunday until he went to work. It was a very strange way to live, but we avoided having to put Emily in daycare by working opposite schedules. We also bought our first house in Maryland and settled in for three years on this merry-go-round of working, tending to a baby and taking care of a house. We tried to make the best of the family time we had together during those three years, and we got home to RI or out to Indiana to visit Dan’s family whenever we could.
Toward the end of our stay in Maryland, we found out we were going to be adding to our family. Jake was born at the Navy hospital in Bethesda in October of 1998, right before we were due to leave for our next duty station in Jacksonville, FL, where Dan’s parents and his brother’s family lived. We were very much looking forward to living near family again. Emily was THRILLED to be a big sister, and I was thrilled to be able to see my family more often now that we were back in the US. Emily loved being on the boat and spending time with her cousins. Jake was one month old when we set out in two cars to head south, now a family of six, counting Consuela and Roscoe, who were riding shotgun.
Six years in, I thought I had this navy wife thing figured out. Until we moved to Jacksonville, FL, with a three year old who was used to having Daddy with her every day, a newborn who didn’t sleep through the night until he was 15 months old, two dogs and my full-time job from Virginia now happening at home. Dan was stationed onboard the USS John F. Kennedy, an aircraft carrier that deployed for almost two of the three years we lived in Jax. Those were some GOOD times, let me tell you. LOL! My parents would come and stay with me for a couple of weeks every January, usually while Dan was deployed, on their way to spending the winter in Ft. Lauderdale. I would cry in the driveway when they left as two littles clung to me. Those memories of that time with them are among my favorites now that both of them are gone.
My favorite story from those years was the time I hired a babysitter to watch the kids, told them I’d see them later, and then went outside, walked around the house and crawled in the window to my office so I could work without them knowing I was there. I was one of the first people I knew to telecommute full time, to another state, and this was BEFORE there was a mute button on the phone. Ugh, what I would’ve given for that mute button!
We survived the long deployments, made a lot of good friends, enjoyed our time with Dan’s parents, brother, sister-in-law and nephew. We survived his ship being deployed to New York City on 9/11 to “protect the U.S. motherland,” which was the message he received from the Pentagon in his role on the ship that day. Dan retired from the navy at the end of 2001, and after another year in Jacksonville, we made the decision to move home (for me, anyway) to Rhode Island in 2002. The pictures include one with the kids and all their grandparents. Mine on the left, Dan’s on the right.
We moved to Rhode Island eighteen years ago this year. Emily was in second grade then, and now she’s three years out of college. Jake was almost four when we moved and is now in his third year of college. We settled into a fixer upper where we lived for ten years, working on that house nonstop the whole time before we moved to the house where we live now in 2012. One year after we moved home to RI, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was thankful to be nearby to help her fight the battle that ended the following August when we lost her. My mom’s illness and death was a kick in the butt for me to get moving on that thing I was always going to do “someday.” I finished my first book, Treading Water, in 2005, and haven’t stopped writing books since. I left that job I brought with me to from Virginia in 2011, after 16 awesome years, to write full time. We lost Dan’s parents in 2007 and 2009, and my dad in 2018. Roscoe and Consuela left us in 2006 and 2009 after 14 and 17 years with us. Brandy the dog joined us in 2010, Louie in 2012 and Sam Sullivan came to us when we lost my dad.
We’ve all made great friends in Rhode Island, and the kids had the opportunity to grow up amid a large extended family in RI, while seeing Dan’s family often.
And on our 25th anniversary in 2017, I finally made it to Ocean Cliff, the place Dan had wanted to take me for our first date! This September marks 30 years since the night we met, and we’ll be married 28 years in October. As my dad would say, we’ve had a good *and lucky* run. We’ve loved every minute of being parents to kids and dogs. I wonder if those two innocent kids in 1990 ever could’ve imagined what 30 years later would look like in 2020. Thank you for following along as I told you more about me.