How I met my husband fourteen years ago at the Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge

It was a Saturday morning fourteen years ago when I met the man I would marry. I was at the Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge in North Park, San Diego, where I had a scheduled meeting with a man I was working with on a volunteer basis. I saw my future husband walk in wearing sweat pants, a tee shirt, and a baseball cap. (He later told me he was running late and didn’t have time to dress right and do his hair because he also had a meeting with other people in a volunteer organization and had overslept.) I practically bumped into him as we both got in the line to get our coffee and pastry. He said, “HELL-oh!” as if he were gladly surprised to run into me. We did a bit of a dance as to whom should go first. I don’t remember who went first, but the next thing I remember I was stirring my coffee at the condiments bar and he walked up to do the same and said “Good MORNing!” as if he were happy to meet me. We were both in such a rush to get to our respective meetings we didn’t dare exchange names or any further pleasantries; we just left it at that buzzing undercurrent. I swear to God, as I watched him walk to his table, I thought “he would be good for me,” like the lyrics in the song from Evita:

I don’t always rush in like this / 20 seconds after saying hello / Telling strangers I’m too good to miss / If I’m wrong I hope you’ll tell me so / But I think you should know / I’d be good for you / I’d be surprisingly good for you.

I looked over at the table where he sat, and recognized one of the men he was sitting with; in fact, I had that man’s number in my phone. After my meeting, I texted the man and asked him to give my number to the cute guy with the reddish brown hair. I never heard from my mystery man, but I went to a Memorial Day pool party two days later and there he was! I went up to him — or he came up to me — I forget which. I found out his name was Andy, and learned more about what he did for a living and as a volunteer. I got out my sunscreen and he asked me if I would like him to do my back. I said, “You don’t have to… I mean… if you want to… I mean… yes, thank you.” I was so flustered, I was bumbling for the right thing to say. Looking back now, I’m glad I got over my nerves and took him up on his offer. We got to know each other at the party, and after a few hours, when he said he needed to go home and walk his dogs, he asked me what time it was, and I said “time to take me home with you.”

(I never thought about it until just now, but I get annoyed now when he asks me the time, because he does it all the time. Nowadays the answer is sometimes “time for you to get a watch,” but if he hadn’t asked me the time that first day, I wouldn’t have had that clever response, and who knows how I would have made my move? Hm… makes you think… the little things that bug us about our loved ones are what makes them them, and we would miss them if we lost them and their annoying little quirks.)

Well, I’ll just say the rest is history because I don’t want to get too intimate here. And speaking of history, here are a few fun facts about the coffee house where we met, the song that inspired the woman who opened it, and the poem that inspired the song. I Googled it this morning and found out that the correct spelling of the bittersweet song by Debussy is Clair de Lune, which means moonlight, and the song was based on the poem “Clair de Lune” written by another Frenchman, the poet Paul Verlaine (who, coincidentally, had a scandalous love affair with the then seventeen-year-old French poet, Arthur Rimbaud). The reason the coffee house had an e at the end of Clair was that the owner’s name was Claire. I also learned that, sadly, Claire closed her coffee house in February of last year.

Here is the original french text and an English translation of the poem “Clair de Lune”:

Clair de lune

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L’amour vainqueur et la vie opportune,
Ils n’ont pas l’air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d’extase les jets d’eau,
Les grands jets d’eau sveltes parmi les marbres.

From Fêtes galantes (1869)

Moonlight

Your soul is like a landscape fantasy,
Where masks and Bergamasks, in charming wise,
Strum lutes and dance, just a bit sad to be
Hidden beneath their fanciful disguise.

Singing in minor mode of life’s largesse
And all-victorious love, they yet seem quite
Reluctant to believe their happiness,
And their song mingles with the pale moonlight,

The calm, pale moonlight, whose sad beauty, beaming,
Sets the birds softly dreaming in the trees,
And makes the marbled fountains, gushing, streaming–
Slender jet-fountains–sob their ecstasies.

And here is the song played in a video “with an animated graphical score”:

There is a bittersweetness to all of this, but as the French say, c’est la vie! At some point, if one of us loses the other, that will be bittersweet too, but the bitterness of the future doesn’t diminish the sweetness of the present. For today, and for the fourteen years we have loved each other, I am blessed.

Mom handing me a gift

Remembering my mother — and a hard lesson I learned about giving

Mom handing me a gift

I cherish this damaged old photo because it shows something I remember my mother for — the love she had for me and the joy she took in giving.

My mom had her faults, and I sometimes I had a hard time seeing past them to her love. Thirty years after this picture was taken, I learned a very hard lesson about giving. It was Christmastime, and I was giving my mom an iMac I didn’t need anymore. I had told her a few days before that I was bringing it over so she could make a space for it. See, she was a hoarder and I knew she had no place for it the last time I went to her apartment. Well, I got to her apartment with my Mac — her Mac — and she had no place for it. I was angry with her, and told her if I was giving her a valuable gift, the least she could do was clear a space for it. A minute or so passed — maybe we argued some more, maybe we went silent… I don’t remember — and she told me she had some gifts for me. I told her if she didn’t have room for my gift, I didn’t want hers. I might have even said something cruel about how I knew she had just gathered up some things from her clutter and stockpiles of stuff she bought from Avon and Fingerhut with money she didn’t have. Her face fell, and she broke into sobs. She lowered her head, put her hands up, and cried, “I just want to give you these things; why won’t you let me give you these things? I love you, and it’s Christmas, and I just want to give you some presents.” Suddenly I was horrified by how much I had hurt her feelings and how cruel I was to not accept her gifts. I saw that she loved me, and that all she wanted to do was show me her love. I hugged my mom and cried with her and told her how sorry I was. I took her gifts, and even if they were trinkets she didn’t buy expressly for me, they were things she thought I’d like, and they were things she had to give — needed to give. I realized that people want to give, that they take pride in giving, and that giving was something to honor, not to squash.

I look back on all the times I spent with my mom, and this is one of my greatest regrets. Yes, I learned from it, and yes, we made up for it, but I will never forget how much I hurt her, how pitiable she looked when she broke down in tears, and how my heart felt torn from my chest when I saw I had caused her pain. I regret it to this day, but I learned from it, and though I may forgive myself, I hope I never forget it.

I almost did forget it, though. One of the last times I saw my mom, before she died of cancer in 2011, she pointed to two unwrapped packages of socks, one of them tube socks and one of them short socks. I don’t like tube socks, and I already had short socks, and I said, “Aw, Mom, I don’t need socks.” My mom gave me a look that said “you know better” and said, “Danny, take the socks.” Remembering the pain I had caused ten years before, I gave her a look that said, “you’re right” and took them and said, “thank you.” They were the last presents my mother gave me.

I gave away the tube socks so someone else could wear them, but I wear the short socks around the house. They are thick and cozy, and I think of Mom when I wear them. The love she gave me was greater than these socks, and will outlast these socks, but accepting these socks was a way of accepting her love while she was alive — while she could look in my eyes and see me taking what she had to give.

May you appreciate your mom this Mother’s Day and every day of the year!

A pair of the short socks my mom gave me
A pair of the short socks my mom gave me before she died