How We Met
I met my wife Natalia, who is from the country of Moldova, in 2007 when I was as an intern in marketing for a fortune 500 company in San Diego and she was participating in a work and travel program with that same company while completing her college undergraduate studies. She was only in the United States during the summer months and we did not know each other so well back in those early days. At the time we met, we were both in serious relationships that had us heading in different life directions. But Natalia’s warm heart and vibrant smile made a permanent impression upon me from the first day, so we remained in touch by e-mail and social media. Despite the long distance between Moldova and the United States, Natalia proved to be one of my most supportive friends when I went through some difficult times, including a few deaths in my family.
In 2011, while pursuing her master’s degree, Natalia returned to the United States once again through the work and travel program. This time, Natalia was working across the country in a city that she had always wanted to visit, New York City. The years had not been kind to either of our previous relationships and we were now both single. Neither of us was looking for a new relationship, but Natalia had a way of making me feel good about myself and I knew that I wanted to see her again. We decided to have a reunion in California and tried to make the most of Natalia’s three day weekend off from work by doing some fun doing touristy things in San Diego, Hollywood, and Laguna Beach. Then on the morning that Natalia was supposed to return to New York, Hurricane Irene struck the area forcing all flights in and out to be canceled. I spent that morning on the phone trying to book a new flight for Natalia, but I was on hold for literally hours.
Finally, I gave up on speaking to a real person on the phone and proposed to Natalia that we enjoy the rest of our day. Since I lived near some California wineries, we decided to do some wine tasting. Perhaps it was the wine, but sparks began to fly that evening. We allowed ourselves to look at each other as something more than a supportive friend. There was a wedding at the winery and I asked Natalia to dance with me outside during the bride and groom dance. Later I told her that it was a nice dance, but it was someone else’s dance. I hoped that one day we might have our own dance. The following day, I was able to get through to the airline to finally get Natalia booked on a flight back to New York. Well, the hurricane was still ravaging the east coast, so the soonest she could return was five days away. Coincidentally, I already took that same amount of time off because I needed a break from work. In that time, Natalia and I grew closer as we visited Catalina Island, Bear Mountain, La Jolla Cove, and other unforgettable romantic spots. Natalia and our experiences became the inspiration for my recently published book, How To Love A Butterfly: A Collection of Poems, Short Stories, & Inspirations.
how they asked
While our relationship was just starting to bloom, Natalia and I tried not to think about the fact that Natalia only had a month left at her job in New York before she would return home to Moldova. Yet that reality came upon us quickly. Natalia applied for an extension to her visa and she was allowed to extend her stay in New York pending the decision on that extension. I went to visit Natalia in New York during the Christmas season and as we held each other in Central Park, we acknowledged that there was some truly special force that had bonded us and agreed that a continued relationship was worth exploring. We survived a year of back and forth visits between San Diego and New York while hearing no decision on Natalia’s visa extension.
On one hand, we had the gift of that extra time. On the other hand, her visa request could have been denied any day, requiring her to go back to Moldova immediately. I convinced Natalia to move to California. We took the famous road trip up Highway 1 through Big Sur up to San Francisco. When we returned, we began to discuss our future. With the threat of Natalia having to return home, the only way to give ourselves a realistic chance was to take a leap of faith and get married. And we knew that if we got married in the church, it could take us up to a year before there was an opening. So I surprised Natalia with a ring one day and within a week of our engagement, we got married in a civil court. While the spontaneity of our marriage did not take away anything special from the moment, it was important to us that we complete a religious ceremony too. But for that ceremony, we wanted to have Natalia’s parents be there to witness day.
September 5th 2017 marked our 5 year wedding anniversary. The previous year, Natalia and I planned to have our second wedding in her home country of Moldova in the Orthodox Church coincide with that anniversary. Then in January of 2017, Natalia and I learned that we had a baby on the way–incidentally, the projected due date was on September 5th. Natalia would not be able to fly as we had originally planned, and we really wanted her parents to be there–so it seemed that we had little choice but to postpone our second wedding.
Immediately, I began to devise my own plan to surprise Natalia. I wanted to make it clear that having the second wedding in the church would still be a priority, even after the baby arrived. And an opportunity had presented itself to give us the romantic wedding proposal that we did not have the first time around. I called it “Project Blue Baby,” since we discovered that Natalia was pregnant when our baby was the size of a blueberry and the new engagement ring that I bought was a blue diamond. With a lot of help from our friends, Natalia was about to experience a flash mob proposal.
Father’s day fell on June 18, 2017–and this was the day I wanted to propose to my wife and baby girl. A friend of ours convinced Natalia to see a fashion show with her that was being held on the campus of San Diego State University, where I now work in external relations. I drove Natalia to the university and walked with her to meet up with our friend at the student union courtyard. Along our walk, we spotted two gypsy guitarists playing on a bench while being filmed. After listening to them play, their cameraman invited us to be in the background of their music video as they walked up toward the student union. Without knowing it, Natalia was receiving a serenade on our way to the flash mob surprise.
As we reached the steps up to the student union courtyard, the guitarists stopped playing, and Romanian music began playing somewhere within the student union. When we reached the top of the stairs, Natalia recognized the lone Romanian singer walking toward us from across the courtyard. As we met her in the middle, 22 of our family and friends carrying flowers in the colors of the Modovian flag came out from hiding and formed a circle around us. As the Romanian singer sang traditional songs, our friends and family participated in a traditional Hora dance. Natalia and I danced in the middle of the hora–when the first song ended, our everyone threw their flowers into the middle of the circle at our feet. Natalia looked to me for an explanation of what was happening. I explained by dropping to my knee and showing her the ring.