It was, dear children, the unlikeliest of meetings. Really, when I was growing up I had no idea that I would end up with the tall, dark and handsome man from across the world that I eventually did. (Did he read that? Do I get brownie points for mentioning his handsomeness?)
One summer in college, I took an internship at Yellowstone National Park as a manager at the Canyon Lodge Restaurant. I arrived in May – and what an arrival it was, still with snow on the ground. I spent the first part of the summer working hard, hiking – in general, having a great time. By mid-July, my stay was almost over. I was to leave on August 1st and go to yet another internship at a restaurant in Disney World. My life sounds super tough, doesn’t it?
That, little darlings, was never to pass. Instead, one day as I was minding my own business in the quite atrocious employee dining room, I was approached by a gorgeous but ridiculously skinny stranger with a very thick but hard to place accent and two of his friends. He asked if they could sit with me. Of course, I agreed! I had never seen any of them before, but they seemed sweet and we started chatting. He told me his name was John and that he had just arrived to work in the restaurant. “Oh!” I said, “you’ll work with me!” He had been to Yellowstone the year before and knew the ropes, so as soon as he found out I was a manager … he asked me for a promotion. “How cheeky!” I thought, “I’ve never even met you!”
The next day I happened to be in the office, and inquired about John. “John?” was my coworkers reply, “there’s no John here.” I asked him to check again; he did, and said “nope, there are two new guys – both exchange students from Europe but they both have really weird names, no John.” Hmmm…. no John? That guy must be a total creeper! A few days later he started work, and showed up with a nametag that said “Ionut.” I asked him why he gave me an alias? Apparently, Ionut translates to Johnny… he thought it would be easier for me. That, little ones, was the first in a long line of cultural and language-related mishaps – a cue to what the future held, ha!
Somehow, Ionut and I clicked immediately and we began spending every single minute possible together. He was honest, and funny, and sincere. He was amazing. I drove he and his friends on an epic journey to the nearest Walmart for supplies (don’t laugh! This was Yellowstone, it was over two hours away and we got trapped in a herd of buffalo at night on the way home!!).
By the time my birthday rolled around in late July, I knew he was someone special. I talked to my mom about him, and she asked how I felt about him in return. I said, “Mom, he’s from across the world – I’ll never see him again.” She gave me some of the best advice of my life, she said “people do it all the time, have long distance relationships – it’s no big deal.”
Now, let me tell you, it IS a big deal. We proceeded to have an intercontinental relationship for the next two years and it WAS hard. We both made an effort to talk every day over Skype despite the 8-hour time difference. I scrapped and saved and waitressed every second possible to be able to visit him in Romania every winter and summer break from school, and we were always sad to leave each other – the kind of devastated angst and passion-filled sad that only happens when you’re young and in love.
But you know what? In that moment, on the phone, I believed my mother. I trusted that if she said it could be done, then it could. So, I didn’t go to Disney World like I was supposed to – I took an epic cross-country road trip with your father instead. Then, I drove him to the airport (in New York, from Wyoming!) and started that long distance relationship, which became love, and then marriage, and then babies, and was a thousand times over worth every second. So, kiddos, do you know what the moral of this story is?
Listen to your mother!
To read more from our “How I Met Your Father” series, click here.