Believe in love at first sight -- not because it should be the rule or even the exception, but because it happened to me. Even more so, because I am a divorce attorney who still believes in love.
As a family law attorney, I work side-by-side with people going through a divorce. I am the one in the courtroom with them when their marriages end. The judge makes an order, and it is over. Then, a movie reel of the parties in happier times plays, like a slideshow, in my head. Broken dreams and broken people left to pick up the pieces.
In my profession, I reflect on love often. I have witnessed all sorts of love: sad love, hateful love, bitter love, resentful love, wistful love, unrequited love, desperate love, dead love, arrogant love, new love, broken-hearted love, and love that has been lost and found again. I have seen it all.
Love like most things just happens. For me, it was the summer of 1995, and my parents wanted to take a cruise to Southeast Alaska. I had just turned twenty years old and going to Alaska was nowhere near my list of places to go that summer.
In Juneau, we signed up for a river rafting trip on the Mendenhall River. Up until this point in my life, I was anxiously waiting for it to happen to me: to find love. "A watched pot never boils," my mother would say. Or, "it will happen when you least expect it."
Well, it happened that day: August 9, 1995. I stepped off the tour bus, looked up, and he was standing there. The cutest boy I had ever seen: one of the tour guides wearing an auspicious royal blue baseball cap.
The magnetism was automatic. I walked over to him and instantly struck up a conversation.
As fate would have it, he was not assigned to my raft that day. So with one swift motion of his hand, he pointed me in another direction and that was it.
Gone in a blink of an eye. I did not even catch his name.
During the rafting trip, I fantasized about coming up the following summer to work as a raft guide so that we could reconnect. As a more short-term goal, I secretly coveted only a picture of him to show my friends back at school.
We stopped at the halfway point. My hands were full of salmon jerky and the tour's signature Mendenhall Madness drink, when I felt a tap on the shoulder. I turned around, and it was him. Before I knew it, he asked me to meet up with him at the dock at 7 pm.
I had a date in Alaska.
My over-protective mother told me strictly, "Be back on the boat by 9:00 pm, and whatever you do, DO NOT GET IN A CAR WITH HIM." She reasoned that we did not know this boy and that the boat was leaving at 10:00 pm with or without me.
Shortly thereafter, I was driving up the mountainside with him in a Dodge Minivan. Rule number two: broken.
We finally arrived at our destination, "Perseverance Trail," a historic and scenic trail head, recognized as the first road in Alaska after the discovery of gold. Unaware at the time that I was about to also strike gold, fear began to set in as I hiked in the woods with a boy I only knew for less than an hour, with my mother's words lingering in my mind.
Low and behold, my dream boy was quite unaware of my paranoia. He proceeded to tell me a story of how he carried his dog over a metal grated bridge, and I knew in my heart that if he cared that much about his dog's paws, he was not going to harm me.
He got me back to the dock on time, and we exchanged mailing addresses. He lived in Juneau, and I lived in San Francisco. This scribbled, ripped one-half page with his address now sits in a frame in my living room.
He watched me walk up the gangplank with my hand securely holding my most treasured possession, a rafting picture of him that he just happened to have in that minivan. I just knew. I knew in my heart that we would be together.
I told anybody who would listen the story of how I fell in love with a raft guide in Alaska, and almost everybody told me the same thing, "It will never work." Long-distance relationships are not easy, but my faith never faltered. Two undergraduate degrees, three years, and four different states later, this boy moved out to California with only his dog and a Rubbermaid container of all of his worldly possessions -- to be with me.
This August we will celebrate our fourteenth wedding anniversary with our three children. My favorite anniversary, truth be told, is still August 9th: nineteen years this year, almost more time together than apart.
I tell this story not to say that love at first sight happens to everybody, but it happened to me. Love comes in all shapes and sizes and every story in powerful in its own right.
I choose to believe in love and in the good in people, regardless of whether their marriages end in divorce. Most of these people also believed in love, but for one reason or another the chapters of their stories ended. I consider it my role to help them through the process and in many ways, unofficially, get them to believe in themselves again and to believe in love.
Serendipity has been defined as the ability to find luck or happiness in unlikely places. My mother was right; love found me when I was least expecting it, on the banks of a remote river in Alaska.
People ask how I could still believe in love when I am surrounded daily with failed marriages. From my perspective, then better question is how could I not believe?