I was living in the San Fernando Valley, going out dancing with friends and hitting up night clubs. I was dating — a lot — but never seemed to find the right fit.
There was always something missing.
When the guys were good-looking, they had no personality. When they were successful, they weren’t very attractive. When they had personality, well … that’s another story.
A girlfriend called me and said there was a singles’ Hanukkah house party happening nearby and that there would be a good crowd. No cover charge — just bring food to share.
I got dolled up — in a shimmery gold top, black leather pants and big hair. (I mean big.) And baked up a tray of my favorite chocolate brownies. The house party was crowded, and before I even placed the brownies on the buffet table, a cute, dark-haired guy wearing a red flannel plaid shirt grabbed one off the plate.
He grinned at me as he scarfed the brownie down in one big bite. I couldn’t help but laugh. He introduced himself. Alan and I got to talking and soon began discussing what we’d both been up to during the holiday season. (The date happened to be Dec. 26 — it was one of those years when Hanukkah ran right up against Christmas.)
“So what did you do yesterday?” on Christmas, I asked.
“Well,” he said, munching away on a second brownie, “I celebrated my birthday.”
“No, you didn’t! I celebrated mine!”
We both stared at each other in awe, wide smiles crossing our faces.
What were the odds of two Jewish kids who were both born on Christmas Day meeting up at a Hanukkah singles’ party on Dec. 26?
Suddenly, we couldn’t stop talking, searching for other things in common. There were many. We had similar backgrounds: We both lost our parents at a young age. We both owned homes in the Valley. He was in marketing, and I was a legal secretary working in Century City, but we both had creative side projects we were working on. (I was developing a cartoon about a talking flamingo, and he worked in theater in his off hours, and dreamed of being a Broadway producer.)
Fast forward: Soon, we were cuddling up in a small chair, making out, and ignoring the rest of the party. It seemed like no one else in the world was there.
When he asked me to come home with him that night — he said for cake and coffee and to see his etchings — I assumed he had bigger ideas in mind. I told him no, leaving him on the front steps of the party in disbelief. We exchanged phone numbers, though, and then I headed out with my girlfriend.
Several weeks passed — and I didn’t hear from him.
I thought, “Oh, no, another one of those guys who takes your number and never calls.” But I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I finally got up the nerve to call him.
When he answered, it sounded like he’d been expected me to call. (I found out later he thought he was playing “hard to get.”)
We chatted for a while and finally he said, “So, what are you doing Friday night?”
He took me down to Santa Monica to a small Ethiopian restaurant (I haven’t had that food since), and it was a magical night (except for the food — not a fan). It was like we’d known each other our whole lives and were so comfortable with each other. It was so easy to be with him. Did I mention he was cute too with beautiful dark thick hair?
When he kissed me outside after dinner under the bright starlit night, I knew that he was The One.
By Valentine’s Day of the following year, we’d started seeing each other more often, even though I had to push him on a bit.
When he gave me a key to his house in Sherman Oaks, I knew he was finally serious about me.
It would be another year before he asked me — on Christmas Eve — to marry him. By chance, while visiting a very good friend in Orange County a short time after the wedding, we ended up falling in love with Laguna Beach. We bought a home there, with a beautiful ocean view.
We wanted to have children, but unfortunately things started to unravel.
I had a miscarriage. And then I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My mother had died of breast cancer, so I was grateful: My doctor said I was lucky to catch it so early. I had lymph nodes removed. “You really shouldn’t try to get pregnant again,” my doctor had told me. I survived that ordeal with the support of my husband and friends.
When I was recuperating, I became more involved in the arts. The arts are everywhere in Laguna Beach. It’s addictive — in a good way.
I started taking painting classes and ceramic classes. My husband bought me a kiln, for my pottery. Then, the cancer came back again, and the battle started all over again. But my art always took me back to a good place.
And I had my husband with me through the worst of it; he was so supportive and vigilant in getting the me best doctors and the best treatment.
Our only experience raising a baby would be with our dog, Bogart, a beautiful black-and-white Cocker Spaniel who lived for 18 years.
We haven’t found a replacement since.
But I don’t just want to tell you about the sad times. We have had many wonderful experiences together. We’ve traveled the world — Asia, Europe and Israel. We just returned from a trip to Spain. We’ve been to the Oscars, the Clinton inauguration and to the Knesset in Israel. Our love of theater led us to work on a script together. And Alan hasn’t given up his dream of Broadway: He is working on a play.
Life is not always perfect, and we’ve had many ups and downs over the years. Fights over silly things that seemed so significant at the time. And fights over money. Work dried up for us both during the recession, but houses still have leaky roofs and plumbing problems that need to be taken care of.
There were times where I thought we’d break up for good. But something always brought us back together again.
Things always somehow worked out. We’ve come a long way since meeting in the Valley.
It seemed bashert — that’s Yiddish, for “meant to be” — that we met that day.
And besides, it’s always fun making up.
This holiday season, in addition to celebrating our birthdays, we’ll also be celebrating 30 years of marriage. And I know just what he’ll wear for the party.
Those red plaid shirts are still in style!
The author is an artist living in Laguna Beach. She wrote about her cancer journey in the anthology, “A Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors” and she showcases her work at the Sawdust Art Festival. Her website is designsbyrosalie.com
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