I had just returned from a month-long backpacking trip around a few South American countries. I was as tan as I’ll ever get, deeply content. For some reason, I remember my favorite outfit was a blue/aqua dress with white mary-jane keds. Big skinny gold hoop earrings. You know the kind.
I had a gigantic crush on the bicycle mechanic at the bike shop by the train station in which I’d park my bike. I wasn’t even sure he spoke English, to be honest. He would always kind of stand there and look at me with his head tilted, in a curious fashion. I’d babble while he just…observed.
One day as I was picking up my bike, he offered me a strawberry from a basket that he was holding. I happily accepted. Babbled something or other about strawberry canyon and how wasn’t it funny that strawberry canyon really didn’t have any strawberries, just plums?
He said something or other and one thing led to another and I had made a few startling discoveries:
1. He spoke English. Like, a native speaker.
2. I had somehow gotten us together for a date to go plum picking at strawberry canyon!
I went through all the agony that is typically reserved for teenagers, waiting for that day to come. Then wondering what we’d talk about. Wondering what on earth we could possibly have in common. And thinking about his lopsy smile, perfect teeth, thick eyebrows, his caramel-brown eyes. He had said he was half-Vietnamese, half-Ukrainian (by way of Poland) and I thought…nah. I had to have heard that wrong. Who on earth is half-Vietnamese, half-Ukrainian?!
The day came. We met. We walked up to strawberry canyon in Berkeley and meandered around the fire trail, picking and eating what remained of the plums. We watched slugs on the path. We sat on a big rock at the top of the hill, smoked cigarettes and looked at the Bay. We walked back down to Telegraph Avenue and had some dinner at Nan and Curry – he paid.
I was so smitten. I may as well have been made of the proverbial jelly because I could barely make any sense around him.
There are many things I love about our story, the story of us. I love that we fell in love with each other so hard, so fast and it was so right. I love that we had no idea we were both ‘third culture kids’ – that while we are both from the San Francisco Bay Area, we had both grown up abroad. I love that we fit.
I love that 5 years after going plum picking for the first time, we are still plum picking. Only we kind of look like plump hippies now.
Hippies with hippie kids
Plum-hungry hippie kids
Life – it’s good.