A brief history of love.
On June 9, 1973, my parents got married, and Secretariat won the Triple Crown.
Forty-five years later, they celebrated their forty-fifth wedding anniversary, and another horse, for only the thirteenth time in history, won the Triple Crown. His name was Justify.
But love keeps no record of wrongs, and love requires no justification, and love is not love, which alters when it alteration finds.
My partner and I knew we had to go down to Virginia. We’d known for months, ever since we moved in March. We knew because we needed lamps for the new apartment, and the lack of light was getting to us both.
The study remained unlit and unorganized and mainly unused, and for two people who work from home, this could not stand. But we couldn’t make the timing work.
We tried for the weekend of May 19th, and we tried for Memorial Day weekend.
The flights grew increasingly expensive with every moment of indecision.
And so we settled on the weekend of June 7th, when our work schedules made things easier and the flight from New York to Virginia had yet to skyrocket.
The plan was to fly down and drive back. To rent a car in Virginia and fill it with lamps.
We decided to break up the drive and stay overnight in Sperryville, Virginia. A tiny town I discovered two years earlier when I'd found a vintage flip book for the Skyline Drive in a Brooklyn shop.
I found the book, flipped through it, and felt I needed to go. So I went south, followed the breadcrumbs, and drove out of the mountains singing.
It was then that I saw the sign for Sperryville's main street. I turned right and spent four hours in a town four blocks long.
I went into a coffee shop where the barista, David, poured me the last cup of blueberry lemonade, and the other barista, Destiny, told me how grateful she was to live in this small town where she could see the mountains and at night, the stars, and where she was constantly reminded of just how big the world is and just how small we all are.
David urged me to visit the town distillery, so I did. I bought a special bottle of whiskey, crafted from a historic recipe from 1797. You can only buy the bottle there, in Virginia, and I carried it with me back to New York.
Two weeks later - on the summer solstice - I met my now partner.
One month later, we had our first date, and I told him about the books in the mountains and the music, and we played guitar and drank that entire bottle of whiskey. It went down like water, and somehow, I swear, we didn't even get that drunk. And somehow, he found a way to get a replacement bottle shipped from Virginia to New York. He gave it to me as a gift on our second date.
His name is David.
Timing always works out.
David and I booked a flight to Virginia on June 7, 2018, and I booked a room at an inn on a farm, walking distance from the whiskey distillery.
I was happy that the earlier dates hadn't worked out and that we now had time to visit the special place I'd visited two years earlier. That I always felt I was meant to share with him.
I checked my calendar and realized that it had actually been exactly two years since my trip to the mountains. I had visited Sperryville on June 7, 2016.
No, really, it always works out.
David and I had been talking about getting a pet every single day ever since we moved in March.
Often, we talked about puppies. Often, I thought cats seemed far less overwhelming.
Every day, when I mentioned getting a pet, he asked me when we were actually going to go get this animal I kept talking about. I kept telling him, soon. It's coming soon.
I followed all of the adoption Instagrams and researched adoption days, but every time I considered reaching out or attending, I thought, It's just going to show up in a backyard or something.
Living in New York, without a backyard, I wasn't quite sure how this was going to happen. Then, six days before our flight to Virginia, my sister's husband went to get the lawnmower out from under their back porch in Virginia. That's where he found three six-week-old kittens. Alone and scared and sweet.
Beginnings blur with endings.
We flew down to Virginia and arrived at my childhood home, where my parents had lived since I was eight years old.
I spent hours in the attic, cleaning dust from lamps and art and old wooden chairs, and going through stacks of my childhood artwork and report cards and pictures. Everything had to be decided on - to keep or to toss - because twenty minutes away, south of the river, around the corner from my sister's house, my parents were building a new home.
They are preparing to move there in just a few months, once construction is complete.
So on their forty-fifth anniversary, eight hours before Justify won the race, we visited their home-in-progress. We walked up wooden stairs and peered through wooden studs, between rooms.
My mom explained their purpose: The study is going there. This is the toilet room, the shower. We won’t have a tub here, but there’s one in the other bathroom.
My parents lamented the lack of a grocery store in the nearby shopping center, but, I told them, you get so many more trees and blades of grass.
Around the corner, at my sister’s house, she was celebrating her thirty-fifth birthday because on my parents' tenth anniversary, she was born.
We greeted her with gifts and goodies from the attic. We left with an orange kitten that weighed 1.7 pounds.
The next morning, David and I picked up the rental car, folded down its seats, and loaded it with lamps and carpets and pillows and art. We placed the kitten in a carrier, and my mom took a picture of all three of us before we got in the car and I waved goodbye to my childhood home for what was likely the very last time.
Foxes are sneaky and full of surprises.
David and I and drove through Virginia horse country to the Inn at Mount Vernon Farm. As we drove, the kitten sat in my lap, and Billy Joel played. We passed fields of horses and cows and barrels of hay, and I told him how this is my favorite land. How no land feels as good to me as this land does.
When we arrived at the inn, we checked into our room and handed the kitten to the innkeeper, who graciously agreed to care for him during our stay.
Our room had large windows looking out onto the front lawn and the mountains beyond, and we'd only been there a couple of minutes when David called me over to see a fox walking through the grass. Foxes, you see, were everywhere.
There was a gold fox head door stop. Porcelain foxes on the mantle. Foxes in paintings. Foxes everywhere, and the distillery, where we were headed next, was named Copper Fox Distillery.
I explored the room. The coaster on my side of the bed was covered in ruby throated hummingbirds, the animal that one year earlier taught me all about joy and travel and birth and sight. And on the table by the windows, there was a mini chest of drawers. I opened each one. In the middle drawer, there were two red boxes that read “Tiny Jewel Box.” When I opened them up, they each held a red ring box with no ring inside. My heart started to race, and I closed the drawer.
David and I walked out the front door and into the yard where the fox had crossed. We walked along the paved path above the Thornton River, and we looked out at the misty green mountains. I told him how I’d been there two years earlier, two weeks before we first met, and how that was when I’d wished to meet my partner.
He thanked me for being his. Told me he wanted me to be his partner forever. Got down on one knee and pulled out a red ring box.
But it wasn’t one of the boxes from the room. He had no idea about those boxes. This box had been in his family for approximately one hundred years. It was from South Africa, and that’s where the ring was found before traveling to Europe and surviving the war and making its way to America and now, to me.
For the last two mornings, when I tried to put on the gold carnelian family ring I typically wear on my left ring finger, it wouldn’t budge past my knuckle.
My left ring finger was empty and ready as David knelt before me on that magical land that for some reason, I believe, I had to visit in order for us to find each other.
He asked me to marry him, and I said “of course” and “yes.”
Afterward, we visited the distillery and bought two bottles of special only-in-Virginia whiskey, and foxes, I learned, partner for life.