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Once upon a time, I lived 3000 miles away from here. I was a different person then. Freshly divorced with two young children, the idea of ever attempting to reenter that world called ‘dating’ was beyond the last thing on my to-do list. Surving the obligatory rebound, an unexpected pregnancy (more on that another time), then losing my job then my house then my dad had some legal problems and then to top it off, I had to send my boys to their dad’s for a few months because I just couldn’t take care of any of us properly… the last thing I had to get through was a near mental breakdown. If rock bottom had a rock bottom, 2008 was it for me. I had lost everything. 

So I decided to do something about it. 

Fast forward through anxiety and beauty school. Fast forward to placing in a narional competition. Fast forward through returning to get my teaching certificate. Fast forward through getting near perfect scores on both of my state boards. 

I had a teaching job lined up in Tennessee but due to an unprecedented storm and flooding, the job fell through. It was terribly disappointing… my way out, my chance for a new life had been washed away with the storm. Luckily, I have family all over the country and this presented an opportunity for me to develop a relationship with my mom. The planning and packing began; in June 2010 the boys and I pulled out of our driveway for the lst time. 

We drove cross country, blah blah blah. This story isn’t about that trip, it’s about what happened a few months later. 

I was trying to find a job, as most people would do after moving to a new city. Let’s just say that it wasn’t going very well. The boys started school and I started getting depressed. The days were long and lonely with everyone at school and work. 

Have you ever lived with a neat freak? My mom is one of those people who can’t stand anything to be out of place. She’s the type who will put your empty glass in the dishwasher even if you aren’t done with it. Imagine her distress when the dustbuster broke! Now, my mom is also one of those people who will never buy anything if it isn’t on sale. So the hunt began. 

Mom scoured the Sunday sales flyers until she found the perfect one. There was only one problem: the sale started on a weekday and she would be at work. Enter me, her unemployed daughter who had nothing to do on said weekday. She handed over the flyer and directions to the store. 

Finding the store was fairly easy; finding the right aisle was another story. I had never been in a store like this before. The aisles were arranged oddly and there were just so many things it made me dizzy. But. The store was Alice in Wonderland. I LOVE ALICE IN WONDERLAND. The floor was a checkerboard. On one side of the store was a giant statue of the caterpillar on a mushroom, in the opposite corner was the jaberwocky. In the center the white rabbit was running up the aisle. Alice was in the back watching over everything. I was in awe. And they were hiring. 

I filled out the application somewhere around early October but I never got a call so I moved on. My dad was working for Crossmark back home and referred me to them. Turned out they did have openings in my area and I was hired right away. It wasn’t a dream job but the hours were very flexible so I was able to drop off and pick up the boys everyday. 

In December, I got a call about that application from October. They were holding a group interview and invited me to come in. Of course I went. 

Their interview process was rather odd, much like the store itself. What did I know though, I’m in a new state… maybe this is how they do things here. The 3 managers I spoke to loved me and offered a position on the spot. Unfortunately it was commission only sales and I am not at all about that. One of the managers basically begged me to “give it a shot”, even offering to let me choose what department I wanted and set my own schedule. Ahhhh what the heck. Ok, fine, I’ll give it a shot. 

Fast forward about 9 weeks. It turns out that if you don’t make enough money, they fire you. I worked two week nights and Saturday day shift. Go ahead and guess how busy it was during the week in January and February. Spoiler alert: it’s dead. There were nights I saw literally one customer. So they decided to let me go. On a Saturday. When it was actually really busy. Like I said, this place was weird. 

The main office called my department supervisor to have him send me up. He knew why they called but it was busy so he ‘forgot’ to tell me. They called again a bit later. He reluctantly gave me the message and off I went. 

A week later, I had to go in to do some paperwork so I went by my department to say goodbye to everyone. My supervisor was there; he had just gotten back from a surfing birthday trip to Mexico so we chatted for a few minutes. My only real friend in the store noted that he seemed to linger a bit even after the conversation ended. I hadn’t really noticed but that comment stuck with me. 

The next night, I had a dream about him. No, it wasn’t dirty. We were in ‘our’ house, sitting on the bed, talking. We had hardwood floors and big windows. I think it was morning because the natural light was streaming in and he was only wearing navy blue boxer briefs. 

So I did what anyone would do- I looked him up on Facebook. This guy was pretty interesting although he didn’t have any personal information on his profile. I knew a little from working with him: he is bilingual, likes cars, very smart, and he likes to travel. I asked my friend since she had worked there for awhile but her info was pretty limited to “he has a big family and I think he works out”. 

One night I saw he was online so I sent a message. “Hey, can I ask a personal question?” He was probably confused but said ok. “Do you have a special lady in your life?” I’ve never really been one to beat around the bush and I’m certainly not about to waste my time flirting- for the first time in over 2 years- with a dude who has a girlfriend. The little dots blinked for what felt like an hour. I was positive he was typing out a polite rejection when the message finally appeared. “No”

We ended up talking for quite a while and planned a date that was not in any way referenced as being a date. The plan was to go to Hollywood for a day and pretend to be tourists- complete with stereotypical tourist costumes. He was going to wear a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, socks with sandals, and a fanny pack. I was going to wear a moo moo and fuzzy slippers. This should have been the best not- date ever. Unfortunately , it couldn’t happen for 3 weeks because first he had inventory at work and would be working late, then I had a friend visiting for a week, then I was flying out to a wedding for a few days. I was sure he would lose interest and the not-date would never happen. 

A couple of nights later, The boys were asleep so I was catching up on paperwork. He posted on Facebook that it was a beautiful night to go to the beach. I commented one word: jealous. Half an hour later I got a text. “Don’t be jealous, come with me” OH MY GAWD ARE YOU SERIOUS?! So many butterflies. All of the nerves. Of course I said yes.  And then a 32 year old woman snuck out of the house at 10:30 pm. 

We met at a grocery store right off the freeway. On the drive there I was so nervous that I didn’t know if I could make it. Pathetic, right? Please refer back to the beginning of this story; I had a terrible relationship history. But I made it there, parked in the back of the lot, and neevously waited. My phone buzzed, “I’m the Mexican in the white car”. Ohmygoodness he’s here. 

We drove forrrrrever. He said he was taking me someplace special which I hoped wasn’t out back with a shotgun. The beach entrance was closed so we weren’t able to park as planned. Or so it seemed. He had a plan. He told me there was usually a boogie board in the trunk but it wasn’t there so we needed a piece of wood. A quick drive and we found a real estate sign. He put the sign over the spikes in the exit and I drove right over them. This is of note that he let me drive his car because I had been told that NO ONE drives his car. He’s one of *those* guys. 

He parked all the way at the end of the lot; no one would have ever seen the car down there which was perfect for avoiding a ticket. Or hiding a body. We walked along the beach and up the side of a cliff. It was a gorgeous night; the moon was almost full and lit up the whole beach. 

We walked and talked for hours. It was getting late and chilly so we found a lifeguard stand to take shelter. He had a blanket in the trunk so we huddled up against the wall- and each other. We sat there half cuddled and talked until the moon set into the ocean and the sun came up. He drove me back to my car and we said goodbye. This guy was a perfect gentleman all night; he never even tried to touch me ‘like that’ and he didn’t even kiss me goodbye. I was surprised based on my history with not-gentlemen. 

My mother was… not happy that I was getting home at 7am. What if the kids woke up and I wasn’t there? What if something happened to me? No one knew where I was! What if this guy hurt or killed or raped me?? These are all very valid mother concerns and I love her for it. 

During the next 2.5 weeks leading up to my leaving for the wedding, the 2.5 weeks that we were both supposed to be really busy, we hung out, at the very least, every other night. We hiked to the Hollywood sign. We went to a club to see some band. We ate… a lot. He took me hiking to meet his bff (I figured that was the test, you know how us ladies do. Gotta make sure the best friend approves!). He also ended up driving me to the airport and picking me up when I got back. 

Tourist Day happened as scheduled. We had breakfast first. Pancakes. Huge pancakes. Then those carbs were walked off on Hollywood Blvd. We went to the Believe It or Not museum, checked out tacky tshirts, put our hands in the cement at the Chinese Theater… it was so fun. 

A few days later, we made it “Facebook official” because things aren’t official until they’re Facebook official. The rest, as they say, is history. This year, not only did we celebrate 6 years together but also our daughter’s first birthday. 

About a month before our anniversary this year, my mom gave me a dustbuster. We have a toddler now so it’s kind of a necessity. After a few days of using it, I texted her saying how much I love having a dustbuster and how did we ever live without one? She replied that it’s ironic because had it not been for a dustbuster, Victor and I may never have met. 

I owe my relationship- and my daughter- to the fact that my mother needed THAT dustbuster from THAT store. Here’s to you, mom. Thank you for cleaning obsessively ; thank you for never paying full price.


One comment on “A Dustbuster in Wonderland

  1. Naomi Vogels says:

    Such a cool story!! Good for you guys!


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