The last thing I wanted to do that breezy fall day, back in 1997, was attend an early mental health conference in South San Francisco. I was going through a difficult time in life, a drawn out divorce, and I barely had the energy to make it to work as a school psychologist, much less pull off the professional thing at a conference an hour away. I remember getting stuck in traffic and feeling like a hot mess when I finally arrived at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront in South San Francisco. I thought I could finally relax, then I learned a colleague was intent on introducing me to the chairman of the conference before the session began. UGH!!!! I protested and started to walk away, until he caught my eye. His smile, and that twinkle in his eyes, were electric. I must have lit up, too, though it had been awhile since I had felt lit up in any way.
That evening a group of us walked down the waterfront to dinner at the Elephant Bar. Halfway through my chopped salad, I spotted the chairman, his name was Scott. He made a beeline to our table, with that bright smile, and didn't break eye contact with me--not even once. He warmly greeted the entire group, some who he already knew from previous conferences, but he made me feel like I was the only one there. As the evening faded, the two of us ended up in the hotel lounge, talking late into the night. I remember it being the most authentic conversation I had ever had with a man. We shared some 'jagged edge' feelings of our individual lives but also hopes for satisfying relationships in the future. We had a connection, it was undeniable... and that's where it ended. We said goodbye and didn't speak again, for an entire year.
The following October, I again made my way to the conference. I assumed Scott would attend, but I was unsure if we would even recognize each other. Thinking I had been too open, maybe shared too much (I know, me?) or perhaps he had, too. I was feeling a little nervous, but also excited. As it turns out, he did remember me and I remembered him....that smile, that twinkle in his eye, captured me all over again.
This time, we stayed in touch and started seeing each other shortly after. In the end, we were both grateful that we didn't rush it, that we let time bring us back together when we were more ready for this kind of love.
My Editor, Scott, wanted to add his memory of that time in our lives:
From Scott: my recollections are very similar. I was running ragged with the pain of going through divorce and the sadness of the loss. I was also running high on the excitement of being in my element with the incredibly committed people who attended this conference in the name of making life better for kids. This would be a conference of 600 friends. One of these long-time friends and colleagues introduced me to a beautiful woman with... you guessed it... a radiant smile! I remember extended conversation in the pain zone, and a quick recognition of her heart, intellect, and ability to hear me and understand. She was going through it, too, and was one who felt deeply the pain and the desire to create a stronger, more intimate relationship in the future. But I was nowhere near ready to consider new relationships...
Like Heather, I didn't know if I would recognize her the following year, but there was that lovely blond with the crazy-bright smile. I yanked her on to the dance floor during the "hospitality" event, and the rest is... his-story and her-story.)
Flash forward to the year 2000, when Scott and I again stayed at the Marriott Waterfront, the night before our flight to Zihuatanejo, Mexico for our honeymoon.
The gracious staff sent the most delicious chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne to our room!
We visited this favorite spot again earlier this month, 15 years post honeymoon, as we started our 15th anniversary trip to Riviera Maya. Once again, the Marriott staff treated us like old friends. As we checked in to the modern, spacious suite (newly updated) we felt sentimental...returning to the "scene of the crime" we joked, but, more honestly, where our lives changed forever.
We visited the waterfront walkway, outdoor dining, lounge area and even the conference room where we first laid eyes on each other...This was a walk down memory lane for sure!
And yes, Marriott remembered...
We celebrated with bubbly and those amazing chocolate covered strawberries--
15 years later!!
And with that, a night down memory lane, we were off to catch a plane to Riviera Maya!
I often tell friends, who are feeling discouraged or lonely, you just never know who you might meet, and how your life may change, around that next corner--or at that conference. ;)
Cheers to the romance of travel!
Thank you to Marriott and Lenna in PR for the upgraded suite, prosecco and chocolate covered strawberries.
Marriott is clearly a brand with a heart!