For the past several years, my mother and Jim have rented a beach-front condo in Florida. The condo immediately next door is owned by a couple, Kate and Rich, and each year during the winter months - they lend the condo to Kate's mother and stepfather, so they can escape the chilly Connecticut winters.
My Mom and Jim are very close friends with Kate's mother and stepfather...
While my sister, Eileen, and her husband, Clark, have become best of friends with Kate and Rich.
They've forged such a strong friendship, that Kate and Rich have traveled to Michigan several times for various parties and events that Eileen and Clark have hosted. Their travels for the 4th of July were the third (or fourth) time that they've been to my sister and brother-in-law's house in three years.
Kate and Rich are a fun, fun couple.
They're a sampling of some of our friends who are living an intentionally child-free existence and have traveled extensively around the world and are enjoying life and each other, as much as possible. Now I mention this because on or about Day 3 of our trip to Michigan, Eileen informed us that Charlie and Rich would be having a Pizza Cook-Off and all the people in attendance, over the age of 10, were to serve as the judges.
Charlie loves to cook and is quite good at it.
Rich also loves to cook and he is quite good at it, too. The difference between the cooking skills of these two men is that one cooks in order to serve food as quickly as possible to four constantly hungry children ... whereas the other has been known to take several days off from work (three to be exact) so he could perfect a specific dish.
And that specific dish turned out to be his fig, date, chicken, broccoli, goat cheese pizza and while I was unsure how exactly this would turn out .... Sweet Caroline, it wound up being the best pizza I've ever tasted in my life.
Now for a quick backstory...
When I first met Charlie he was running for the President of the Geology Club and was telling people that he was buying votes. As a poor college student, I was completely broke so I told him that of course I'd vote for him ... if the price was right. We both laughed because he wasn't actually serious about the bribe, and I wasn't actually serious about my vote. You see, I'd promised my vote to Charlie's opponent - this student named Adam - who I'd met earlier in the day when he asked if I'd vote for him and I'd already told him yes.
If I recall correctly, there were around 100 people that voted on that election. And on the day of the election, when they tallied up all the votes, Charlie wound up with 98 and Adam wound up with 2. Charlie won on the premise that he was the coolest guy in the Department, he was smart, handsome, outgoing, funny, athletic, and an all-around respectful gentleman. He was Captain of the Softball team, financed the pizza parties after every game, and threw outrageous Halloween parties. Adam was a nice enough guy, but he was no Charlie.
I'd never divulged to the man who would become my boyfriend, fiancé, husband and father to my children that my vote was promised to someone else. Until ... the first night of our honeymoon.
Charlie and I were sitting at a romantic candlelit dinner on Nantucket Island, reminiscing about how we first met and fell in love. Charlie told me that he fell in love the moment he laid eyes on me when he was bribing people for votes. And I told him that I fell in love the minute I watched the way he interacted with people. Then we talked about the election and my new husband speculated on the results. He pondered aloud, "I've always wondered who the other person was that voted for Adam. I mean, I know he was one of the votes ... but who was the second?"
So I nibbled on some bread before sheepishly telling him that it was me, his new bride that cast the vote for his opponent. Charlie was stunned. "Really?" he kept asking me. "You're kidding, right?"
Even now, I can remember that feeling of betrayal. It was terrible, me voting for another man. Some might ask, "How were you to know that you'd wind up marrying Charlie?" I didn't, of course. But I do know that when I voted for Adam, it just didn't feel right. My mind said one thing, my heart said another and if there's one thing I've learned in life it's that you should always follow your heart.
Since then, I've sworn that I'd never vote against my husband again. And I'm happy to report that I kept my promise. Unfortunately, the rest of the crowd that was gathered on my sister's patio slowly sipping Moonshine, didn't share my sentiment and Rich's pizza won by a landslide. Here's Charlie getting a group hug...
After lamenting that his pizza looked SO SQUARE.
"I don't understand! How did you get your pizza so round?" he kept asking, incredulously.
Kate said that she sat on it, but I think (or rather, hope) that was the moonshine talking.