i paint i write

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I Almost Never Met Him

Nick and Pamela Hodges, March 1990

It is 9:17 at night. I just finished washing the dishes, but I am not going to wash the pot I burnt the broccoli in, it can wait until morning.

I looked at the time and date on the bottom of my screen and saw that today is January 26th.

Oh my stars! Today is the day I met my husband!

If I hadn’t gone to the Atusugi Officer’s Club on January 26th, 1990  I would never have met John Nicholson Hodges, and I wouldn’t be Pamela Fernuik Hodges and there would be no Hodges children and no dog named Martha to snore all night, and no Pooh, or Nepeta, or Jr or Charlie cat to eat grass and barf on the carpet and no seven litter boxes to clean. 

I met my husband  on a Friday night.  He was standing by the counter of the bar paying for a newspaper. He had on a jean jacket with a small tear in the back and large wire rimmed glasses. He tells the story that he was on the way to see the movie, “Parenthood”, but when he saw three single American women walk in, he decided to stay. The only women that were usually there were the wives of officers.

When we walked in the first thing he looked at was our left hands.

My husband is sitting at his computer getting ready to leave for work as I write this.

“Why did you  speak to me first?”

“Because you were the most beautiful.”

I introduced myself as Pamela and he said, “Hello Pam.” He was Nick. Legally John. At our wedding his friends called him John and my family and friends called him Nick.

I had been seeing a Christian Counselor in Tokyo for several months before I met Nick; trying to learn how to take care of myself, set boundaries, learn how to trust people.

A gentleman from church had taken me out to dinner, Fat Stanley with a heart murmur. Every Sunday after the dinner date,  he would say,”Great to see you. I will call. We have to get together again soon”. Rebecca, who was teaching me about Jesus at the Donut store at seven in the morning once a week, heard my stories. Stanley this, Stanley that, Stanley said, then  I said, then he said. Waiting for Stanley to call . Rebecca took me for lunch mid-week, and told me with hesitation, “Pamela, Stanley leaves messages on my answering machine every day  asking her to out to dinner.”

She was a bridesmaid at my wedding to thin Nick.

After the luncheon with Rebecca I began to see a counselor, I paid  for someone to listen to me, help me judge character. I called the counselor for advice when I was asked to the Officers Club. I was supposed to go to a Bible study that Friday. I called the woman who was hosting the study and said I was not coming. I was invited to a party at the Atsugi Base Officers Club. She counseled me not to go,

“You are never going to meet anyone you would want to marry at a bar.”

She was a bridesmaid at my wedding to the man I met that Friday. I went to the bar. It was a two and a half hour train ride from Tokyo. I was invited by Melissa. I had just met her that week. She was a first time visitor to my church and I invited her to join my group of friends for lunch at Tony Roma’s for ribs.

Nick shadowed me all evening as I spoke to helicopter pilots, submarine men and naval aviators. He would appear at my side and gently touch my elbow and ask if I wanted anything to drink. He said I was drinking White Russians. I remember that it was just coke. The skippers wife introduced herself to me and gave me a thoughtful unsolicited reference for Nick. Wanting me to feel confident that he was a fine upstanding officer. If she had a daughter living in Japan, she would want someone to look out for her.  I wonder what she would have said about the helicopter pilot. He told me my job as a photographer was easy. All I had to do was push a button.

A group of Melissa’s friends from the base were going to the dining room next to the bar. I asked Nick to join us.  When we walked into the dining room, Nick shouted,
“I get to sit next to Pamela.”  I ordered a BLT with onion and a slice of processed cheese. When we had finished dinner and were walking out to pay, Nick placed his hand on the small of my back  gently guiding me out of the dining room. He paid for my meal.

We returned to the Officers Club. There were fewer people, and some were dancing. I wanted to dance. The week before I  met Nick I decided that I would not be as forward when I met a man. I had my own business, and was  not shy to introduce myself to someone.  I would walk up to a complete stranger at a business dinner, hand them my business card and ask if we could get together. After Fat Stanley’s fake promise to call, I wanted to step back and see who would step forward.

“I sure do like to dance. This is a great song.”  He asked me to dance to Ritchie Valens, La Bamba.  Our first dance. Me in a long flared skirt and him in the jean jacket his mother bought  him.

I wanted  to see him again. Waiting, waiting and then…

“May I have your phone number?”

I told him this morning what I was writing. I asked him if he still remembered my phone number from Japan. He did, 202-2261. He told me to look in the basement. He had kept the piece of paper I wrote it on.  On the top right corner is a map to Tokyo Baptist Church. I invited him to come Sunday. He loved Jesus, just like me.

Melissa was close friends with a family on base that we were staying with that night. They were going to drive us back to their home on the compound. Nick offered to walk me.  If I had not gone to the Atsugi Officers Club January 26th, 1990, I would not have met Nick. When he tells the story he likes to say that he picked me up in a bar. I prefer to say we met him at a party at an Officers Club.

We saw each other every day until he shipped out two weeks later on the USS Midway. I have a box of letters in the basement that contains his daily letters over the next year.

He was a little hesitant to marry me after I completely rearranged all of his furniture when I can to visit him where he was stationed in Lemoore, California.  When we lived in Saint Paul, Minnesota after being married for about 12 years, he wrote a contract on the inside of the kitchen cabinet in magic marker; I would promise not to move the furniture for a year. It was a struggle, but I signed.

He gave me my engagement ring in a potato.  He asked me,  “Would you make french fries for me for the rest of my life? ”  It was three months to the day when he proposed.

His first idea was to ask me at his church during coffee after the service. I had already been there three days visiting from Japan. I was tired of waiting for him to ask me. So at dinner over spaghetti, I told him that if he ever wanted to ask me an important question, like making french fries for him, I would say yes. I thought maybe he was unsure of my response to important questions, so I hinted.  One the way back to his apartment he stopped at the grocery store and bought a potato. He carved our a wedge and placed the ring inside.

I left Japan with nine cubic meters of boxes packed in an international  shipping crate,  and a fiancée visa.  I had arrived seven years earlier with only a knapsack, a 35 ml camera and a stack of photographs in my portfolio.

We married on September 22, 1990 at his parents church in Wayzata, Minnesota.

I promised to always love him, and he promised to take care of me and to work hard to always have fun. Tonight I am going to make him french fries.

And I did.

Do you have a story about meeting someone special? Please tell me in the comments. I would love to know your story.

—————————

My friend Christa who writes at ChristaSterken.com asked if I would add photographs of Nick and me. “Great story but I wanted a picture of him how he looked and you, how you looked. Don’t leave me hanging.”

When I first published the story I only had a photograph of the yellow note with my phone number on it. Here you go Christa, thank you for asking.

Here is Nick Hodges in 1990 wearing the glasses he had on when I met him.

Nick Hodges in 1990 wearing the glasses he had on when I met him.

And me in New Orleans on a photo shoot in 1989 with a Japanese client, right before I met Nick.

And me in New Orleans on a photo shoot in 1989 with a Japanese client, right before I met Nick.

 

About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • Kathy Storrie

    You make a handsome couple. I love hearing how couples meet. Maybe’s that’s why I love writing romance novels. I know which month and year I met my husband but not the day. I was attending a Baptist seminary in New Orleans where the ratio of men to women was 7:1. I was smothered daily with so much testosterone that I couldn’t concentrate on my studies let alone remember my name. The stream of ministerial men that visited the one girl dormitory was a nightly blur of candy so I don’t remember the exact day my eyeballs fell on Thomas Alexander STorrie. I Just remember feeling pleasantly surprised I didn’t have to die to experience heaven. My girlfriend who had already snagged her fish last year asked me what I thought of Sandy Storrie. I had to think which one he was and said,”Oh, I don’t think he’s my type!” I always eat my words but he proved to pass the taste test.

  • Berdeane Bodley

    I still think you make such a handsome looking couple, so proud to call you my children, love you both so much………………….

  • Terje

    This is a beautiful story. Happy anniversary! Here’s a confession: I read your post and only then remembered that i had my 19th wedding anniversary on the 25th of January. We have never forgotten it before. Here is the story of meeting my husband. http://justforamonth.blogspot.com/2013/10/celebrate-this-week_26.html

  • mygrainofsalt

    I loved your story… how you were unsure about your skills in character judgment. So neat that you met this wonderful man, with a lovely sense of humour and romance. You are a lucky woman. May you cherish each other for a very long life. Happy Anniversay!
    Me I am still single, still wondering about how to decipher characters.

  • Oh how glad I am that you didn’t marry Fat Stanley or anyone else. You are wonderful together, and made a beautiful family.

  • It’s the note in the basement that makes the whole thing so Nicholas Sparkish. Your Thin Nick was meant to be (even at the bar). Thanks for the memories (doesn’t that sound like a song?)

    • Hello Shelley,
      It does sound like a song.
      I forget where I put the note after I took a photograph of it. Oh dear.

  • Nina in Portugal

    Beautiful love story! May many more happy years come…..

    • Thank you Nina.
      And thank you for the wish for more happy years.
      Hugs to you and your family.
      (I see a chocolate covered raisin in your future.)

  • La McCoy

    Awesome

  • Great love story! There is a guy I work with, former Navy, who also kept the slip of paper his wife wrote her number on. And then last year, after 20 years of marriage, he had a tattoo artist replicate her name and number from that note right over his heart. And she wept when she saw it for she did not know he had saved it.These navy guys sure do know how to save up romantic gestures for the women they love! You are a blessed woman Pam!

    So good to read all the details of your love story. I met you in Hong Kong in 1988, a full two years before you married Nick. The years have been kind to us!

    • Hello Pam,
      I am so happy I got to be part of your love story by being at your wedding in Hong Kong. A fun day. So much joy.
      The tattoo story is so sweet. What a fun way to celebrate 20 years of marriage. I think I asked for a shovel for one of our wedding anniversaries. Next year we will be married for 25 years. I will have to think harder about what I would like as a present. I don’t want another shovel.

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  • Oh my, how much do I love that he kept that little bit of paper? I love all the little steps in this story, all the “warnings” about Nick. And I love that he get a second chance after changing your name!

    • I didn’t know he had kept the paper either until I wrote the story. Writing itself is comfort for the soul.

  • I enjoyed reading your love story. The way it unfolded with small details. It is so touching that small note survived and that your husband knew where it was. The note itself tells me part of the story as I imagine how you might have felt as you wrote it, with apprehension and excitement, and how you might feel seeing it now, with love and tenderness. The directions to church cementing in my mind the Jesus love that connects you both then and now.

    • Thank you for your comment. You helped me to see the different feelings the note brought out. The Jesus love that connects us. I like that phrase.

  • Paul

    Once again, such marvelous weaving, weaving. You’re immersed in the past, but quickly swim up to the surface of the present to touch base before you again dive down into memory. Control and craft and honest, clear, wise reflections keep me coming back here every day! 🙂

    • Hello Paul,
      You commented on this story over two years ago. I republished it yesterday as it was the anniversary of the day we met.
      Thank you for your encouragement Paul. How is Canada? Have you written any poetry lately?

  • I went to a dinner party once with a bunch of couples who didn’t know each other all that well and the hostess had us all tell our “how I met him/her” stories. It was a powerful ice breaker because we all have our stories and it one story we almost all love to tell. Yours is interesting because of all the layers to it.

    • Hello Kim,
      What a good idea for an icebreaker at a party.
      Would you mind telling me how you met your husband? I promise to not wait two years to comment again.

  • Wow! You have one romantic guy. The interspersing of the present day with the past pulled this piece together in such a beautiful way. My heart melted at the photo of the paper. You have an interesting life!

  • What a wonderful story!! Amazing things can happen when we follow Jesus!

    • Thank you Jaana,
      Amazing things can happen. Hugs to you. I would love to hear your story.

  • I love “how we met” stories and this is such a unique one! (The potato engagement is awesome!) I like how you went through all the different steps and surrounding events to explain how you relationship came to be and how it grew. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story!

  • I love hearing how people met their spouse. You, once again, wrote with such beauty, especially with all the details. I felt like I was right there seeing it all happen. What a beautiful love story!

    • Hello Jessica,
      Do you remember the first time you saw your husband?

  • Reb

    He kept the piece of paper all these years!!! That is sooooo romantic!

    • Hi Rebekah,
      Yesterday was the anniversary of the day we met. Do you remember the first time you met your husband? Was it romantic?