Crazy Lucky Love on a Cruise to Mexico

by Tracey Pettit

Tracey and Scott with their kids Rilynn and Greyson
Tracey and Scott with their kids Rilynn and Greyson

I’m sitting in the airport waiting to catch a plane. I’m going to meet my best friend for a much needed weekend getaway.

I don’t have the kids with me, and as anyone who is traveling without their young children will tell you, just being there alone is part of the vacation. I’ve already had a glass of wine, bought a trashy celebrity magazine, and have settled in at the gate. But I can’t stop thinking about my husband.

I’ve struck up a conversation with a stranger, someone waiting to board the same plane, and I’ve ended up telling our story. It’s something that’s been happening more recently. We’ve moved to a new neighborhood, and people are naturally curious. Whether it’s at a soccer game, a BBQ or a school event, the subject comes up that we’ve returned to the area near San Francisco where I grew up, but my husband is from New York. And that, of course, leads to: “So how did you two meet?”

“We met on a cruise ship,” I say, and wait for the other person’s reaction. It’s almost always the same. A widening of the eyes and they peer a little more intently at my face and say something like, “You’re kidding,” or “No way.” I get it. It’s interesting.

But it also gets a tiny bit sticky for me here, because everyone understands that a cruise is a very finite amount of time, so people always want to know 1) how early in the trip we met, (the second night) 2) with whom were we cruising (my parents, my sister, close family friends; he was with his brother and parents), what cruise (it actually was “The Love Boat” a.k.a. Regal Princess, headed for the Mexican Riviera during Christmas 1999) and, of course, how quickly did it get serious?

The answer to this question is the best part of our story because it’s one of those extremely rare fleeting moments in life when you just know. In giving the answer (“For me? About 10 minutes.”), I get to feel a renewed sense of wonder that such a phenomenon actually exists. Just how I knew, I can’t answer. I can only say for sure that I recognized something fundamental in him that caused me to turn to my sister as he walked out of the Bengal Lounge and say “I’m going to marry that man.”

But it’s also the worst part of the story because I know how it sounds. Ludicrous. Insane. Crazy. I can see it in people’s reactions, some of them clearly conjuring up images of a lovesick me swooning and stalking my husband-to-be all over the ship. “Did you tell him that?” they ask, appalled.  No, thank you, I did not. It was very long time before he ever heard that story (shout out to my loyal sister!).

Did he know anything? Sure. Tough to hide that kind of attraction. But it was very much “I like you. Now what are you going to do about it?” The bottom line is that we both knew by the end of the cruise that this was B-I-G and in the meantime enjoyed six days and five nights of the kind of ridiculous over-the-top rainbows and unicorns kind of moments, usually reserved for the big screen.

Yes, I tell them, there was dancing until 2 in the morning. There was bonding over silly karaoke and Monty Python’s “Holy Grail.”  There were tuxedos and sequins and lobster and a fountain of champagne. There were what-are-you-all-about conversations that lasted until long after everyone else had gone to bed, and glorious sunsets over the Pacific while dolphins leaped below.

There was a private, late-night piano concert in which he played and I lounged on top of the baby grand, feeding him sips of Corona until the cleaning crew came in and we hurried out giggling and shushing each other like kids. There was frolicking in the ocean and hand holding and longing gazes. There was a fair amount of tequila (this was Mexico, mind you), and a moment on a windy overcast day when after searching the ship, he finally found me sitting on the floor of the packed movie theater, and as I leaned my head against his shoulder I thought, “So this is what coming home feels like.” And of course there was the kiss, which went exactly the way you think it did, only better.

Yes, I tell them, it was crazy and all very Titanic, only beachier and minus all that unfortunate iceberg business. That usually gets me a polite chuckle before I answer the standard follow-up questions: 1) he traveled weekly for work, thus allowing him to regularly come see me 2) we both relocated to San Diego after a year so we could date like people of the real world 3) no, we did not live together, and 4) we got married two and half years after we met, in a manner equally as ridiculous and over the top as the cruise itself: on a clear, blue, unseasonably warm July day in downtown San Francisco on the 32nd floor of a historic hotel overlooking Union Square.

People are generally impressed with our story. But the truth is, the way we got started is not the best part. In fact, the odds were not stacked in our favor. I once had a minister tell me that in all his experience marrying hundreds of couples, the chances of a couple actually making it are inversely proportional to two facts: 1) the extremity of circumstances that bring them together and 2) the grandeur of their wedding. “Just look at Hollywood!” he admonished. Awesome. According to pop culture and God, the two most powerful forces in the universe, we’re doomed.

I personally believe we’ll make it. All the evidence is there that we will. We’ve got solid examples of longevity in our families, relatively common upbringings, and the fact that we still really like each other to strengthen our odds. But it’s impossible to maintain the intensity of falling in love, and thank God for that. Eating and sleeping are much easier when you’re not delirious. However, if I’ve learned anything in the last decade, it’s that the initial experiences of new love don’t change, just the kinds of events that invoke them.

We’ve moved four times, had two children, changed careers and had to seriously re-define our priorities at least three times. Each of those decisions was the result of some very lengthy and intense what-are-you-all-about conversations. There are no rainbows at 2 a.m. when you are covered in baby puke. But seeing your husband hold your newborn son for the first time, or watching him referee a soccer game for a bunch of cartwheeling seven-year-old girls instead of staying home to watch his team kick off? Angels do indeed exist. We still get a kick out of Monty Python (tip: never underestimate the tension relieving power of strategically yelling “What? Behind the rabbit?!” in the middle of an argument) and make each other laugh with the occasional karaoke performance.

It’s been 13 years since that cruise, and to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, we went somewhere we could relive sunsets and dolphins and lots of hand holding while frolicking in the ocean. And for certain I was right about one thing: my home is not a place. It is a person (and we still have a fair amount of tequila).

Yes, it’s insane that I knew he was my husband so quickly. It’s crazy that it worked out and we got married. But the amazing part is that I still want him to be my husband. And that makes me a very lucky girl, indeed.

On that note, you’ll have to excuse me. My plane to Vegas is boarding and I can’t wait to get there. My husband is waiting for me…

Tracey and her husband, Scott, live in Danville, CA and have two children, Rylinn,7, and Greyson, 4. She’s an interior designer and stylist, and Scott is a management consultant. When she’s not busy being a mom or working with clients, you can find her restoring her garage sale and flea market finds, dabbling in photography, reading, or enjoying a glass of wine with friends.