How My Parents Fell In Love

by Dallas Woodburn

My mother walked out of a grocery store. She wore a red dress and her hair was permed, the way it looks in the photo albums. My father drove up in a car, a fast car, silver, a car that goes vroom vroom. He did not know her yet. She was a pretty woman in a red dress with ruffles at the hem. He rolled down the window. He leaned out and smiled at her and said, “Hubba, hubba!”

They fell in love and lived happily ever after.  

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My mother walked out of a grocery store. She carried a plastic bag, handles stretched taut in her thin fingers. Eggs, milk and strawberries. My father drove up in a car, vroom vroom. He liked my mother's red dress and her mess of dark brown hair. He rolled down the window and said, “Hubba, hubba!”

My mother was so startled, she dropped the grocery bag. The milk was okay, but the eggs cracked, oozing yolks onto the sidewalk. Five or six strawberries spilled out of the green plastic container. My father crouched down and helped my mother clean up the mess. He was wearing dress pants and a tie, like the photos in his college yearbook.

“I'm sorry,” he said.

“It's okay,” she said. “It's not your fault, really.”

They smiled at each other. He bought her a new carton of eggs.

They fell in love and lived happily ever after.

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My mother walked out of the Student Union. She wore a red dress and carried a canvas book bag.  My father rode up on a bicycle, glints of silver showing through the chipped paint. He wore a plain T-shirt and his hair hung down over his eyes. My mother — in a rush, distracted, digging through her bag like the nearby beach gulls dug for crabs in the sand — accidentally dropped her coin purse on the sidewalk steps. It snapped open. Coins spilled across the cement.

My father stopped his bike with a screeeeech of tires. He crouched down on the ground and helped my mother pick up her coins. Their skin touched as he placed pennies in her palm one by one. She smiled at him. Hubba, hubba, he thought.

They fell in love and lived happily ever after.

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My mother walked out of the rain and into the crowded apartment. She wore a red dress and her silver necklace with the star clasp. A Christmas tree beamed in the corner and carols murmured from a boombox on the end table. People danced and laughed and tilted plastic cups against their lips.

“Lisa!” a girl called. “You made it!”

My father noticed my mother as soon as she stepped through the doorway into the light of the room. Her dark hair looked darker from the rain and beads of water trickled slowly down her legs. He didn't know what to say to her, what he could ever say to her that would be enough. 

So, instead, he waited. He spent the night standing under the single branch of mistletoe, hung near the bathroom where the ceiling was low. He watched my mother and willed her to notice him.

Finally, she did, but only because she had to use the bathroom. It was occupied so she stood in line beside my father. She was slightly drunk. She sloshed her cup and spilled a bit of red wine on his shoe. He didn't mind.

“Hi,” he said, glancing up at the mistletoe above them.

“Hello,” my mother said. Her necklace clasp had broken minutes before, and when she leaned forward to shake his hand, her necklace slipped off into a small silver puddle on the floor.

My father crouched down and picked it up for her. Their skin touched as he placed it carefully in her palm. She smiled at him.

“Would you put it back on for me?” she asked, pulling up her dark permed hair to reveal the back of her neck. His fingers trembled with the clasp.

“Hubba, hubba,” my father found himself saying. My mother laughed.   

“Look!” someone shouted. “You're under the mistletoe!”

Later, my father walked my mother back to her dormitory. They fell in love and lived happily ever after.
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My mother was invited to a Christmas party hosted by a girl in her Psychology class. She didn't know the girl very well, but it was a Friday night and she had no other plans, so she went. She wore a red dress and dangling silver earrings that flashed against her dark hair. She carried a grocery bag, handles stretched taut with the weight of the chocolate cake she had baked that morning and carefully iced with a frosting Christmas tree. She glanced around the room but did not see anyone she recognized.

The kitchen was empty save for three frat guys refilling their cups of eggnog, a girl arranging sugar cookies on a plate, and my father, who stood at the sink struggling in vain to wash a red wine stain from his shirt. It was hot in the kitchen and my mother noticed a bead of sweat trickling down the back of his neck.

Suddenly, she found herself stumbling, falling forward, tripping over something in her red high heels — a case of beer, a sack of flour, an empty cartoon of eggs? The plastic bag lurched from her grasp and she watched the cake smash sadly against the kitchen floor.

My father turned from the sink and saw my mother. To him she was just a pretty woman in a red dress.

And yet.

He turned off the tap and wrung drops of water from his shirt. He hurried over to where my mother crouched on the grimy tile floor beside her fallen cake. Green frosting was smeared against the plastic bag. My father crouched down and helped my mother clean up the mess.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“I'm fine,” she sighed. “I'm just so clumsy. I spent all afternoon making this cake, and now it's ruined!”

“I'm sure it's still delicious,” my father said, digging his hand into the dark moist cake and bringing it to his mouth, purposefully getting frosting and chocolate crumbs all over his face. He loudly smacked his lips and grinned at her.

My mother laughed. “Hubba, hubba!” she found herself saying. Immediately her cheeks flushed. “I'm sorry, I don't know where that came from!”

“Hubba hubba yourself!” my father said, standing. He reached down to help my mother up. Their skin touched. They washed cake and frosting off their hands at the sink. My father poured my mother a cup of eggnog. Their hands found each other again.

Later that night, they kissed under the mistletoe.

They fell in love.

And they lived, happily. Also angrily, naughtily, hopelessly, hungrily. Messily. Ever after. Like saints and martyrs and lovers and children. They lived, and they live. Together still.