One of the best gifts I’ve received was born five years before I ever existed. Born in Mexico City, charcoal eyes and curly black hair, my fiancé, Ricardo, grew up sandwiched between two sisters with the same set of mesmerizing eyes, with two hardworking laywers for parents. At the age of five, the family moved five hours north to Aguascalientes, a tamer city than the mecca of Mexico’s capital, but he still grew up tough and street saavy. As a child, he attended private Catholic schools, growing up with the same group of kids, excelling in soccer, going on to study computer engineering at the university. By the age of twenty-one, he was moving up in a world-renowned organization, based in his town, but left it all behind to start his own company before even graduating college. I didn’t learn this until recently, but he disliked the company’s ethics, the pressure to compromise, the environment of people trying to buy his loyalty. So he politely dismissed himself and pioneered a competing company.
Seven years ago, he made a daring move to Seattle, traveling by train from San Diego with fifty dollars and no English to start a new life from scratch. Now he owns his own graphic design company.
And then, there’s me. I grew up as the youngest child of two girls, a pastor’s daughter, with a mom who stayed home most of our growing up years. We moved around every three or four years - Phoenix, Portland, Richland, St. Helens, and back to Portland - but always lived in safe neighborhoods. I attended public school, played sports and went on to study psychology in college and grad school. I’ve never lived outside the country and I studied Spanish for just two years in high school. Before meeting Ricardo, I’d attended Catholic mass one time and was generally ignorant of the Catholic way of worship. But I’d branched out enough to dip my toes in the waters of latin dance and fell in love, just before meeting him.
Everyone walks a different journey, lives out a different timeline of life events. If you’d asked me at twenty-one when I thought I’d be married and to what kind of guy I thought that’d be, I would have said no later than twenty-five and to some white guy who grew up a lot like me. Maybe that’s one advantage of marrying later. I’ve had my entire twenties, a winding road of exploration and discovery, to see who the real me is. And how different, in many ways, that person is from who I thought ten years ago. My world, over the last decade, has stretched with each passing year, and with it, my view of life and people and God.
I never imagined the man I’d marry would have grown up in a Catholic family in Mexico. I wouldn’t have been ready for him at twenty-one, or twenty-five, or twenty-eight. But I am now. My heart is open and ready to receive the beautiful differences of this incredible man, and in the process, to discover all the things we share beneath our different skins and backgrounds.
It’s his birthday today, but I’m the one to open the gift. Thank you, God.