Alexandra Owens lives in Morris County, New Jersey, with her husband, Michael, and their two daughters, Gillian, 13, and Catie, 10. Alexandra is the executive director of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA; http://www.asja.org).
Dear Gill and Catie,
I first saw your father on a volleyball court, where he was the man in charge. At 6’3” he was the tallest person there, which immediately caught my eye. (Being almost 6’ tall myself, I notice these details.) I was shy, I knew no one there, but because he was the captain I had the perfect excuse to talk to him.
“Where do you want me?” I asked.
He smiled a wide, welcoming smile that lit up his green eyes, and as we chatted about where I should play, my innate shyness left me.
What got me onto that volleyball court so many years ago was this: my divorce. It was crushing. After eight years of trying to be happy with the wrong partner, I was 30, alone, and very sad. I thought my one chance for happily-ever-after was over and done, so I decided to just try to stay busy on my own.
I’ve told you this story before, because you are so curious about your beginnings. Finding out I was married once before Daddy was a shock to you at first, but then a never-ending subject for questions and speculation.
“Would we have had red hair?” you want to know.
“Wow, I would have been half-Irish instead of German-English-Dutch-Scottish-Russian-Hungarian-Welsh-Native American!”
“How old would I be now?”
And the question you ask most often: “Are you glad you had me with Daddy?”
It was a great volleyball team, and we had a lot of fun. We’d often go out to eat after practice and talk and talk, just getting to know one another better. On one of my very first evenings there I found myself sitting next to this tall captain and we started talking about our lives, telling each other about ourselves.
He told me about learning to be a professional cook, and how he spent so many years working in restaurants and country clubs. Since graduation he’d worked hard, learned a lot, and earned enough to buy his own house at 32 (pretty young to own a home).
Then he told me that he’d finally realized that continuing to work as a professional chef could mean he would never spend evenings, weekends, or holidays with the rest of the world. On those special occasions he’d always be working in the restaurant kitchen instead of celebrating with those he loved, and that was no way to build a family. So just two years before we met, he had decided to find something else that would let him have time for a life outside the kitchen.
That’s when he took the job at the Milburn Deli, the place with the famous sandwiches.
I was impressed — this was a decision few other people would have made, and it showed me his generous soul.
“You’re going to make someone a wonderful husband someday,” I said.
Next I learned that his first chance to be a father went poorly. He was unable to spend as much time with your half-brother as he wanted, and it broke his heart. I could tell this man was meant to have a family—to have children he could raise completely, and a wife to share that road with. When I told him that I knew that, he smiled.
So your question — “Are you glad you had me with Daddy?” is easy to answer. You were already there in Daddy’s eyes the day we met on that volleyball field. I saw you there, and fell in love.