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Before You Were Born: Love and Marriage
Stories from our parents' surprisingly romantic youth: Two musicians fall in love. The catch is, he's already engaged to someone else.
By Morgan Ford
My parents were both musicians, and when my dad spotted my mom at a trumpet player's birthday party, he instantly knew he would marry her. The catch was that he was already engaged. From that inauspicious beginning, their path to legally recognized marriage was a bumpy one. I sat down with them recently and got the whole story.
So, Mom, you were both in the New England Conservatory, right?
Mom: We didn't meet at the Conservatory, even though we were there at the same time, because he was in the back of the orchestra, and I was in the front. He was in the brass section, and I was in the violins.
Dad: You had graduated from Tufts, and I was an undergraduate at the time.
M: I decided I did want to be a violinist. I had put the violin away, but I kept wanting to practice and play. Your dad and I ended up playing in the Portland Symphony together.
D: I was living in a rented house with two trumpet players, Steve and Will. Steve and I were in a brass quintet together, and we were under management — we were playing all over New England. He and I were really good friends, and eventually we were both hired to play in the Portland Symphony, which was made up of about seventy-percent freelance musicians from Boston. Your mother was one of the violinists who was in the orchestra, but we were brass players and were like "phhbt, violins, who cares." Your mother dated a lot of musicians — mainly brass players.
You have a type?
M: I did.
D: Your mom and the guy she was seeing, Paul what's-his-face, came to this birthday party for Will. A ton of people showed up at this party, and everything was great. Then your mother walked in, and I remember seeing her and thinking, "Oh my God. She is gorgeous." It was like a movie. Eventually everybody was leaving, and your mother left with this Paul guy. So we said goodbye, and they were going out to their car — I can still picture it. There was snow on the ground, and they drove away, and I turned to Steve and I said, "This is going to sound really weird, but I'm going to marry that girl." And he just looked at me, and he was like, what? "I can't explain it," I said, "I just feel it. It's going to happen." And, uh, it did.
M: But you left out the romantic part!
D: I was engaged at the time, which is a little bizarre. What was the romantic part?
There's a more romantic part than that? I find that hard to believe.
M: Don't you remember that we ended up lighting the candles together on the cake? It was in the room outside of the living room with the fireplace. We lit the candles, and we were looking at each other over the candlelight. That was the romantic part.
M: Do you remember that?
Dad, are you lying? Never mind. Was the fiancé there?
M: I didn't even know him, or that he had a fiancé.
So what happened after that party?
M: It mostly involved him. Trying to date me.
D: I made it all happen. I was just obsessed with finding out more about her. Since we were both playing in the Portland Symphony at that point, I could get to know her a little. I knew she really loved music, and I had this nice stereo that I'd bought from my paper-route money before I got to college, and your mother had no way to play music in her apartment. So one day when your mother was out, I showed up and I set up this whole stereo with your mom's roommate, and I had it all set when your mom got back to her apartment.
M: I was totally freaked out, because one, it was his only system, so I knew he was giving it up, and two, it wasn't like we were "going together" or anything.
How well did you know each other at this point?
M: Not well! I don't remember how I found out that you were engaged, but I did, and I was totally freaked out, and I said, "You know, I can't go out with you, because you're going to be married."
D: The way you found out was I told you.