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Photo by Viacheslav Bublyk on Unsplash

My friend Teri and I went to the same high school. We were in the same gymnastics class and that’s how we met. Teri just happens to be one of the sweetest people to ever walk planet earth and her compassion and empathy are beyond what a lot of people can even imagine. More than anything, this is what caused me to fall in love with her.

I met her mother quite by accident. I hung out with Teri at her house one day after school and while we were innocently chilling and watching TV, her Mom came home early. Teri was not supposed to have any company, let alone some nappy headed boy in the house and so I was asked to leave and I made my way home.

Teri’s mom’s name is Irena, which incidentally rhymes with “my queena”, and even though I was dismissed from the premises, the way she so regally held court in her palace made me want to bow and kiss the ring of her majesty.

She didn’t cuss me out or accuse me of taking advantage of her absence. She handled the situation in a straightforward, “these are the rules of my house” kind of way. This episode caused me to think about ways that I could earn Teri’s Mom’s trust and maybe our relationship could evolve to a place where she liked me.

Teri and I soon became a couple and I would occasionally be in the presence of her Mom and realize afterward that I had to step my game up. Her Mom was sophisticated and smart and funny and I wanted her approval not just because she was Teri’s mom but because she was what Teri may grow up to be and I had to be ready to pass that test.

Early in our junior year of high school, I received a confidential note explaining a surprise party for Teri’s 16th birthday and the role her Mom envisioned me playing in it. The plan was for me to invite Teri to dinner and on the big day, I would drive over and pick her up. We’d go to a specific restaurant, have dinner and then I would drop Teri off at a friend’s house whose Mom happened to be a friend of Teri’s Mom.

Leading up to the big day, my Aunt’s car began having engine trouble. I lived with my Aunt at the time and was planning to use her car to carry out the birthday plan. It became clear that I would need to secure other transportation and was left with the only other option, a huge cargo van. What was set-up to be such a perfect evening started off with me opening the very squeaky passenger door and helping the elegantly dressed Teri hoist herself up into the cabin of what was basically a work truck.

I was nervous the entire night but was determined to make the evening special and memorable and fun. I mumbled some apology about the car not working and being stuck with using the van and Teri kept whatever shock and dismay she may have felt to herself.

I called Teri’s mom from the pay phone in the restaurant once we finished our meal and told her we were on our way. This allowed everyone who was attending the party to start settling down and start preparing for our arrival.

The condo where the party was held had a gated entrance that required us to phone up to gain entry and this call served as a final cue to attendees that we were only minutes away.

We got to the front door of the condo and it was super quiet. I knocked on the door and it opened to a narrow hallway that spit you out into the living room where everyone screamed “SURPRISE”!

Teri was totally flabbergasted!

I knew some of her friends who were there and met others for the first time and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. While I still felt like I had a ways to go to impress Teri’s Mom, I was so relieved that I pulled-off my part in helping to create an unforgettable experience for Teri.

Teri didn’t kick me to the curb for work-trucking her around town that night and over time, her Mom grew to love me. Even though we did not get married and have a daughter named Cleo like we imagined we would, Teri and I are still the best of friends and Irena is like my 3rd Mom after my Mom and my Aunt Rosie.

I was inspired every step of the way in my relationship with Teri to be a better man and while I now fully understand that the car I drive or the clothes I can afford have nothing to do with being a better man, I'm glad I stood tall and made the best of things at a time when I thought they did.

I remain grateful!

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