Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mark's Memo: The Martini that Changed it All...

“Let’s go to my friend’s party.” snaps my father.
“Huh?” I reply.

I hadn’t even been home for 24 hours, and my dad already informed me about an invitation he received from a high school buddy. Little did I realize, an innocent invitation from his friend of 40 years, while I was home over Christmas vacation, would soon lead me to the love of my life.

The date was Saturday Dec 19th, 2005: “Marko, his daughter is graduating from Ball State and he invited all of us to dinner tonight,” says my father.

Barely home for 24 hours, I was being instructed on what I should do.  I was told by my parents they really wanted to go to this dinner at Vera Mae’s, a local bistro downtown Muncie. They met Audrey six months prior when our parents met to start planning their first high school class reunion in over twenty years.

I continued to stare at my parents as if they were smoking something...but eventually I shrugged my shoulders in agreement. “Martinis are on me, Marko!” insisted my father, in hopes that I wouldn’t change my mind.  I decided I would go and make the best of whatever dinner this was.

I threw on a bulky sweater that I dug out of my adolescent closet.  I didn’t wear a coat, but the sweater and faded black corduroy pants were warm...and I’m sure quite stylish.

Vera Mae’s was beautifully decorated with a stunning 15 foot Christmas tree, situated near the board-room style table where we were seated.  A pianist played the best of Bing Crosby. The atmosphere was cozy and welcoming, which made it easy to enjoy a casual dinner and most importantly…several martinis.  There was only one waiter for over 30 people, so I excused myself and ordered at the bar.

When I returned to the table and situated myself between my parents…sigh…a very nicely dressed older woman introduced me to herself and her husband.

I learned that they were Joyce and Bill Merrell, the proud grandparents of the graduate, Audrey.  Before I could blurt out common salutations, her grandmother asked me in her southern drawl, “Mark do you have a girlfriend?” After my negative response, she then proceeded to smile and ask, "You’re going to make good money someday, right?” I skittishly smiled, nodded my head in agreement, and said, "hopefully."

I knew then that this casual dinner had evolved into something more than a relaxing evening. I hadn’t met the graduate until halfway through the dinner when Audrey’s grandma introduced the two us by saying, “Audrey, this is Mark Hannaford, who is single and he goes to school in New York.” Unfortunately or not, she made similar statements throughout the evening anytime Audrey was within ear’s shot of our end of the table. Audrey eventually made eye contact with me, which caused her to blush and return the smile. I attempted to be as cool and collective as possible, especially while situated between mommy and daddy.

As dinner was nearing its natural conclusion, and before her grandmother could continue deposing her witness – me…I excused myself and walked towards that sexy lady's end of the table to thank her for an amazing dinner and opportunity to meet her. I don't think martini goggles were involved.  With quite a bit of hesitation, she eventually shook my hand and blushed.

Needless to say, I thought that was it and I would never meet this chick again.
Two days later, her family was at our house for appetizers.  Yes, my parents invited her family over for snacks (her father, step-mom, little sister, age 7 at the time), and Audrey of course. After distracting her little sister with the offer of internet games in the other room, I positioned myself at one end of the couch while she sat in the middle and we talked.  There was definitely a good four feet between us initially.  Over the next three hours, she progressed to move closer and closer to me. Lucky for Audrey's Dad, her sister arrived just in time to see us touching hands. “What are you two doing?” she asked.

The evening ended with me holding her coat for her while she slipped it on. I desperately wanted to kiss her...but how awkward would that have been with her and my parents 15 feet away?! Needless to say, we saw each other every day for the remainder of my vacation before returning to New York. I broke "guy-code" and called this girl from Chicago O’Hare Airport, where I was awaiting my connecting flight.

It’s been martinis and magic ever since that fateful night at Vera Mae’s...


  1. Awwwwww......This is such a sweet story. The two of you were meant to be that's for sure. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story with us.


    1. I truly believe we were meant to be as well. I owe it all to my grandma, who always seemed to know what was always best for me :) She was and still is my angel.

  2. I love hearing about how people meet. I think it was so sweet how the parents and grandparents got involved in this one.

    1. At first I wasn't too keen on the idea of them meddling in our "love" lives, but they seemed to know that this was something special and needed to be pursued.

  3. This was really sweet...heheh I'd like to hear it from Audrey's pov too :)

    1. LOL! My perspective is a lot different! :) I will write a post with my thoughts and point of view - good idea!

  4. Love your meeting story Audrey! Still so happy that you found Mark :)