“He’s the one,” Allison announced three years ago. These are three words I had never heard my 31-year-old daughter say. I wasn’t surprised, really, because during the week that “the one” visited, my usually attentive daughter didn’t answer e-mails, texts, or phone calls.
There was evidence of her blossoming love in Facebook pictures of the two of them on the Brooklyn Bridge, the two of them drinking beer, the two of them watching a Jets Game, the two of them looking at each other.
I’m pretty sure that she was unaware that, as she was falling in love, the East River was breaching its shores just five blocks north. Hurricane Sandy came and went, but that is not what moved their earth.
She hadn’t said, “He’s the one,” during the five years she lived with her last serious boyfriend. She didn’t say it when she dated the architect, the psychiatrist, the stock broker, the stage manager, the teacher, the journalist. No, all those men had unacceptable flaws: the architect was too self-centered; the psychiatrist was overweight, the stockbroker was mired in a messy custody case, the stage manager was too flighty; the teacher was too needy; the journalist had child-sized hands.
She dismissed entire categories of men: Jewish men, not because of their religion, which she rather fancied, but because they come attached to Jewish mothers, and she had had enough of that with her last boyfriend; not native New Yorkers, who are hot in an urban urbane way, but also immature and not quite manly enough; not men who had household pets that ate crickets or fish or mice.
Allison had given up on love, she said, after she discovered that she and her best friend were unintentionally dating the same men they had both met on match.com. The redundancy, she concluded, proved that she had simply dated every man in New York.
Our family had come to the conclusion that Allison was going to be single forever, and that was okay with us. She enjoyed her space, if fussing and cleaning and painting was evidence of enjoyment. She liked to spend all day Sunday reading the New York Times. She stayed up working until dawn, then slept the day away. Since she could do her work as a legal recruiter anywhere she had Internet connection, she’d visit friends in far flung places, pounding a keyboard during the day and playing at night.
We were pretty sure she was not going to sacrifice her freedom for a man. She would sacrifice it for a baby, though, a baby she would adopt from some developing country or conceive in a petri dish, but she didn’t really care to bring a baby daddy into the picture.
Until now. Henrik was “the one,” and that changed everything. So Henrik traveled across a vast ocean to visit her. From Norway. Far north in Norway, on a fjord, a word I was pretty sure I’d never have to learn how to spell. He can see Santa from his house.
Henrik and Allison met at a club in Cancun, Mexico. They danced the night away, then shared a cab back to the resort where both were staying. He snapped his watch on her wrist to remind her to meet him for breakfast the next day. She remembered breakfast, but by the morning he had forgotten her name.
They spent the rest of their vacation getting acquainted, going to church and the library together, I’m guessing. After learning that Allison had lived in New York for eight years and Washington, D.C. for six, Henrik said, “I guess that’s why your English is so good.” Henrik was under the mistaken impression that Allison was German. It had been loud in that club and communication was difficult. I don’t know if they cleared up that misunderstanding before or after church.
She took a deep breath, then exhaled words of endearment. “He keeps a very thorough calendar. I love a good calendar. He thinks I am seriously cute. And I am. He is willing to compromise, which is very important because I am completely inflexible. He renovated the kitchen in his condo by himself. I mean, the dude tore down a wall and built the whole thing from scratch. He explained electricity to me.”
“Wow,” I said. “He’s quite a catch.”
“And,” she added, “he isn’t scared to talk about marriage and kids, and he wants that.”
I always thought that Allison would find “the one” when she stopped looking, but she wouldn’t find him in Akron or Pittsburg or Cincinnati. A Norwegian match sounds just about right for this globe trotter who is always ready for an adventure.
We raised her with the philosophy that you can never spend too much money on education or travel. As teachers, my husband and I had more time than money, but we never let a summer go by without a trip.
We had a Ford conversion van that we used to explore the United States with the kids. Then we started cruising, first to the Caribbean, then to Europe. We believed in living within our means . . . even if it meant borrowing to do so.
Allison’s first solo trip was to Australia and New Zealand on the People to People Student Ambassador Program when she thirteen. This was the start of her many g’days galavanting around the world.
Of course, I vetted Henrik on FB. His friends seem nice and polite. One said, “ær forsiktig Osvik! Alltid noe som skjer når du drar på tur! and another said, “Hva med Sandy har du merka noe til den?? Nyt livet……”
I now “friend” everyone I come across on Facebook that seems Norwegian: ones with unlikely consonant combinations in their names, like Knut and Bjorn; ones with names spelled with o’s with little lines through them; people who have pictures of themselves swimming in icy water. Of course, I “like” everything they post, and if my name or my daughter’s appears, I use google translator to make sure they haven’t disparaged us.
Once I met Henrik and his family, I felt surer of the match. Henrik seems to possess the exactly right proportion of unflappability, confidence, intelligence and humor to tolerate a Lingo woman. We can be real nøtteknekkers.
What pleases me the most is that Henrik is demonstrative about his love for Allison. He is not the least bit timid about hugging, kissing, and cuddling her in front of his parents.
He believes in rules, and he never breaks them. He wouldn’t smoke pot with Allison in Amsterdam, where it’s legal, because he says you should follow the rules of your nation wherever you are. He may be a good influence on a girl who never met a rule she couldn’t bend. His parents, a teacher and a plumber (which Henrik pronounces just how it’s spelled: “plum-ber”) love each other, their son, and our daughter.
For two years, Allison and Henrik carried on an intercontinental love affair. While they Skyped, she painted her nails, dusted her apartment, and fed her cat. I can only hope that he just sat and admired her. He called her, “Hawny,” and said, “Have a blost,” before he hung up. He traveled to the U.S. seven times to visit her.
Allison also visited Henrik in Norway seven times. After every visit I asked her, “Do you still love him?” After a few visits, Allison said, “Mom, you can stop asking.”
The Osviks have dropped a fair amount of kroners and dollars to get acquainted with each other: May-Sissel and Gunnar, and his sister Oda have been to the U.S. two times and Rick, Stacey have been to Norway twice.
Allison told Henrik she would live in any major city of the world, but she would not live on a fjord in a town that has six restaurants and a movie theater in the Y. Henrik got a job and anapartment in Oslo. In 2014, Allison and her 17-year-old cat moved to Oslo.
Although the cat had her visa (you think I’m kidding), Allison had to wait a year for a fiancé visa. During that year, Allison had to return to the U.S. every three months and stay there for three months. This has been a very arduous and expensive courtship.
Once Allison received that initial visa, Henrik and Allison scheduled a civil ceremony this July in the Oslo City Hall in order to expedite her residential visa. Although she didn’t consider this her real wedding, many loving Norwegian family and friends joined them that day to support them.
While Allison and Henrik wait for an estimated nine more months for her residential visa, she can stay in Norway, but if she leaves, she won’t be able to get back in.
Everyone asks how I feel about Allison’s move to Norway. I think they assume I’m devastated and curled up into the fetal position. But I don’t feel depressed. I am proud that I have such an independent daughter, one who makes hard choices and follows her dreams. I am proud that she is so smart and organized that she can figure out how to move—with her cat—across the Atlantic Ocean. She’s followed her heart and her head.
Allison doesn’t ask for my advice, but I give it anyway, and she tolerates it. I have told her that it’s normal to struggle for a while, figuring out how to live with each other. I have told her to love him like her best friend, and he will become her best friend.
I have told her she didn’t have to marry Henrik no matter how long they’ve been together. And I have assured her that no matter how this love story ended, she wouldn’t regret this adventure when she was old like I am.
But she is resolute: he is “the one.”
Tomorrow, Rick and I will rehearse for Saturday’s wedding at Landmark on the Park in New York City. Friends and family will gather to witness their nuptials and wish them well, in Norwegian and in English.
This is a rehearsal for a wedding; there is no rehearsal for marriage. People often say that marriage is hard work, but I don’t think that’s exactly right. Marriage is a living thing that grows and blossoms with nurturing. You get good at marriage by committing and loving every day.
Next week I will share pictures of the Viking wedding. The guy in the middle wearing a hat with horns? That’s “The One.”
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