It’s a question I’ve been asked more times than I can count: “How does an everyday American girl meet a Tahitian pearl farmer?” The short answer is, I got in early!
Before I start the story however, I have to add a small detail. My grandparents went to French Polynesia in the 1970s, including the Tuamotu Atolls, and brought back a huge stack of pinctada margaritifera
oyster shells. During my childhood my entire family (cousins, aunts, uncles and so on) used these shells as butter dishes. They were as every day as our forks and knives. So was it fate that I would end up with a guy obsessed with the nacreous secretions put out by this particular type of oyster? You be the judge.
Many people are surprised when they hear that Josh and I went to high school together. Yes, Josh grew up partially in Tahiti, but his mom is American and he did much of his schooling in the US. We both attended Redwood High
in Corte Madera, California, and were the same year.
I didn’t really know Josh in high school but I knew who he was. We were in the same French class our Sophomore year and two of my best guy friends got moved across the room to sit next to Josh when they got in trouble for talking with me. Every day when we came out of class they’d tell me what a cool guy Josh was and how he spoke French really well and used to live on Tahiti. Josh was about 4ft 11 inches at the time, wore shorts to school everyday and had a mouth full of braces. Meanwhile, I was very creative with my hair, wore all black, tons of black eyeliner and was thinking of dropping out of school to become a rock and roll makeup artist -- so although it did register that he was a good guy, I didn’t think about cute little Josh much more than that for the time being.
One thing I do remember however is looking across the room, seeing all the small boys on the other side and thinking: “All those boys look exactly the same. Huh, I’ll probably end up marrying one of them one day.” (Josh hates this part of my story because he says he went home and told his mom that the most beautiful girl he ever saw was in his French class, but I guess we just weren’t meant to be together quite yet!)
That same year, Josh and I also had the same English teacher although we had the class in different periods from each other. This was the year we read The Lord of the Flies
by William Golding and our main assignment was to write a story about being stranded on a desert island with a small group of our classmates with whatever we had in our pockets. Once we had all turned in our assignments our teacher had us put our completed stories in a pile at the front of the room and encouraged us to read everyone else’s work.
“You have to read Josh’s!” everyone said. “He really lived on a desert island.”
So I did. It was the first time I had ever heard of a coral atoll and from young Josh’s description I imagined it as a lush island paradise with a giant hole in the middle (in my mind there was a big waterfall but I’m sure I added that part.)
Fast forward to sophomore year in college when two of my closest friends had, over the years, become very good friends with Josh, but somehow our paths still never crossed. I was back home attending Community College after a year of going to a fancy private college
on the east coast, and Josh was going to school in Santa Cruz. I now had my natural colored hair and had stopped wearing makeup entirely – my dream was to be the next Margaret Meade
. Josh still wore shorts everyday but had become a tanned, tall, gorgeous man with curls bleached out from surfing – he was hoping to become a marine biologist. We were both back in Marin County for the Christmas holidays and he was throwing a New Years Eve party. My two closest friends were going and suggested I crash it . . .
And that was it. We hiked to the top of a mountain to watch the fireworks in San Francisco and hung out together the entire night. At some point after midnight, we kissed. Ever since, even through vast distances, different schools, jobs and finally coming together for good at Kamoka on Ahe a handful of years later, we have never really left each other’s side.
There are many more details and stories of course, but for now, that is the easy answer to how I met and married a Tahitian pearl farmer.