A Love Story
A version of this originally appeared in The Virginian-Pilot on February 14, 2008. It was updated for February 14, 2018.
Maybe it was the chocolate lab puppy. Perhaps it was the parrot.
No one seems to remember exactly what it was about the bachelor who moved into the townhouse next door that first attracted the attention of three inquisitive kids.
He'd been living overseas, he told them, in a place called Saudi Arabia. When the war started - this was 1990 - he'd left his job with an international advertising agency and headed back to the United States to start a business.
He'd be working from home. Sure, they were welcome to play with the little brown dog.
Her name? Mocha. The parrot's called Toby, he said. Mind your fingers.
So the kids - two brothers with a sister sandwiched in between - began stopping by every day. The bachelor was funny and a great cook. Who knew you could make pizza at home that was better than the stuff Domino's delivered?
You should see our mom, they told him.
The young blonde with the big smile had breathlessly introduced herself as she rushed between work and night classes. Not that the kids were neglected. Their maternal grandmother was usually there, keeping a wary eye on the trio - and the new guy next door.
"Don't you think our mom is pretty?" they asked.
"Very," he replied.
But the bachelor bided his time. He worked. He let the kids walk the dog and talk to the parrot as often as they liked. It wasn't long before the children were coming and going without knocking.
"You should take our mom on a date," they urged.
He just smiled.
With these miniature matchmakers at work, it was inevitable that the mother and the bachelor would eventually go on a date. Then a second. And a third.
She liked his sense of humor. He liked hers, too. Best of all, he liked her kids.
But it wasn't all puppies and pizza. There was his family, for instance.
"Why do you want to go out with a divorced woman with three children?" they asked.
"I like her," he sighed. And her kids.
As the months went by, the woman and the bachelor became a couple. The children called him by his first name, but all the time they were trying to adopt the guy next door.
Before the bachelor knew it, he was do-si-do-ing at the Brownies' Daddy-Daughter square dance and taking the boys on camping trips.
As often happens when a bachelor finally meets the right woman, they married.
The mom was happy. The former bachelor was happy. More importantly, the kids were happy.
They all moved into a bigger house. Good thing, because another baby was born.
As the ex-bachelor and the oldest boy drove home from the hospital, the kid blurted out something stunning.
"I'm so glad it was a girl and not a boy," he confessed. "I was afraid if you had a son of your own, you wouldn't love me anymore."
The man had to keep his eyes on the road. Not easy when they're filled with tears.
Eventually, after emotional court battles, the three oldest children were able to take the last name of the man who'd volunteered to be their dad.
And another baby arrived. A girl.
This time, no one seemed worried about the love running out.
It's been almost 28 years since the mom and the kids and the bachelor next door met. Visit their house on any Sunday or holiday and it's a riot of young couples, grandchildren, friends and extended family. The chocolate lab is just a memory. The parrot left years ago, sent to a home without so many little fingers.
This seems like the perfect place to end the love story that began with three cute kids scouting for a mate for their mother and a father for themselves.
The only thing left is to wish my brother and sister-in-law a happy Valentine's Day.