My parent's "story" is one of my very favorite stories to hear, talk about, and tell. It's actually the most popular story I tell my clients while they are in my chair, mainly because people are so curious due to its uniqueness. I have wanted to type it up for awhile now so that those of you who haven't heard it can, and also because it's never been written out before and I believe it deserves documentation.
Lets rewind the clock a little bit further to July 17, 1954 when Mark Joseph Johnson was born to Joseph and Esther Johnson in Ogden, Utah:
Maria Esposto was born a few years later on March 19, 1957 to Giorgio and Gigliola Esposto in Penne, Italy:
Growing up literally worlds apart.. how were the two ever to meet, you ask? Well, my dad decided to serve a full time mission for our church and was called to Rome, Italy in October of 1974. There are a few instances of what some might call fate in this story, and this is one of them. He left about a year later then he could have. (he was 20) If he would have left right at 19, they would have never met.
My mom grew up in Pescara. She lived in an apartment building where the missionaries lived 2 floors beneath her. My mom and her friends would see the missionaries and call them "The Kennedy's," having no idea who these guys were and why they were always wearing suits. Her younger brother, Stefano, was the first one to talk to the missionaries and got invited to a youth activity they were doing. He told my mom about it and invited her to go to the "party" they were having. This sparked her interest in the church and she started taking the discussions.
A few months later on February 23, 1976, Elder Johnson was transferred from Sassari to Pescara. The next day, February 24th (which just happens to be my birthday...) was the first day they met when my dad and his companion went to my mom's house to teach her a discussion. She had already agreed to be baptized, so my dad taught her the last 2 or 3 lessons before her baptism which was held a few weeks later when my mom was 19. This picture at her baptism was the first picture my parents ever took together. Little did they know, it wouldn't be the last.
Elder Maxfield baptized my mom and my dad confirmed her a member of the church.
My dad was the branch president in Pescara until he went home on October 8, 1976. His family was living in Colorado at the time, so my dad went there until he started school at BYU in January of the following year.
For my mom's birthday in March, my dad sent her a birthday card. She never replied. He tried writing her a couple of other times to ZERO responses. He decided to send her a Christmas card as his last try. He told himself that if she didn't answer, he would never try to contact her again. He later found out that my Nonna MADE her write him back because she said my mom was being impolite. They kept writing back and forth, and then even started calling each other occasionally. (back then, it cost around $2.50 a minute to call overseas)
In March of 1978 my mom was getting ready to turn 21, and as a birthday gift, my grandparents agreed to pay for her to come to America for a visit. She left on March 15. What's cool about this is that on March 16, the Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro was kidnapped and NO flights went in or out of Italy for a while. My mom said that if she would have waited until after that happened, my grandfather would have never let her go. (he was weary about this whole thing to begin with) fate again?
It was her first time flying internationally by herself and she didn't speak a word of English. She missed her connection at JFK, so they had a car hurry and transfer her over to La Guardia airport. She got on a flight there that stopped in St. Louis and was supposed to continue on to Denver, but they cancelled that portion of the flight and were trying to tell her to get off and that they would put her up in a hotel until she could leave from St. Louis the next morning. My mom obviously wasn't understanding anything that was going on. Everyone was getting off the plane, and my mom kept sitting there. When the stewardess went over to try to explain to my mom what was happening, my mom just kept repeating "Denver" over and over. Finally the stewardess found my dad's phone number in my mom's pocket book and called him to let him know what was going on and then put him on the phone to translate to my mom.
* Side Story- my mom shared a taxi with a few other people to the airpot hotel. Some guy kept talking to her, and so my mom just kept nodding her head and said "yes" sometimes, and "no" other times. Well, she's still not sure what exactly she agreed to because once they checked into their rooms at the hotel, this guys showed up at my mom's room with a pillow! She said "NO" and shut the door.. haha.
Finally, my mom made it to Denver. My dad was working a lot at the time so while he was gone all day, she would watch soap operas and cartoons so that she could teach herself English. That's really how she learned! She was only supposed to be here for a month long visit, but once they started dating she kept changing the date of her departure. On June 24, my parent's decided to get married. She called her parent's in the middle of the night to tell them. Her dad answered, but she asked for her mom because she wasn't ready to tell him yet.
On August 31, 1978 my parent's were sealed for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake City temple. My Nonna was able to come out for their wedding, but besides that, no one else from my mom's family was there. A few days after their wedding, they flew to Italy and my grandparent's gave them a reception in Pescara.
Their engagement picture
Nonna and Mom
All the family
Their reception in Italy
34 years later and still in love and happy as can be.
And that my friends, is what you call AMORE.