I could not have been standing there longer than two minutes when I spotted three bopping heads above the crowd and flashes of German costume through the sea of people.
"There they are!" Jill said, waving her arm above the crowd to flag them over.
And that's when he turned our direction and I saw his face.
"Oh, my gosh." I said incredulous. "Is that your friend?"
"Those guys in lederhosen? Yep. That's them!" She said laughing, assuming that I was reacting to their German tuxedos rather than the strange coincidence I had just uncovered. She was saying "them" but I was only zeroed in on one of them.
"I just saw him last night!" I tried to gesture towards one of them as they made their way over. "He's your friend?" I was excited and panicked, and freaked out all at the same time.
"Who? Aaron?" She said surprised. "Yeah. Where did you see him?"
"At The Local. But I didn't actually meet him."
"Well now you will!"
And that was the end of our exchange because by then the tall guys in lederhosen had made their way over to us.
Before I knew it, Jill was introducing me to her friends. Mark, Adam, and....Aaron. They were all smiles and full of energy. The handsome guy I had seen the night before was now standing before me in authentic deerskin lederhosen. And he had a name.
"Aaron, this is my friend Ashley," Jill said when she got around to him. And as we shook hands in the middle of Oktoberfest, our eyes met again. I could see his head tilt and the recognition come across his face. I wasn't sure whether to feel relieved, complimented, or embarrassed that he recognized me from our eye encounter the night before.
We simultaneously acknowledged this recognition by saying something like, "You were at The Local last night! Wow." Laughing at the sheer coincidence of these back-to-back encounters.
Here are Mark, Adam, and Aaron, the night we met. How many people do you know actually have pictures from the night they met? Fortunately, a friend of Jill's, Stefanie, joined us that night and she is great at documenting a fun night out. This can be good and bad. She took 104 pictures that night, but I'll only post a few of the good ones.
And the girls. Mark's (now wife) Gina, Stefanie, Me and Jill
We were still looking at each other while the rest of the group talked excitedly.
"Want to go get a beer?" Aaron asked me.
Little did I know at the time the irony of that question and that whole night in general. Two people with a shared love of wine, who would eventually marry and start a vineyard together, and the foundation of their entire relationship is based on beer. Not just beer. Heavy, German, drink-it-out-of-a-boot while wearing lederhosen-BEER!
For all I knew when the night began, I was just going out with my new friend, Jill. There was a reason we decided to take a cab as driving home after drinking Hefeweizen out of 22 oz mugs would be out of the question.
It put a new spin on things to find myself suddenly in the same group as my German clad dream man. And so we made the most of the situation by having a lot of fun together with our friends and exploring what this strange coincidence meant. We drank Hefeweizen, we polka danced, we talked, we drank out of "das boot", and we laughed--a lot.
I was even casual and cool when women came up to Aaron and his friends and asked to take pictures with them. Women went crazy for these guys in their lederhosen! One woman even offered Aaron a beer token if she could just pinch his bum. I couldn't blame her. If I thought he was attractive in street clothes the night before, imagine what I thought seeing his bum and muscular thighs wrapped in deerskin. Other women would be blind not to notice too. In subsequent years at this same event, the crazy women didn't bother me at all. By then, he was already mine and I took pride in knowing no matter how many women wanted to pinch his bum, he was coming home with me. I'd practically pimp him out, "Let her pinch your butt, Honey. Free beer!!"
But that night, he was just a guy I had just met, so I slipped away. I didn't have any claim to him. He could soak up the attention of other women, but I wasn't going to be one of them pathetically falling all over him. Plus, it looked like he could use a good challenge. And I was an eligible bachelorette and there were plenty of other cute guys at Oktoberfest to flirt with, even if they were just wearing jeans.
This was a picture taken near the end of the night (clearly) somewhere on the sidewalk while we bar hopped. I, er can't remember what exactly was going on in this picture, but found it relevant to the paragraph above.
The thing that struck me in that situation with those women, was that Aaron wasn't arrogant or a jerk, or exactly seeking out attention. In fact, he seemed slightly embarrassed by the attention. He was nice and humored these ladies, but promptly excused himself. I had already found the rest of the girls and we were off getting our own attention from some other cute men. Aaron came and found me, grabbed me by the hand and said, "Hey, do you want to go dance?" It was then that I knew, even though this sexy lederhosen man had women crawling over him that night and he was practically Mr. Oktoberfest...he was into me. Aha! So a little challenge was what he needed.
He held my hand all the way to the polka dancing dance floor where a little old man walked around playing an accordion. I remember bumping into his friend Adam along the way and chatting for a minute telling him to get the rest of the group down to the dance floor. Adam said something to me and referred to someone named "Schram."
"Who's Schram?" I asked him seriously.
Adam stopped, smiled at me and said, "Um...he's that guy holding your hand right now."
I'd forgotten that I was barely even on a first name basis with Aaron and here I was feeling completely comfortable holding his hand.
Our first picture together.
If I had to rank some of the most fun nights of my life, that night at Gasthof's would be right up there.
After spending a few hours there, we bar hopped to Nye's, a Polish bar. It was the only place nearby we could think of where wearing lederhosen would still feel somewhat acceptable. In case you are counting, yes, the first three places Aaron and I were ever in the same vicinity were, an Irish Bar, a German Bar, and a Polish Bar. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, doesn't it? But it was at Nye's where we had a chance to break from the group and just sit at the bar to talk. Even though we had already drunk beer out the boot, polka danced, and held hands that night, I remember feeling like it was first date type conversation.
It was then that I learned Aaron wasn't the big city slicker as I had assumed. He was just a good ol' corn fed, hard-working Wisconsin farm boy who moved to Minneapolis after college for a job. We talked about family and I learned that we were both 4th children and, with the exception of his half-sister 17 years his junior, both youngest children as well. I've always had a fascination with birth order, so my mind was already spinning with how well matched two youngest children would be and I believe I brought it up with him that night. I also learned that he had recently broken up with a girlfriend. He said when he saw me at The Local the night before, he thought I was attractive and got a good feeling from me, but knew if he talked to me it would probably lead to something, which wasn't exactly what he was looking for on the heels of a break-up. It shed some light on why he wasn't quite on the prowl or acting on the opportunity to talk to a girl making eyes at him. But then he continued by letting me know the minute he saw me again tonight that he knew it must mean something. This girl must be something special and he better figure it out. Fate? Perhaps it was.
"Do you mind if I ask how old you are?" He asked me at one point in our conversation.
"I'll be 27 in two weeks," I told him. "How about you?"
"I'm 31." He was older than I would have guessed and I must have looked surprised. "Is that going to be a problem?" He continued, somewhat jokingly.
I let that question sink in and realized that was his way of saying he didn't intend this to be the last night we saw each other. Clearly a four year age difference was nothing and he knew that. The future tense of his question "going to be" meant he saw this "going somewhere" and was trying to provoke a response to his subtle assumption that we would start dating. Normally a guy just out of a relationship would be a red flag, but he was letting me know that even though we were both buzzed, sitting at a bar, he didn't just see me as a rebound. Instead of a red flag, I saw it as another sign that we were meeting at just the right time. Little did either of us know then that I'd actually be the one to play hard to get the first few months of our dating.
While this story is very one sided and I can only speak for my attraction to him, it was evident to me that night that Aaron saw something in me too. You'll have to ask him for his side of the story.
The night didn't end there. We all made it back to Jill's condo for a little "after" party. Aaron and I discovered she had Jenga on her kitchen table. Not wanting the night to end, we decided a game of Jenga at nearly 2 a.m. sounded like a good idea. Every one else was already crashing on the living room floor. This wasn't a normal Jenga game. Each block had a question on it. If you pulled a block out successfully without knocking the tower over, you had to answer the question on the block. For the life of me, I can't remember what any of the questions were....except one.
Aaron pulled a block out and read something along the lines of, "What is your life's dream?"
He looked me in the eye and without a pause said, "I want to have my own vineyard someday."
A vineyard, huh? At that moment it sounded like a pie-in-the-sky dream, although I found it impressive, romantic, and extremely attractive that he had such a dream. I was liking him more already. I still had a lot to learn about this guy and we hadn't even had our first date.