In the summer of 2013, my sons, Mason and J.D., spent the majority of it with Heather and I at our small place in Claremont. With their help and approval, I asked her to marry me. We set our date for July 7, 2014. Then at the end of the summer, my boys decided they wanted to live with us. I initially hesitated, fearing how their mother would react, but Heather convinced me that they should absolutely live with us. My sons were struggling academically and we had access to much better schools than where their mother lived.
With great trepidation, I wrote a letter to their mother informing her of the boys’ request and my willingness to take on the role that she had to have for so long. I pleaded with her to do what was in their best interest in regard to their education and future, and assured her that I was not trying to take them from her. I empathized with her, knowing it would be hard, but that she would see them weekends, holidays, and summers and not have to deal with the school stuff.
After much deliberation and discussion with our boys, she agreed that it would be best for their academic future to live with us. So, they moved in and began school in Claremont, creating a whole new host of challenges for me to overcome. Welcome challenges no doubt, but challenges nonetheless. My fiancé worked full-time and I was a graduate student working as a researcher part-time. Having the more flexible schedule, I became a stay at home dad most days, taking them to school, picking them up, helping them with homework, and trying to get my work done when they were not around. Needless to say, this put some of my academic endeavors on hold. With the boys moving in and Obamacare looming on the horizon, we decided to get married sooner and pushed our wedding date to the anniversary of our first date. We had the best possible wedding one could have, planning it in two weeks and getting rained out of their primary location on the day of. But that is a story for another day. Around this time, my oldest son, Mason, and I discovered DeMolay International. He and I had a shared interest in the middle ages, especially the Crusades and the Knights Templar. Because he was only eleven, he had another year before he could be initiated into the order. At the time, we thought I needed to be a Freemason, so he could join. However, that is not the case. Any young man age 12 to 21 can join DeMolay. If you are not aware of this group or interested in it, I recommend checking it out. FYI, there are also Masonic youth organizations for young women as well, check them out here. Although I had long had an interest in becoming a Mason, it took my son wanting to join DeMolay to give me that additional motivation I needed to seek them out. Initially, I re-contacted my Facebook friends on December 12, 2013 to ask them if they knew anyone in lodges around me that I could talk to and learn more from. They did not. After that, life got hectic again.
Although we got married in November, we still were still planning our reception for July 13, 2014, which is just as complicated as planning the wedding itself. To further complicate things, the four of us lived in a 750 square foot two bedroom single bath house owned by Scripps College right on my campus. Unfortunately for us, grad students are low on the totem pole and some post-grads took our place. So, in the midst of the school year and all kinds of crazy stuff happening with Heather’s work (good crazy stuff), we moved into a 1500 square foot three bedroom two bath house in a gated community for a very decent price point. Things were really starting to come together. The kicker happened when my wife was offered to become a business partner with her boss of five years at Gymboree Play & Music: Upland, Redlands, and eventually San Dimas.
We had so much going on in our lives, constantly busy,and very much looking forward to our honeymoon. So when July came, we were finally able to let loose and just relax with one another. Our reception went off without a hitch, as friends and family from around the country were able to come celebrate with us. Instead of a first dance, we had a first duet. Heather and I had met at a karaoke night at Casa de Salsa in Claremont, and we had become the karaoke-going couple, trying to get friends to join us on every occasion.
The next day, we flew to Maui for our honeymoon, which could not have come too soon. We stayed at Honua Kai in Kaanapali. We surfed, ate great food, luaued (is that a verb), flew in a chopper, drove to Hana and around the backside, and found an awesome karaoke spot. We were finally able to have that long awaited rest and come back to the world with completely refreshed and ready to go. We returned from our honeymoon on July 25th. It took me a few days to acclimate back into the SoCal lifestyle and get caught up with some work and friends. Having lived in Claremont for the last five years pursuing my PhD, I made many friends at school. But I soon realized that many of the friends I made were graduating soon and moving on their way in life. I wondered how I was going to make more friends and what was I going to do now since we bought into a business and were setting up roots in the area. I realized that I was finally in a place in my life where becoming a Mason made perfect sense.
As I had done two years prior, I went to the Grand Lodge of California website, but then I remembered that I already had an open invitation from the Claremont Lodge #436. So, I contacted them on Wednesday, July 30, 2014, and they invited me to come to lodge the very next day. Now here’s the thing about me. I have trouble doing social things with people I don’t know. I have a lot of difficulty with small talk, so I usually try to attend such things with someone. I asked my father-in-law to go with me, but he was unavailable. Usually, I’d take that as a sign that I shouldn’t go, but this time I didn’t. I went.
I arrived at the lodge a little early and meandered outside momentarily, just as one of the brothers pulled into the driveway. He is one of those wonderful older brothers who can do all the lectures, and he recites them with vigor in his Texas style. He seemed genuinely happy to meet me and invited me in, where he introduced me to everyone. I did not feel awkward at all. Everyone was so nice and friendly.
The Claremont Lodge is unique, I think, in the make-up of its brethren. There is a large contingent of “Limeys” as the British brethren call themselves, as well as older brethren who have risen in the ranks and now sit on the sidelines, helping with lectures and degrees here and there. There are men a few years older than me and several a few years younger than me. I found myself fitting in very well and quickly becoming good friends with a few of them. I attended the lodge twice and a BBQ at one of the brothers’ house before taking an application.
My Masonic Facebook friends advised me to shop around, but I felt like I found the right place. So, I re-contacted them to let them know I was completing the petition, and they both said I could put them down as references. This was all so exciting and new.