Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

From This Day: Long-ago vacation friendship becomes much more

ST. PETERSBURG — The name on the website's photo credit looked familiar. Tiffany Hanscom's colleague in a Charlotte, N.C., floral shop had sent her in search of a pair of cute shoes and the picture accompanied a review of the footwear.

A few clicks later, she sent an email: Was he the John T. Braun she had met on a family vacation back in middle school?

The answer came back less than a minute later: "Tiffany: You have got to be kidding me."

During the next few hours, they exchanged dozens of messages, filling each other in on the developments of the past two decades.

Back in the day, John was a freshman in high school, and Tiffany was a couple of years younger. He and his sister and parents, all from St. Petersburg, went on a camping trip to Squam Lake, N.H., which classic-movie buffs will recognize as the filming location for On Golden Pond. Tiffany was there as a guest of a friend's family.

The youngsters spent much of their time trying to dodge their boring elders, playing video games in the clubhouse, swimming in the pool, hanging out and talking. As their vacation drew to a close, Tiffany suggested that she and John write to each other.

"We were pen pals all the way through high school," she says. "I was a thousand miles away (in New Hampshire)." They corresponded nearly every week for four years.

John entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Tiffany had a friend whose brother was there, too, and the two girls went for a visit. She spent hours planning her outfit and trying to figure out how she was going to greet John.

"I don't know why, but I clammed right up," she says. "I spent a couple of hours walking with him that day. I don't think we said 20 or 30 words the whole time. I spent all this time and money on clothes and I totally blew it."

"I always considered she was out of my league," John recalls. "I was just plain nervous. I was sure Tiffany wasn't interested in me." He gave her a gym shirt, which she says she slept in for years. "I probably went back to my barracks thinking, 'I gave Tiffany a sweaty old shirt.' "

They wrote again a few times after that, but John left West Point after a boxing injury, and his family moved across the country from St. Petersburg to Washington state. Tiffany and her family relocated from Rye, N.H., to Greenland, N.H.

They lost track of each other. They went to college, earned degrees and married. Tiffany gave birth to twins, a son and a daughter. John traveled extensively, writing and taking photographs. Their marriages ended.

After their email exchange, she invited John to visit. Near the bottom of the staircase at Boston's Logan International Airport, she paced back and forth, uneasy and fretful.

Then, he was there, and he embraced her, "the hug you see in an airport in a movie," she says, "the hug you never ever think will happen to you. That was the day he kissed me for the first time. And that was that."

John, now 41, moved back to St. Petersburg, where he grew up. "It was time to reset," he says. Tiffany, 39, moved to town last year, packing the children, their dog and whatever else would fit into her Volkswagen Jetta.

Tiffany's stationery with ConceptBait events group describes her as "chief floral goddess, senior designer, executive producer and proud Mama extraordinaire." John is a project manager for FIS Global.

Their engagement was brief, about two months before they married on June 7 in the presence of two dozen family and friends at the Davis Islands Garden Club in Tampa.

"We had been working for 20 years to get to this point," Tiffany says. "I just didn't realize what the point was."

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