By Denise Dunbar | [email protected]
Some couples are simply meant to be together.
As Andrew and Tamara Saltonstall told their love story in the store they own together, Tsalt, the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, with the song “I will always love you” wafting by in the background, that was the only possible conclusion.
Andrew remembers everything about the day, Sept. 18, 1990, when they met in Aspen, Colorado, where Tamara was from but where he had only moved to earlier that year.
“I have this picture in my mind of exactly where I was sitting when she came up to me,” he said. “I moved to Colorado in 1990 and was there playing rugby. One afternoon after a long rugby tournament, an absolutely stunningly gorgeous girl came up to me and asked if she could buy me a shot.” The encounter wasn’t random – their mutual friend, Heidi Coughlin Davis, set them up.
“His friend Heidi was his college roommate and [she] introduced us,” Tamara said. “She said, ‘Oh, you have to meet Salty.’ I just thought he had beautiful blue eyes. He remembers what I was wearing but I don’t remember any of the details quite like that.”
They hit it off immediately and started dating. She was 21 and he was 24.
“We dated and I’m not really quite sure why we broke up, but we did,” Tamara said. “We were young and you break up when you’re young. You are moving on and changing and doing different things.”
Andrew quickly realized he had made a mistake.
“I had always believed that there was one person you’re supposed to be with and I quickly realized [she] was the one and I’d let her get away,” Andrew said. “Guess I’ve seen too many romance movies or whatever. No, I guess it’s not too many because I still believe it.”
After Tamara started dating others, Andrew struggled to control his anger at himself.
“He would get in his car and be furious and drive to Denver, which is three hours away,” Tamara said.
“I would just get in my car and go,” Andrew recalled. “I’d leave the state. Just in anger because I screwed up. And she moved on and married and moved away.”
Where she moved away was with her then husband was Alexandria. While Andrew and Tamara weren’t together during this time, their orbits still sometimes crossed.
Andrew also had a Northern Virginia connection, as he had attended The Potomac School in McLean. Heidi, who had introduced them, remained good friends with both of them. And sometimes they would run into each other in Aspen.
“I would see him when we went back to Colorado,” Tamara said. “He’d say, ‘hi’ to me. I knew he hadn’t married, but I didn’t know that he held those feelings for me. I had no idea he felt that way.”
“She was married,” Andrew said. “I’m not going to mess with somebody’s marriage. That’s sacred. … You don’t break that. She was married, so hands off.”
But while he knew he couldn’t be with Tamara, Andrew also had no interest in moving on.
“During that time, his friends would say, ‘She’s married. She has one kid. … She has three kids. Give it up,’” Tamara said.
“And I said, ‘Well, then I’m not going to get married then because that’s the one,’” Andrew said. “’That’s the one.’ I resigned myself to a single life. Because ‘the one’ had gotten away.”
Eventually, Tamara went through a divorce. Fate, and Heidi, intervened to bring Andrew and Tamara back together.
“I got this phone call from my friend Heidi, who had originally introduced us,” Andrew said. “And she said it was another mutual friend of ours’ 40th birthday. ‘Come on out, there’s going to be like 12 girls there,’ she told me. And I’m like, ‘Why would I want to go to a sushi restaurant with 12 girls and be the only guy there?’ And … Heidi said, ‘Well, Tamara’s going to be there.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh,’ and I got a little light-headed.”
It took a bit of convincing on Heidi’s part – including recruiting Tamara’s brother to attend the party so he wouldn’t be the only guy there – but, in the end, Andrew flew out to Aspen for the party.
“I walked down the stairs into the restaurant and as I walked into the entrance … The first
person I saw was Tamara. And I just went straight to the bar. The bartender’s a friend of mine.”
Tamara said Aspen is a small community and that everyone knows everyone else.
“Everyone is like family to each other,” she said.
Andrew proceeded to have a drink and talk with everyone at the table – except Tamara.
Finally, after a half hour, she came up to Andrew and asked if he was going to talk to her.
“And I said, ‘I thought you hated me,’” Andrew said.
“I don’t know why you would have said that,” Tamara laughed.
“I don’t know,” Andrew replied.
“I didn’t know what to say.”
They hit it off instantly again – and this time it was for good. That first night they talked a little bit, and then the next night they went out to dinner.
“He started flying back here [to Northern Virginia] every other weekend,” Tamara said.
“I knew right away,” Andrew said.
“I knew right away as well,” Tamara countered, “but I had to be a little more cautious because of the kids. I couldn’t be quite as immediate.”
“And for me, it was like, ‘I got a second chance. OK, go for it,’” Andrew said.
“And then it was pretty inseparable from then,” Tamara said.
They were married a year later, on May 10, 2008. Tamara’s engagement ring has 16 diamonds in it.
“One for each year that we were not together,” Tamara said. “This year we’ve been married 10 years.”
Andrew still can’t believe his good fortune.
“I was extremely lucky,” Andrew said.
“We are both very lucky,” Tamara agreed.