I met Laurie at a Hanukkah party in Fort Collins, Colorado, a small town that had almost no other single Jews my age. Our mutual friend hosting the party later confessed that she’d set us up but didn’t tell us; at the time, we were clueless. Our first conversation led to our first date—on snowshoes! We got engaged eight months later.
Laurie suggested the hike on snowshoes. It was the first time for both of us, which in hindsight made it a perfect first date because we were both trying something new on multiple levels and stumbling around (snowshoeing is harder than it looks), making it easier to bypass any pressure to maintain facades. We had both been through a lot: cross-country moves, stressful job situations, failed previous relationships, and the struggle to reconcile childhood challenges.
But I lived in Greeley, 40 miles away. That may not sound like such a long drive, but it was daunting with our busy schedules and the possibility of icy roads for some of the year. Laurie really loved Fort Collins (it’s a hip and pretty city, while Greeley often smells like the feedlot town it is), so when she said she was willing to move to Greeley to make it easier to spend time together, I knew this was going the distance!
I was trying to earn tenure at a university. Laurie left her post-doc position to launch a new career in the healing arts. At one point, she actually had four part-time jobs at once: as a cook for a family, tutor for B’nai Mitzvah, synagogue administrator and massage therapist.
I’m still astounded at what aligned for us. We discovered that the mom of my friend since second grade, Jon, was a childhood friend of Laurie’s friend, Barbara. My dad was always really into family genealogy; when he learned that I was taking a job in Greeley, he recalled that he had third cousins there. We’d never met or spoken to them, but my dad reached out to them right away—and they lived 10 doors down from me. When they left for the winter, Laurie stayed there, keeping the house Kosher.
I don’t remember where I heard that the Talmud compares finding your beshert to splitting the Red Sea, but the internet (e.g., Sefaria) made it easy to dive deeper (no pun intended) and learn more. I found the Talmud’s metaphor for the difficulty of matchmaking in Sotah 2a, Sanhedrin 22a, and Megillah 10b.
It hit me that I could write a song in that spirit about meeting Laurie, incorporating the “universal” passages from Talmud. It’s called “Tearin’ the Sea.” The chorus:
Our Maker makes all matches,
but it’s not easy and free:
it’s hard to pair as it was to tear the sea.
And later this line for Laurie:
It’s too small a chance all that was chance.
Larry Lesser and Laurie Davis have been married for 22 years. Laurie is a manual therapist whose neuroscience background informs her work with people who have brain injury and nervous system problems. Larry is an award-winning mathematics education professor at The University of Texas at El Paso. He is also a songwriter whose debut CD of original Jewish songs will be out in February. (Find out more at larrylesser.com/sparks.) Both Larry and Laurie are active in the El Paso Jewish community. They have a son, Judah.
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Epilogue: My album SPARKS was indeed released a month before the pandemic hit and the album website mentioned above has links to read the lyrics, access the music, and learn more about this project which my relationship with Laurie made possible on so many levels! I’m a lucky guy!