“’Excuse me, can I sit here?”
Five years ago in February, Luis Martinez asked that question of a pretty dark-haired girl sitting towards the back of the Omnitrans Route 8 bus. When Celina Rodriguiz looked up and said yes, their lives were changed forever.
“It was his eyes that got me at first,” laughs Celina. “When they hit the light a certain way, they look like they’re glowing. Years later, that’s still his best feature.”
“She had her head in her phone at first,” teases Luis.
“I was doing homework,” corrects Celina. “I was going to ROP at the time.”
“Then we started talking a little, asking each other how our day went, stuff like that,” Luis shrugs.
The couple soon realized that they were regulars on the route, and Luis always made a point of sitting or standing near Celina so they could talk. Slowly the two became friends. Their budding romance was quickly apparent to the other bus regulars, and they made sure that the seat beside Celina stayed open for Luis. It was three weeks before they exchanged numbers and went on their first date.
Their relationship grew. But there were lots of things to think about, and challenges to overcome. Celina’s little girl Angelina was six at the time, and she wanted to be sure this was the right person to bring into her life. And Luis wasn’t crazy about kids so he was nervous. But as soon as he met Angelina, all that fell away.
“He kept saying how polite and well-behaved she was,” says Celina. “He thought she was amazing. The two of them actually hit it off right away.”
About two years into their relationship, Celina became pregnant with their son Jacob. The prospect of being a dad was a bit terrifying for Luis who had never imagined himself in that role. And strong-willed Celina defiantly tried to push him away saying she would be just fine on her own. But the two held on, knowing that deep inside they weren’t ready to give up on each other.
Luis stayed with Celina throughout the pregnancy. He was right there by her side during the labor and delivery–always a bit of a challenge for any father-to-be.
“Leave me alone!”
“Just breathe babe.”
“I hate you. This HURTS!”
Finally, baby Jacob was born, and Luis was the first one to hold him in his arms.
“He just . . . melted,” smiled Celina. “It was love at first sight.”
And he wasn’t alone. Angelina adored her baby brother and couldn’t wait to help take care of him. The two children were almost inseparable.
Today, Jacob is three and Angelina, nine. His world still revolves around his big sister.
“The two of them are very close,” laughs Celina. “Every day he wants to know what is his sister doing, when is she getting home from school. She’s the only one he really listens to and he pretty much does whatever she tells him to do.”
Celina and Luis are still together and loving their role as parents. It’s the thing Luis is most proud of in his life.
“I love being a dad. It’s fun to see the world through Jacob’s eyes. He’s really smart too. He gets really excited when we take them on the bus to Chucky Cheese. He knows the routes and can tell where we’re going!”
Celina and Luis laugh. Their relationship has gone through so many ups and downs, but when they look at each other you can see it’s worth it.
“In a way we balance each other out,” says Celina. “I tend to over-think and over-analyze every little thing, and Luis is more like wheeeeeee–let’s have fun! He’s more spontaneous. Together we’re better people.”
For more pictures from our photo shoot with Celina and Luis, visit us on Flickr.
story by Juno Kughler Carlson / photos by Janice Kuhn
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