A nickel brought Caryn and Jim Franca together, and Feb. 23 will be this Clifton couple's 23rd anniversary. They first met when she was 20 and he was 31.
"I was doing clerical work at the Fairfax County courthouse, and he was working his way through law school as a [land] title examiner," said Caryn. "I went to the cafeteria on a Monday to buy a Coke for a quarter, and that's all I had. But it had gone up to 30 cents, over the weekend. I turned around, and Jim was standing there with a nickel in his hand."
She added: "He said it was the best nickel he ever spent." Then Jim piped up, saying, "It was the most expensive one."
Caryn was raised in the Brookfield community, and Jim, in Alexandria. Actually, said Jim, he'd seen her a year earlier, in the court record room and thought she was attractive. "I'd kind of been wanting to meet her," he said. "It was just one of those storybook kind of things."
"It was total love at first sight — we just had that chemistry," said Caryn. "He was athletic and handsome and loved children. And he had a little wild streak in him, and I liked that." Said Jim: "She was young, beautiful, bright and aggressive. I really believe we were meant for each other. It was so obvious from the first time I saw her and we dated."
It was 1978, and Jim and his roommates shared a house on Clifton's Frog Hill; on their first date, he brought Caryn there for dinner. They had lots in common, including music and sports, and Jim played rugby then. Two years later, they were married.
They still live in Clifton today, and Jim, 55, and Caryn, 44, are the parents of Alyson, 22, married and working on a degree in art education; Jeff, 18, attending the University of Indiana School of Music on a percussion-performance scholarship; and Nick, 13, a seventh-grader at Robinson.
Jim's an attorney and land developer, and Caryn is a personal life-coach in her own company, Total Potential. They enjoy golfing at Chantilly Country Club, traveling in Europe and Hawaii, skiing and going to the beach. They also love sharing the hot tub on their deck.
Since Valentine's Day is near their anniversary, they usually combine the two and, between Feb. 14-23, the Francas spend a weekend at Wintergreen. So what are their tips for a happy marriage? "Communicate and compromise," said Jim. "Keep it fun — keep the romance alive," added Caryn.
As for the most romantic thing he's ever done for her, Jim said one year they were completely snowed in. There was an ice storm and the power went out, so they stayed home and listened to a portable radio. "I called the radio station and asked them to play one of the songs at our wedding, and they did," he said. "It was Elton John's 'Your Song.'"
He also noted that "one of the neatest things about our relationship is how we shared in the birth of our children. I was her labor coach, and it was all natural. It really gave me a whole, different perspective on who she is and her strength."