Lynda who lives on a farm in Colorado looked at that year ago post from yesterday and asked me how this all happened. That a New Zealand girl could wind up living in the middle of nowhere with an American man. It is not a long story, but I guess it is a sweet one. I think all our stories are special. Just finding someone you can live with is pretty special all in itself.
Well, when I was seventeen I came to the United States as an Exchange Student. I came straight from the beach out to the prairies. I was skinny, with glasses and hair all over the place. All legs and hair in those days. This was the last gasp of the seventies not a year for high fashion but great jeans. I had been nursing a sick Mum and going to a convent school. I was the fizzy coke bomb bottle.
I lived, for a year, just down the road from here, in a big house with John’s family. His Mother ‘The Matriarch’ was a teacher at our school. John was a senior, and in the same grade as me, so he was delegated to drive me to school every day. He had a penchant for old Chevy cars and Bob Dylan.
I did not. Bob Dylan sounded screechy to me and his car was awfully drafty and not terribly clean. I was a chatter box and he was as silent as the proverbial grave. I was into English, books and driving around with gaggles of girls and he was into physics and cars. I was a pompom girl (the most awkward one who could never learn the routines and fell over her own feet). He and his hairy mates (hairy being the boy fashion of the time) went to the games and parked on the dark side of the field. I knew nobody so I was friends with everybody. He lingered and watched and I darted about in my giggly butterfly fashion tasting most things and taking very little notice of other things. He was a solid A student and I was suspended for three days for smoking in the art room and another time I was seen jumping out of a two story window on a dare. Well I am sure you get the idea by now. The shaken coke bottle had been opened and I just fizzed with delight all over the place.
He tells me now that he had a crush on me but he was not a big talker and I never stood still for long anyway. You can see his problem. I had rather a wild time, was frequently rescued by him or his older brother when I got into trouble, and left at the end of a year none the wiser.
As I sat in the bus with all the other AFS students on our way to the big reunion in Washington before we were all put on our respective planes and shipped back home, I opened my diary. A tiny torn strip of paper fell out. On it was written I Love You. In capitals. Each letter below the other. That is all. Just I Love you. The letters had been traced over again and again so the letters were strong but made up of many many tiny lines and you could have read it like braille on the reverse side.
But I had no idea who had written this little note, on this tiny scrap of paper, torn into a little rectangle as though dissected from a bigger picture. I still have it in that little diary with the tiny brass lock, in a big trunk in New Zealand (along with about forty other diaries I might add… piles of them, I wrote everything down. Most of it is rubbish).
Many years later after my own children were grown, I returned to Illinois to meet up with John’s mother again. John was back in town. He told me that when I walked down the curving wooden staircase in his mother’s house he knew. But he waited. It took him four years of me visiting his family two or three times a year, to finally ask me to stay. Our John asked me five times to marry him.
I said no four times. Living all the way out here in the country was an enormous change from the high life I was living amongst the film set in London. Spending weekends in trendy bars drinking champagne, wearing cool shoes, spending ungodly amounts on coats and scarves (my weakness) and flying all over Europe with my not terribly demanding but very well paid job. So he waited again and asked me again. He said it would be fine. And on the fifth time I was ready so I said yes.
And he was right. I found my home here. As you know I am not gushy about these things. I think there is a lot more to a good relationship than love and sex. These are part of a bigger picture. There has to be compatibility and respect, kindness, gentle forgiveness and a lot of good old fashioned work. Marriage is not easy. There also needs to be patience and Our John is the master of that. Plus a cow. I think a naughty cow is good for a marriage too! But most of all I think you have to WANT to live with this person in this life.
Good morning. Have a lovely, lovely day.