A friend here at Highland Farms, my retirement community, decided to make use of our isolation time during the Coronavirus pandemic by sharing her newlywed memories across the mandatory six feet of space in one of our daily walks around our 75 or so acres. This necessitated raised voices and she soon had a crowd getting closer and closer to her. You know, hearing impairment makes some things necessary.
Her memories as a 20-something year old bride were somewhat different from mine, I being a decade older when I took the fatal step. I’m laughing as I remember.
Poets wax eloquently about a lover’s croon . . . under the moon . . . in June. Apparently, they were otherwise occupied in June of 1968 when I met Jim, else they would have thrown in the towel without a whimper.
The first few months of any relationship are a journey of discovery. My journey with the man who later became my husband will surely go down in the annals of history as unique. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Eleventh Edition defines unique as “being the only one.” When I consider my own experiences, I can only say, “Dear heaven, I hope so.”
Take for instance, our first date. Well, not our first, actually. That was a blind date arranged by mutual friends. I thought they were my friends. Throughout that evening, Jim seemed perfectly normal, so how could I possibly be prepared for the phone call that came a few days later?
After a brief hello, Jim said he was going up to McDowell County to look for bugs and did I want to go? I had a fleeting image of turning over leaves looking for creepy, crawly things. After I got my squeaky voice under control, I asked him if he’d really said what I thought he did. Being assured my hearing was not impaired, I swallowed my surprise and gave the matter some thought. I admitted to curiosity. Just what kind of man invited a new acquaintance to go bug hunting? Especially a woman. There was one way to find out. It turned out the bugs he wanted to find were invading the tops of trees, so I got a crick in my neck instead of sore knees.
Time marched on. I learned a little about stock car racing and realized that, contrary to popular belief, Richard Petty most likely created the world. I tried, really I did, to learn about rocks. Jim gently corrected me. They’re not weapons to throw at cats; they’re precious minerals. But that’s another story. Remind me to tell you someday.
I still cringe when I think about cooking in the early months of our marriage. Mind you, I was thirty-one years old and for some twenty years, I had successfully maneuvered my way around pots and pans. Was I in for a surprise! Consider black eyed peas and stewed tomatoes, Jim’s favorite vegetable. That seemed a reasonable request to go along with pork chops, so I said no problem. Like any other red-blooded American working woman, I dumped a can of peas in a pot, added a can of stewed tomatoes, brought them to a boil, and let them simmer while I finished preparing dinner.
After my dearly beloved tasted them, I made the mistake of asking what he thought. He told me. It seems the peas are supposed to be cooked in one pot and delivered to the table hot, while the tomatoes are cooked in a different pot and served at room temperature. And besides, he reminded me, he’d said stewed tomatoes. These weren’t, no matter what was printed on the can label. Okay, I’m willing to learn. Just how should stewed tomatoes be prepared? With sugar and bits of toasted loaf bread was his answer. Oh, I said, you mean scalloped tomatoes, only to be corrected. So, never let it be said that I’m stuck in my ways. I accepted the difference in terminology. Since that time, I place a bowl of hot peas on the table beside a bowl of room-temperature stewed/scalloped tomatoes. I then keep my mouth shut when he dumps the tomatoes on top of the peas and stirs the whole mess together.
We really can’t ignore eggs, that breakfast necessity in his opinion. I prided myself on that first omelet. Chopped bell pepper, both red and green, diced ham and shredded cheddar. Oh, how I watched over it to be sure it was evenly golden brown on both sides. Then I made that same mistake. Would I never learn? I asked him what he thought. He said it was okay, but next time he’d rather I didn’t burn it. Omelets are supposed to be yellow, he told me.
That Christmas, he gave me an omelet pan which arrived from Swiss Colony filled with nicely packaged cheese and a recipe folder. Ah, yes, the recipe book. I read it carefully then contained my glee as well as I could when I pointed out to him the magic words: When the omelet is golden brown on the bottom, place it under the broiler until the top is also golden brown. He hasn’t mentioned it since, but being the dutiful wife that I am, I make sure his omelets are always a true yellow.
And so we come to snow. Watching through a window while white stuff falls outside is great. Beautiful. Even walking in it can be fun as long as the flakes are large and fluffy. Shortly before we met and after four years in our most northern cold, snowy state, Jim had returned to the outside. For anyone who is lacking in education, that’s Alaskan lingo for any place outside the confines of that state. His blood must have been as thick as molasses because he ran around in short sleeves, never feeling the cold like normal people.
Our never-to-be-forgotten wedding ceremony (another story—remind me) took place on December 5th, and throughout the winter when bedtime came, he turned down the heat, closed the bedroom door, and opened both windows wide for cross ventilation. Unfortunately, the bed was placed under one of those windows. I woke in the wee hours one morning when icy snowflakes bombarded my face. It took a couple of jabs from my elbow into Jim’s ribs before he came back from his visit to dreamland. Did he apologize? Did he tenderly dry my face? Did he even hand me a towel? You gotta be kidding. He shouted with delight, “Oh, great, it’s snowing!”
More than 50 years later, Jim is still living, which goes to show what an understanding, even-tempered, easy-going, fantastically marvelous woman he had the good fortune to marry. However, if I should succumb to an impulse to send the man to his just reward, I will be sure to ask for a jury of twelve women, good and true. They will surely acquit me on grounds of justifiable homicide.