In my college years I met a wonderful man. We’ll call him James.
He struggled with drinking, as most college boys do, but he exemplified the smartest and sexiest man I’d ever known. My 20-something self wanted to marry him in spite of his drawbacks.
My mother and grandmother supported the coupling but for different reasons. For my mother, I feel it was a bit of a check mark – yes, I’ll finally get my youngest daughter married. For my grandmother it reflected a more romantic and basic idea.
You see, when my grandfather first approached my grandmother, it was on a horse. Yep, you got that right, a horse
He didn’t ride up on a white, shiny horse, with sword drawn (as in many a fairy tale). But he did saddle up in front of her fence and, after seeing her curvy self on first sight (him 18, her three years younger), he declared:
“I’m going to marry you one day.”
My uncle, her younger brother, responded by pulling on her arm and exclaiming:
“I’ve gotta shit, gotta shit, gotta shit.”
Not exactly a romantic first encounter, but that didn’t stop my PaPa. He and my grandmother continued to woo each other beyond that for months. She served him many dinners in her home, as was custom. In the end, they decided to marry and knock mid-century boots.
I don’t mean to be cavalier in their procreation, but it was WWII time, alcohol flowed. And hallelujah for that. Both a little pre- and post-war folly led to a many babies (my mother and uncle included).
What often didn’t stick was post-war romance, but that wasn’t the case for my grandparents. Man, did they love each other.
They stuck together through thick and thin, even while my grandmother exerted her independence. Buy a new car, my Papa said yes. Open a store, of course my lady. Purchase a railroad in Cuba, okay.
My grandfather was the proverbial Cool-Whipped man. My Nanny’s figure (a.k.a big boobs) kept him in line. He’d follow whatever she said.
He played a lot of harmonica and banjo, but he died long before he could instill any real kind of wisdom with me about his passion – playing cards: King’s Corner, 21 and Gin Rummy .
Nanny didn’t want that kind of card-shark influence on us anyway. As my female cousins and I grew into adults, she simply wanted to be the dealer on who we should date.
That’s where James came into play. She adored him. He remained the quintessential 20th-century boyfriend in her eyes, long after Y2K and our relationship ended.
What’s James doing? Why aren’t you with him? Is he planning to marry? Why aren’t you his bride?
My Nanny posed these questions, assessing him an ace. It didn’t matter that we didn’t want the same things in life: kids, career, home.
I smiled and ignored her concerns after James and I broke up, dismissing her thoughts as simple-minded and understanding that, in this case, she wasn’t playing with a full deck. I knew, emphatically, that who or whether I was going to marry had nothing to do with my Nanny, her 1950s ideals, or first impressions.
But I rethought all of those assumptions in my 30s …
My grandfather declared that he was going to marry my grandmother, on a horse, after first meeting her. Was this crazy talk or the declaration of a sane man? Can love at first sight actually occur?
(This post is one of 30 30-somethings I’m writing for the weekly countdown to my 40th birthday. Celebrate with me as I share other lessons or humbling experiences from the past decade.)