Posts Tagged ‘love story’

Cut and Dried

I spent a cold and snowy Valentine’s Day sorting through old letters that my parents wrote to each other when they were dating, from 1955 until they married in 1957. Back in the day, Mom would have been called a Career Girl. She was a Korean War widow from the upper peninsula of Michigan, working at Northwestern Bank in downtown Minneapolis. She enjoyed the city life and was very active with shopping, skiing, golfing, and bridge. Dad was 34, a WWII veteran and confirmed bachelor, working on his Master’s Degree in education, unemployed, and living with his parents in Chisholm. An avid outdoorsman, he hunted and fished with his brothers and buddies and worked occasionally in his father’s service station. Since he had little to do, he took up oil painting, completing a portrait of his dear Jean which we found in the attic when we cleared out their house before it sold. My mother hated that picture, and although it is the source of many family jokes, it hangs in my dining room to this day. He had asked her to return it if she didn’t like it, and I smiled as I wondered what she told him. The two of them met on a blind date, set up by mutual friends. Mom didn’t like blind dates and had turned it down, until they told her that her date was from northern Michigan, which wasn’t exactly true. (He had taken a teaching job there for one year.) Luckily for me, they hit it off. Theirs was a long-distance romance in the days when long-distance telephone calls were a luxury that few people could afford, so they wrote letters. Chisholm was over 200 miles from Minneapolis, and my father had little money and no car. He depended on his father and brothers to lend him a road-worthy vehicle, and more often than not, laments the fact that he couldn’t get there to visit. He finally got a teaching job in Grand Marais, on the north shore of Lake Superior, which was even further away. He wouldn’t get a pay check for a month, so she lent him money to cover his rent and living expenses. I had to smile at this one, wondering what either one of them would have said had my sister or I brought home an unemployed boyfriend who lived with his parents, had no car, and borrowed our money. The letters are full of daily activities and family news, births, and deaths from both sides. Most of the friends that they mentioned remained friends their entire lives, so the names were familiar to me. Once he was working, Dad was very frugal with his money, and suggests that she should be, also. That one made me smile, too, because I can’t imagine anyone telling my mother what to do with her own money! There are obviously a few missing letters, and I think she saved more of them than he did. I put them in chronological order and savored each one as I sipped tea and watched the snow fall outside my window. I knew their love story, but to read it in their own words and in their own handwriting made it even more special. My dad was a writer, and his words of love are meaningful, articulate, and eloquent and the margins are occasionally decorated with his illustrations. At the bottom of the pile, with no envelope and no signature, are two pieces of paper, which I have surmised is a partial first (or second, or third) draft of the final letter he wrote before they married. Perhaps I will find the final draft or the actual letter in the boxes of photographs and memories, perhaps I won’t. Either way, I know the rest of the story.

“Tomorrow, I plan to buy a suit for myself…a pair of shoes, and get a haircut. (Although I really don’t need one.) Tuesday, I plan to cast out a few worms for trout. Wednesday, I plan to see you. Saturday, I plan to wed you. For the rest of my days, I plan to love you. You see, Jean, it’s all cut and dried. You and me. Wonderful, isn’t it?”

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