Like all girls raised on Disney, I am a connoisseur of love stories. I try to fake it like I am not all mushy and gushy, but for real, probably I have cream filling, and it’s likely that I could have been covered in sprinkles in a past life. And before that, it’s possible that I was a puppy. Or a daffodil.
Something that I look forward to with my own daughter is telling her about how her Dad and I met and fell in love. I wonder which parts I will edit out for content and which parts I might embellish a little to make myself or Mitch seem a little more romantic– I mean, I’m a good story teller and all, but just how angels-singing-in-the-heavens can you make meeting up at a costume party, being unable to change a tire, and going back to someone’s dorm (which may be one of those things I edit out until she’s older. And even when she’s older, I will definitely put in this disclaimer: I GOT VERY VERY LUCKY. DON’T BE STUPID.)
I’m still working on that one.
But as I have been thinking about the love story that preceded my daughter, I started thinking about the love story that preceded myself.
These are my parents– circa the late seventies. I’ve heard that this picture was taken on their wedding day, but that is at this point, unconfirmed. It’s not really important. What is important to note is that A) I have no memories of my Dad’s chin, although his beard is slightly shorter now, and B) although I did inherit my Mom’s love for poetry, foreign languages, and comparative religion, I did not inherit her figure. Thanks loads, Ma.
Here is something that I love about my parent’s love story. It is so, so authentic. If I were going to write an honest to goodness biography on my parents, I would probably end up ripping off my arms and beating myself to death with them. There are huge, immense gaps in the story. It’s impossible to nail down a timeline. My mom is very rarely forthcoming, and my Dad has such a flair for the dramatics that you never know which story was the REAL story and which story is my Dad’s fantastic invention of history.
I’ve had lots of friends tell me that my parents are unreal. Like if they hadn’t actually met them in real life, they would think that they were myths. I have met them in real life and they still seem a little mythological to me.
Jump into the wayback machine with me– the way, way, way back machine. It is the late 60s. My Mom is 18 and going to band practice with her husband, her high school sweetheart. My Dad is 14, a farm kid from Western Nebraska who is much too smart for his own good, and is trying to crash this rock band with his mad guitar skills. He came down to meet my mom’s husband, who was in the band, and, by proxy, he met my Mom.
I’ve heard him tell this story a hundred times. Probably a thousand. He always looks at my mom at this part of his re-telling and says, “And I thought, That’s the woman I’m going to marry.” And my sister and I always look at my Mom and say, “Did you think he was handsome? Did you smile at him? Did he sweep you off your feet?” And my mom would roll her eyes at us silly girls.
“He was a kid.” She says, “I barely noticed him.”
Over the next several years, my Dad was able to rock his way into the band and become best friends with my Mom. They even lived in a hippie commune together, which means that a bunch of people tried to be socialists in our little bitty repressed town. Most of the stories from these times have been edited or not even shared with us, but now that we’re grown up, occasionally you will hear my Dad begin a story with, “Back in The Falling Towers days…” (which was the name of their first commune), or “Back when we were with S&G….” (which is the name of their second commune. It stood for Sodom and Gomorrah). But largely, during these times they did what most hippies did in the seventies. I’ve seen pictures. It looks exactly like you think it would.
By this time, my mom had had her first daughter, Evenstar. And yes, she is named for the Tolkein character, Arwen Evenstar. Now that I’m expecting my own daughter, I keep trying to find a name that is at least halfway as cool. But there’s kind of no way. The bar is set pretty high.
Also at some point here, my Mom and her first husband divorced. I don’t know a lot about this; and even if I did I wouldn’t share. I do have SOME boundaries.
The point being– if this was Disney, my Dad would be able to just swoop in, right? That’s how they do it on all the after school specials.
Sadly for my Dad, not so much. One of the sweetest stories we’ve heard from this time is that my Mom would ask my Dad to set her up with some of his friends. When she told us this, my sister and I were aghast. “Mom, how could you be so mean?” She laughed and replied, “I also had him babysit.” I remember turning my shocked gaze at my Dad, who did not look hurt at all.
“It was worse when she DIDN’T have me babysit.” He explained. “Because then I wasn’t even INVOLVED.”
Obviously, at some point, they probably have some really beautiful proposal story in which my Dad wore a kaftan or something and wrote her a song and then they wrote in their journals about it while they tended their pet rocks. Alas, no.
I’ve asked my Dad a couple times how he proposed to my Mom. I get a different response every time. This is because he proposed to her all the time. Every chance he got.You kind of have to know my Dad to get a real sense of the dramatics here, but I imagine that at no point since she met him did my Mom ever have a chance to forget that my Dad wanted to marry her.
But first, my Mom had to come around.
Even though it might not be the most romantic thing ever, my Dad was actually dating someone else while he carried a torch for my Mom. It was the 70s. Love the one you’re with, right?
My mom says that she and my Dad’s girlfriend were shopping and there was a big Christmas tree at the mall, and a Dad was kneeling next to his two children, explaining to them what Christmas was all about.
“Look at that,” My Dad’s current girlfriend said, “I just know that Vince is going to be a Dad just like that.”
“Oh, sure.” My Dad’s future wife said. And in her head she thought, He’s mine.
My mom always smiles at this part of the story and then says to her daughters, “Ladies, don’t advertise your man.”
The timeline here is very hazy. But at some point, my mom told one of their mutual friends that if he ran into Vince, she needed to talk to him. This was in the pre-Twitter days, so I imagine it took a few days.
The movie in my head shows my Dad running through town, probably in the rain, and the music swells, and the lighting is perfect, and my Mom comes out of the house and jumps into his arms and they twirl in the front yard.
So of course, as a kid, I asked my Dad what he did when he heard. And he laughs and says, “I got drunk. And I mean– MAJORLY drunk.”
He got all drunk and then made his way over to my Mom’s house. He says that he came onto her porch and started yelling for her to come out and tell him what needed to be said; and I’m sure that he was building himself up for terrible news.
And my Mom came out and said, “Okay.”
That’s it. They were engaged– in a very organic, seventies kind of way.
My parents always finish the story in the same way. Dad says, “So I went into the house.” And Mom shoots back, “And he NEVER LEFT.”
Maybe Hollywood wouldn’t necessarily go for it. And even if they did, they’d never get the Kris Kristoffersen rambling story telling of my Dad, or the Joni Mitchell bury-everything-in-a-metaphor story telling of my Mom. But when I play it in my head, it is one of the most romantic stories I’ve ever heard.
Here is my memory to wrap this all up.
When Mitch went to ask my Dad’s permission to marry me, he was so nervous that he didn’t know what to say. He had a whole speech prepared. They sat down for breakfast, and Mitch began with,
“How are you doing, sir?”
And my Dad smiled and said,
Then he said, “And I’ll tell you something– she’s just like her Mom. When she’s mad– and I know that she can get MAD– and she is aiming that huge vocabulary at you– and she tells you just to get the hell out…. just…. DON’T. And that is the secret to a successful marriage.”