Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting to Know You- Whatever it Takes

Could it be that Ouachita Life is entering its fifth year? And I’ve been writing this column for four? What they say about the way time flies is true. Except for a time or two of missed connections, my byline has appeared in every issue you’ve picked up for a long time now. One very rewarding new development- I get letters!
After my recent column about weddings, a reader from Bismarck wrote to tell me the fascinating tale of the beginning of his 62 year marriage.
The best place to start in this love story of Henry and June Williams is with the last line: “So you see, we never had a date, and all of our courtship was through the mail.”
Yes, you read that right. Here’s how it happened: When Henry was just seventeen, he and a friend were traveling on a bus from the State of Washington back to Arkansas. A family with two teen-aged daughters was on the same bus, headed for Minnesota. One of the girls wanted to sit with Henry’s friend, which left him with 13-year old June as his companion for the overnight trip.
Perhaps we can understand the old fashioned term for courtship-“sparking” a little better now, because that night, a flame was lit that has burned for more than half a century. At some point the next morning, the youngsters had to change to separate buses, but not before they exchanged addresses. Back home in the Northern Midwest and the Upper South, June and Henry continued to get acquainted, by mail.
I asked Henry about those letters, and he said they must have been pretty good. He particularly remembers that once while serving in the military, he nearly panicked when he couldn’t find June’s address to answer her latest letter. Thankfully, she was not just sitting around waiting for a response, and another letter arrived in time to keep everything rolling.
For four years, the correspondence continued, with letters traveling half-way around the world. Then, while Henry was stationed in Florida, the two decided to make a change. I can picture June running to the mailbox in Minnesota as those plans were being firmed up, until the day she received money in the mail to go and get the marriage license. Now 17, her 20-year old fiancé was making another bus trip. This time, they would leave together, as husband and wife.
June’s uncle met Sgt. Williams in Grand Marais, Minnesota to bring him back by pontoon airplane to the family’s lakeside home. Henry sounds a little nervous as he describes arriving to see two girls standing on the dock. Because he’d only seen her in pictures for four years, he says he “hoped he would pick the right one.” After 62 years, three kids and lots of grands and greats, he tells me that now “We have the same thoughts”. I’m no expert, but I think he definitely picked the right girl.
From the “More Things Change the More they Stay the Same” department, another reader tells me about his experience with an on-line match-making service. These days, the information gathering took a matter of months, rather than years. He says that after the surveys and opinions on all sorts of things were finished, and actual email letters started, they were corresponding once or twice each day. By the time he and his on-line sweetheart decided to meet face to face, they felt they knew each other quite well.
Just to be sure, these two dated for a little over two years, and are now happy newlyweds. Of course, we should add a “Results May Not be Typical” disclaimer, but it seems that just like Henry and June, these modern-day pen-pals succeeded in their quest to find a soul-mate. When it’s right, it’s right.
So what’s your story? Happily attached after an un-orthodox beginning? Still out there looking? Content to live your life the way you want ? I’d love to hear about it. Write me c/o Ouachita Life, P.O. Box 147, Benton, AR 72018. Or come by my blogsite www.jennycarlisle.net and leave a comment. The fiction writer in me loves to hear a great tale, and so do our Ouachita readers! Hope you have a great September.

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