Yesterday, I commented to a friend on another blog and it prodded my memory of a special time in my past.
My wife and I were married pretty young. She had just landed her first teaching position set to start a month later, and I was still in graduate school, with three part-time jobs. We had no money. I don’t mean we had no money to speak of, I mean nada. What we did have were my school loans, and arrangements to live in a small, cheap, lousy apartment on the bad side of town.
With a great deal of faith in my perseverance, I did not stress over financial matters, so we took the funds we received from family and friends at our wedding ceremony, and headed to Bermuda for a honeymoon. Carol owned a suitcase and some clothes. I wore clothes I would not admit owning today, and they mostly hung on my back. I’m a positive guy, so I looked at myself as a walking chest of drawers, with a lousy pair of shoes.
In any event, I wanted my bride to have a honeymoon, so we took off for the island and booked the Hamilton Princess Hotel. I had never stayed at a place like it in my life, and neither one of us had ever been anywhere in the world. We could not afford the prices for dining and entertainment at the hotel, but we did manage to meet some other young couples and pooled our resources for some island fare each night. I swore to my new wife that I would return with her someday to enjoy the amenities of Bermuda, but she did not bat an eye. She remained thrilled that we were able to experience something new and exciting for both of us.
Upon our return to the States, we were literally penniless. We had not exited the airplane an hour before we discovered our arrangements for our first apartment had fallen through. I had been a lifeguard a few years earlier, and I knew a lot of friends that led the “beach life.” One of them had an elderly aunt and arranged to have us stay at her house. I was thrilled, and my wife overjoyed, until we spent the night.
The old woman lived alone we were told, but as we sat at the kitchen table for dinner, she began to call “Freddie” in a loud voice. I inquired as to whether someone else resided in the home, and she told us it was her son. Since she repeatedly opened the basement door and called Freddie, I suggested I go down the basement to let him know his mom was ready for dinner. She thanked me, and I headed down the stairs.
The basement was a dark, unfinished, dirty cellar, complete with spider webs and their occupants, along with some other creatures I could not detect in the darkness. There was no Freddie. When I came back upstairs and told her it appeared her son would not be joining us for dinner, she replied, “Of course not, he’s dead.”
Well my wife freaked out, began to cry, and ran into the bedroom in disbelief. I stood there trying to get a handle on things, discovered the old woman lost a marble or two over the years, and attempted to piece something together that resembled a plan. The lady said, “Don’t worry, young man. Your wife is just a little nervous like all new brides. I’ll go talk to her and we’ll have some tea.”
She talked to Carol alright. She was very sweet, and my wife appeared to be fine, until the woman exclaimed, “Don’t worry dear. You’ll love it here. I lived here most of my life. In fact, Freddie died right here in this room.”
That’s all it took. Carol was out the door. I grabbed our suitcase, thanked the old woman, and considered punching my friend’s lights out. Instead, I followed my bride, figuring this was one of those “for worse” times the priest spoke of, and we walked down the street together, trying to come up with plan B.
We did. Living in the basement apartment of another friend for about three weeks, we finally landed an apartment. My best man at our wedding arranged for us to move in without a down payment. The place was a shambles, but it was ours. In the apartment, the landlord left one wooden chair, a step stool, and a large box. It was now furnished.
For nine months we shared that place. We took turns sitting on the chair. We laughed, enjoyed every minute of our new life together, and never looked back. Of course, since then, Carol and I enjoyed successful careers, raised and educated four fantastic children, and traveled the world.
Neither of us would ever trade the experience of our first year of marriage. It gave us motivation, perspective, and direction.