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Turning Over New Leaf

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Personal Tale


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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.



29 comments:

  1. What a fabulous story! Hmmmm--if anything ever happens to Rod, maybe I'll take in poor newlyweds! I'll sit them down and recite "The Witch of Coos" then call my deceased to come down from the attic!!!

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    1. Judie: Be careful. If Rod is like me, he might come back and scare the Dickens out of you! Thanks for the kind words.

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  2. That is fabulous. I could totally picture that entire story as you went along. Don't tell Carol, but I laughed so hard when she freaked out over the woman talking to/about her dead son. I know that it wasn't funny at the time, but it is hilarious now. I also love how you just roll with everything. That, my friend, is a gift.

    I think that everyone has fond memories of that first apartment. I wasn't married in mine. I lived with a college roommate that eventually became roommates. We were the poorest we ever were. Our furniture situation was terrible. I remember for the first month we didn't even have a TV. Might have been longer. And it was awesome. No couch. One rocking chair that I think I was rocked in as a baby. Basically, we were lucky to have beds to sleep on and a dining room table with chairs. Every night we worked on Sunday New York Times Crossword. That puzzle is HARD. It didn't help that we would get sidetracked laughing and talking. Yeah, that is what happens when you don't have anything. You actually talk to one another, which results in a lot of laughter, and other good stuff. I totally get the appeal of that first apartment. Good times:)

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    1. Robin: I laughed also, which she did not appreciate at the time.

      I was reminded of the incident once before when we were on a cruise and the Captain announced via the loudspeaker that a problem that had arisen on the ship around 2:00 AM. Carol immediately woke me up. She thought the ship was sinking. I told her to "just follow the priest," and tried to go back to sleep. She did not appreciate that either. Great times!

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  3. I'll betcha most of us who experienced "lean years" early on in our marriages wouldn't trade them for anything. We may not have much, but we built lives together. We had next to no furniture when we moved into our first house, but we sure did have fun.

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    1. Susan: It reminds us of what is really important in life, especially around the holidays.

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  4. Thanks for visiting my blog a few days ago. This is such a sweet story. It seems like your memory was able to hold on to many details from that year.

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    1. Cynthia: Thank you so much. Yes, those were great times, which served as building blocks for a great marriage.

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  5. Great story. The old lady incident made me laugh, although I can understand you weren't laughing at the time.

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    1. Miranda: My wife was not laughing, that's for sure. However, she got used to it over the years (see my comment to Robin above).

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  6. Wow, never had the crazy lady incident, but very similar to my wife and I starting out. We too married quite young, couldn't afford much but managed to have a nice tropical honeymoon (with the help of friends we had on the island). We'll both be forever thankful for the hard times and the perspective it puts on the good times. Never take anything for granted.

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    1. Gabriel: You're so right. Never take anything for granted. We should appreciate those hard times. They build character.

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  7. What a great story! Real live is always better than any fiction. And the detail about the woman and the room where someone had died is delicious. I understand Carol's reaction very well (we would do the same!). Thank you for sharing these pleasant memories.

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    1. Fanático_Um: Thank you for the kind words. We are still able to laugh about those times. They are great memories.

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  8. I love this story. Just shows that money doesn't buy happiness.

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    1. Lynda: Thank you. It sure doesn't. Those memories still make us happy today. We do laugh a lot.

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  9. Fanático_Um: Thank you for the kind words. We are still able to laugh about those times. They are great memories.

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  10. I love it that you guys went on a honeymoon. We made a similar choice, squandering all my savings and making a truly incredible memories in Venice (a must-see!).

    Thanks for sharing the Gratitude video recently - I'm sharing it on my blog this Saturday. Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël.

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    1. Jenna: Traveling together is wonderful. Venice is another fantastic location, as is so much of Europe. Thank you for your kind words, and Merry Christmas to you!

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  11. I loved reading this! It's what life is about...it's not about money or things...it's about friendship and being with the people we love. (I did laugh at your Mrs freaking out about the lady calling for her dead son...but have to admit that I probably would have too!)

    C x

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    1. Carol: You are so right. That is what life is all about, and this time of year it is a great reminder.

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  12. Sounds a bit like my husband and I's beginning! Crates for tables, my parents' hand-me-down loveseat, a bean bag and a lamp. And you know what? Those were the days. :D Thanks for sharing.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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    1. Shannon: Those times make up the memories we rely upon as time passes. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thanks for the follow!

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  13. Always enjoy your stories, JJ. By the way I shared the gratitude film with 190 high school students last week. Most appreciated the film very much. It absolutely rocked my world. Merry Christmas!

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    1. #167 Dad: Glad to hear it. We need more of that in the USA. Merry Christmas to you, my friend.

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  14. JJ, how wonderful! It's sounds like a script to a great movie. I really, really enjoyed reading about this beautiful snippet of your life.Thanks for sharing it with us. The crazy lady just adds more colour to the story of your humble beginnings; I just love it! You put a smile on my dial :-)

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    1. Katherine: I am very happy it made you smile. I hope you had a terrific Christmas.

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  15. Yes, we too started out with less than nothing. It does people so much good to get through the times like these. While I'm glad we didn't run into any crazy potential landlords, we did have to get through deciding how much time we could muster spending with our own crazy relatives! I wish I knew why it is some people grow from these experiences and others give up.
    Love your funny stories and all the insights into who you are as a person! ;)

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    1. Jasmine: Thank you. Our lives have always been a little crazy around the edges, but we have loved every second of it.

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