I would admit it in front of the Queen of England and her boorish, ill-mannered husband. I am a shameless and devoted fan of sappy, romantic, movies.
My idea of a perfect weekend is curling up in my La-Z-Boy chair, wearing my favourite jammies, wrapped up in my blankie, eating a big ol’ bag of barbecue chips, with a four-litre jug of ice water with a few squeezes of lime beside me. And one other thing — a box of 3-ply, lotion-filled Kleenex for the ugly crying during Steel Magnolias.
The biggest challenge is to choose which movie to watch first. Sleepless in Seattle usually wins, but You’ve Got Mail, Steel Magnolias, It Could Happen to You, Pretty Woman, As Good as it Gets, Overboard and Father of the Bride, are also on my A-list. I can watch the same movie twenty times —and I do — just ask my husband and children. They do a lot eye rolling and groaning.
At age 58, my heart still goes pitter-patter for more mature actors including Tom Hanks, Kurt Russell, Russell Crowe, Ewan McGregor, Richard Gere, and my all-time hottie — bad boy, Liam Neeson. I think I should stop because my glasses are steaming up.
Real life love stories genuinely fascinate me. The romantic in me always wants to know how couples met each other.
I thought I would try my hand at a Dr. Seuss style poem to tell you how I met “the love of my life and the man of my dreams,” as they say in the obituaries.
I DID NOT MEET A LEECH
Did you meet him in Grade Three?
Did you meet him in a tree?
Did you meet him eating ants?
Did you meet him at a dance?
Did you meet him through the paper?
Did you meet him as a caper?
I did not meet him in Grade Three?
I did not meet him in a tree?
I did not meet him eating ants?
I did not meet him at a dance?
I did not meet him through the paper?
I did not meet him as a caper?
I did not meet him drinking Screech.
I met my man on Lockeport Beach.
More and more, people are forgoing traditional ways of meeting someone special in favour of the internet. Web sites such as Plenty of Fish, eHarmony, ChristianMingle, Zoosk and Lavalife are popular with men and women of all ages. I find them rather creepy, but that just means I’m old.
Do you remember the personal ads in the newspaper? I had forgotten about them until I rewrote this story. I had lots of laughs reading them.
DM (Divorced Male), 74, seeking fun, mature woman to take out dancing. Must like dancing, eating, going to movies (I like suspense and some action). Please don’t be fat or ugly.
(How much would you bet that he is both fat and ugly?)
Now get a load of the next one. Would you like your daughter to bring home this winner?
SWM (Single White Male), 29-year-old white male, single, witty, intelligent and sophisticated. I am seeking a female partner 25-34. Looks are important. I prefer blonds (any shade) who take care of their bodies. Any girl of mine should be smart, funny, outgoing, selfless, philosophical, caring, kind, demure and sexy. I am NOT an animal lover. I also don’t like kids, conversations about movies or books, or nature.
(Humph, you can be sure he is the opposite of all these characteristics he is demanding.)
I remember when men used to post notices in the local newspaper that read like something from the dark ages — as if women were chattels.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
As of June 1, 2016, I, Philip Erkel, of Lockeport will not be held responsible for any debts incurred in my name by Janet Erkel.”
My husband, Glenn, and I met each other in an unusual, maybe even unique way. To me, it is a beautiful story, the stuff of fairy tales.
It all began in July of 1976. I was just 18 and had completed my first year at Teachers’ College in Truro. I had come home to Lockeport for the summer to work at Laings’ General Store, now The Town Market.
That same summer, Ken, a young man from Havelock, Ontario with connections to Lockeport invited his friend, Glenn, to go on a camping trip that would end in Lockeport, NS where Ken had relatives.
They struck out in Glenn’s yellow, Hippie Volkswagen Camper Van — no, Firebird — no, Corvette — no. Not even a Mr. Bean car. They were driving Glenn’s monstrous Chrysler Cordoba—a practical car—not a sports car. The hood itself was two car lengths long. Try parallel parking a car that size. It was like docking a 200-foot ship while blindfolded. They camped all through the States and in a week or so they reached Lockeport.
It is at this point that the story starts to get interesting. After supper one evening, I decided to walk the beach because I was training for the Boston Marathon. Oops, that’s a big fat lie. I had pigged out at supper time and had eaten too many of Mom’s irresistible date squares. I had probably eaten more date squares than meat and potatoes. I thought a walk along the water’s edge might help the contents of my stomach settle.
The tide was dead low. Much further up from the water’s edge near the sand dunes, I noticed some young men laughing and having fun. One of them, a school friend, Stephen, spotted me and ran down the beach. He wasn’t as innocent as he appeared.
“Melda,” he said, “See those two boys up there? They want to meet you.”
Before running down the beach, he had said to Glenn and Ken, “Hey, see that girl down there? She wants to meet you.”
Reluctantly, I tagged along behind him, and he introduced me to the two strangers.
Believe me, I am not exaggerating when I say, it was anything but a “Kodak Moment.” In fact, it was about as far from a Kodak Moment as one could get. They had numerous strikes against them. Alarm bells were blaring in my head, “RUN! RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!”
It appeared they hadn’t seen the inside of a shower, used a stick of deodorant or brushed their hair or teeth since leaving Havelock. But that was not all. Both of them had shoulder-length, stringy, greasy hair and a week’s worth of stubble. Maybe they always looked and smelled like this. I had no way of knowing.
There was, however, one thing worse than their greasy hair, stubble, and body odor. The one named Glenn was missing his four front teeth. He had fangs — like a vampire. Ewwww! Yuck! Gross! He was missing all the teeth between his eye teeth. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I could overlook freckles, zits, a big nose, one ear, no ears or three ears; an eye in the middle of his forehead, or a wooden leg, but I could not ignore the missing teeth.
I was shy and tried to make polite small talk, not something I enjoyed. Awkwardly, I asked what college or university they attended, but I could not possibly have anticipated the answer I received. I was expecting to hear they were students at Sir Sandford Fleming College or Trent University, but the answer I received was one I had never heard before or since.
The one named Glenn puffed out his chest and said, “Actually, I’m a member of the workforce in Ontario.” When I heard “Ontario,” he might as well have said,
“I’m a member of the workforce of Hell.”
The blood drained from my face, and my brain went into Fight, Flight or Freeze mode, mostly flight. I could not get out of there fast enough.
In my mind, 18-year-old mind, every person in the province of Ontario was a SNOB. I believed they looked down their arrogant noses at lowly Maritimers because we were humble fisherfolk. We were considered Canada’s “have nots.” After that little detail had come out, the conversation ended abruptly, and I returned to my walk.
And that was the end of that…or so I thought.
Later that evening, Ken’s parents “just happened” to visit Mom and Dad. They had been friends for many years. Interestingly, they did not come alone. Can you guess who was with them? Their son, Ken? Nope, he was out with a local girl. They had shy Glenn, the SNOB from Ontario, in tow.
I was upstairs when I heard unfamiliar voices. Nosy me, I tiptoed down a few steps to eavesdrop and discovered strangers in the house. I decided to investigate. (That sounds better than snoop or spy.) Mom and Dad and the older couple moved into the living room, so I began a conversation with the handsome young man in the kitchen. Now get this. A transformation of such epic proportions had taken place, that I did not recognize Glenn as the big loser from Ontario that I had met at the beach a few hours earlier.
The person sitting on the cot in our kitchen was clean shaven, had clean hair, fresh clothes and had teeth, but there was something familiar about his voice. As we chatted, I had one of Oprah’s light bulb moments. I realized who he was. I gathered up enough courage to ask,
“Were you one of the boys I met at the beach today?”
Sure enough, he was. He looked light years more appealing than he had at the beach. The evening ended with a mug up, and away they went.
And that was the end of that…or so I thought.
The next day I went off to work at Laings’ General Store. I was all alone in the store. Everything was quiet. About 2 pm, Glenn strolled in nonchalantly, looking ever so innocent, as if, to say, “Well, doesn’t everyone go to the store at two p.m.?” I recognized him instantly. Something had changed. I no longer saw him as a big SNOB from Ontario.
My heart skipped a beat, my knees wobbled, everything started to spin, and I thought I was going to vomit, faint, pee myself or all three.
“Please, Lord,” I begged, “don’t let me make a fool of myself………again.”
We chatted briefly and then he left. The same thing happened the next day and the day after that. Was this purely coincidence? I don’t think so.
On Thursday of that week, I took Mom grocery shopping. In 1976, Shelburne had three grocery stores. We had to make the rounds of all three to save a cent on a loaf of bread.
I had planned to drop Mom off and to go down to Roseway Hospital to visit a friend who had just given birth. But just as Mom entered IGA, I spotted Glenn in the store.
In a split second, I abandonned my friend who had just endured 72 hours of labour and a gazillion stitches to bring this little one into the world. AFTER ALL, in only nine months, she could have another baby, but I had limited opportunities to meet the man of my dreams.
I whipped that red GMC truck into a parking spot right in front of the store. My Drivers’ Ed. teacher would have been proud of me. (He was not quite as pleased when I put the Drivers’ Ed. car in the ditch.)
I strolled in, acting as if I had no idea that Glenn was there. It didn’t take long to find him. Oh, no, he was talking to Mom. Just as soon as Mom saw me, she pointed and announced in her shrill, ear-piercing voice, “There she is!”
I don’t remember what I said, but it was something totally phony like, “Fancy that, running into you in IGA?” Glenn and I struck up a conversation instantly while Mom shopped.
And that was the end of that…or so I thought.
Later that afternoon, Glenn wanted to call to ask me out to the “Loyalist Inn”, but one HUMUNGOUS hurdle stood in his way — he could not remember my name. He knew that it was something like Hilda. Was it Gilda? Nilda, Wilda? None of those sounded right. Then he remembered it started with an M which would make it Milda, but it wasn’t Milda. After a lot of trial and error, he arrived at Melda. He practiced diligently repeating “Hilda, Milda, Melda”, “Hilda, Milda, Melda”, “Hilda, Milda, Melda” until he felt confident enough to call me. He dialed the number, and I answered the phone.
“Could I please speak with (there was a pause as he mouthed “Hilda, Milda) Melda.?” He blurted out an invitation to have supper with him.
I tortured him much too long before saying with a disinterested voice, “I’m so sorry. I always wash my hair on Thursday nights. I’ll think about it and call you back later. Oh, and what’s your phone number?”
Who am I fooling? Before he could even finish the question, I blurted out, “YES, I mean, yes.” Off we went to the Loyalist Inn for a cheeseburger platter and an orange pop — not exactly caviar and champagne.
Later, we drove down the Sandy Point Road and stopped at the beautiful lighthouse at sunset. We seemed to have an endless list of things to talk about. We discovered that we even had acquaintances in common. He called the next night, the next night — you get the picture.
After ten days or so, Glenn returned to Ontario. I thought to myself, “Well that was a fun summer fling.”
And that was the end of that…or so I thought.
But I was not willing to give up that easily. In September 1976, before returning to Teachers’ College, I cooked up a scheme to visit Glenn’s family in Ontario. A Lockeport pastor was driving a carload of young people to college in Peterborough. There was room for one more person in the car. I seized the opportunity. Somehow, I convinced my Dad to let me visit strangers a thousand miles away. I spent the week with Glenn’s family and then flew home. We kept in touch with phone calls after midnight because it was cheaper and old-fashioned letters. No cellphones, no texting, no emailing. Nothing was instant.
Glenn came to Nova Scotia for Christmas. I went to Ontario for March Break. Glenn visited for two or three weeks in the summer. We kept that up for three years.
Exactly three years to the day that we had eaten at the Loyalist Inn and watched the sunset at Sandy Point Lighthouse, wedding bells rang out in Lockeport. The organist played the traditional “Here Comes the Bride” and the soloist belted out the lyrics.
Okay, that’s not entirely accurate. The organist played “Here Comes the Bride” but no one sang.
This story still boggles my mind. At age 22 and 23 we did not realize that the journey that would include for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health. I think we only heard for better, for richer and in health. In spite of all that has happened, we are closing in on 37 years of marriage and 40 years of knowing each other.
We have two beautiful children who are married to people we enjoy. Our grandchildren, Edison, Isaac, Greta, and Maddie, are our reward for not eating our children when they were teenagers.
As it turned out, that was not the end of that….after all.
Now getting back to the beautiful crescent beach in Lockeport. Many of my single friends have pounded up and down that beach, but as far as I know, no one else has found their Prince Charming dancing among the sand dunes. They may have discovered an ugly frog or two lurking around.
I don’t know how to explain what happened. It must have been a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence — you know, sort of like Halley’s Comet.
PS: Would you be a sport and take a moment to tell us how you met your sweetheart? Please? Pretty Please?
Inquiring minds wants to know.
To read more true stories about how couples got together, check out my cousin’s website.
Styled in Lace: Inspiration for the East Coast Bride.
To purchase a copy of my book “LIFE MATTERS: 20 Mostly True Stories to Put a Smile on Your Face,”bookmarks, note cards and postcards, please visit my store: www.meldajeanclark.com/meldas-store
To inquire about or to book a storytelling event, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 705.928.2992.
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Copyright 2016 by Melda Roache Clark. All Rights Reserved. The use of any part of this document reproduced, or transmitted in any other form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, scanning, recording or otherwise, or stored in any retrieval system, without prior consent of Melda Roache Clark or her heirs, is an infringement of the copyright law.