Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Love Story

Once upon a time, a long long time ago when we lived on the other side of the world, in a village, in a house, in a yard that we shared with Alonzo P. Smiley (a six-foot tall parrot), and his cousin Shorty. And in the tree next to the cottage lived the squirrel children: Sweetie, Junior, Sister and TOOTIE!

When we were kids, my mom the Bigbear would tell us stories every night, and every night she began them just that way. Sometimes the stories she told were original, and sometimes they were rehashed Uncle Remus stories (although at the time we didn't know it) or sometimes they were stories she picked up from other places and retold. She began them always the same way, and so after a while the Professor and I would recite the beginning along with her, and then hush up and wait for the story part. There were always the same characters, Peach and Apple (me and the Professor), Mr. And Mrs. B (the parents of Peach and Apple), Sis Nannygoat, and LittleBrown (named after my very first doll and was also sort of the embodiment of our housekeeper Mrs. Clarke's granddaughter) and Wesley Worry (cuz there always has to be a boy in the story since boys were usually the ones in trouble). There was Rabbit, and Madame Butterfly. Most times the stories were about one of the characters we knew, but sometimes someone's UncleCousinAuntie "come to town" and we would hear about them.

So I have a story to tell today, a true story, and it's so appropriate that it begin this way. In keeping with Bigbear's tradition, I guess the story would be about an Auntie of Littlebrown.

Anyway...

There lived a YoungGirl and her older brother in this land far away. They had had a decent childhood, but there had been a lot of pain as their father, an English sapper, suffered from depression (and probably PTSD), though at the time nobody knew what to call it or how to treat it. They lived with their mother, who had left their father--and the father doted on the YoungGirl but often took his anger and frustration out on the boy and this is one of the reasons the mother left. One day, the father killed himself. It left a huge hole in all their lives, but they survived, the way people do, and grew up. The son did many things, ultimately landing in the theatre, but the YoungGirl was very self-possessed and went to school and got into the medical field. She kept track of her older brother, who would sometimes repeat her father's bad habits.

She was a very YoungGirl, barely 21 I think, and hadn't really dated. One young man she thought to marry, because he was going to be a doctor, but realized that was never going to happen when she went to a party at his house, and his mother asked her "and what do your parents do, dear?" The other young man loved her, and even though she didn't love him, she thought she might marry him but wasn't quite ready.

One day, she went to retrieve her brother from the bar, and he introduced her to an American man who had come to choreograph and mount a production of "Fiddler on the Roof." She was very angry at her brother, and so was annoyed at the American for taking up her brother's time. The American tried to say something to her, and she shut him down.

But the American was taken with her and sought to win her over.

I suppose I should stop here and explain something. At this point in the story, most fairy tales spin off into a challenge to face, or an obstacle to overcome, and if I were a good story teller I would add things to the story to flesh it out, but what would be the point of that?

Because the point of this story is that six weeks from the time the YoungGirl walked into the bar, she was married. The American never even asked her formally; what he asked was "Will you come back to America with me?" and she said "I suppose you're asking me to marry you?" And he said "WELLL....? But I'm NOT getting down on one knee." And she said "OK." And he said "OK."

(Well, maybe the obstacle in the story would be that the American was engaged to a girl in Argentina, so he had to first break off the engagement. Long distance. VERY long distance.)

The YoungGirl went to a shop in her town where she always bought her regular clothes, and told the shopkeeper she was to be married. The shopkeeper said "I have just the thing" and went into the back and pulled out a wedding gown, which she gave as a gift to the YoungGirl. And the YoungGirl's hairdresser gave her the veil.

And the American arranged everything else; the party, the cake, where it would be.

The YoungGirl's uncle happened to own a white Mercedes Benz, which is what she was driven to the church in. The only downside to the day was that the YoungGirl's regular pastor had just been in a pretty bad automobile accident, and so they were married by someone who didn't really know them. Which was fitting, I suppose.

During the ceremony, the young bride and goom giggled at the part where the minister asks if there was anyone who would object to the wedding, because if would have been funny if someone stood up. All the groom's friends had long beards because they were all in the theatre company production, and so favored old Jewish men. But no one objected.

And so they were married. They lived there on the other side of the world for a few months while the American worked, but one night he opened up his show for an audience of "Blacks" and the government came after him and told him he had to leave the country. In three days. They managed to extend the deadline a month, packed up everything and left.

It wasn't until she was on the airplane leaving Johannesburg that she cried; she hadn't said "goodbye" to anyone. Not her mother, not her brother. Everything had happened so fast that it never occurred to her that she was leaving home for good.

Did they live "happily ever after"? Yes and no. Once in America they encountered many many hardships, but it never seemed that either of them ever thought of leaving. Although I do get a chuckle when I remember that one day, within the last five years or so, I found the YoungGirl, now a mature woman, crying on the doorstep downstairs. He had told her he was leaving and was going to pack up all his things and go.

I burst out laughing. "Where the HELL is he going to go???" I said. "Who would take care of him, the way you do? He's just being mean, but he'll get over himself." And so we went food shopping together, and when we got home, he was still there.

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