While hiking with my Girls of Summer last week, one 16 year old known for her tough interview questions asked me if I’d ever been in love BEFORE Geoff. Girls have a way of asking questions on those occasions when they trust you that you need to answer as honestly as possible. Other questions included: How did you know you would marry Geoff? When did you know he loved you? When did you know you loved him? And so I answered as honestly and truthfully as I could because we talk about life in the woods in ways we never could or would in the classroom.
I loved two boys before Geoff— one was in high school and one was after college in my mid twenties. Those relationships, along with some other dateable fellows clearly didn’t work out, but these first loves were good people, both funny fellows who made me laugh, and they taught me, indirectly of course, more about what I knew inside I needed in a life partner.
They also, incidentally, had amazing parents. And so, while I’ve been blessed with fantastic in-laws, I’m also really lucky to have had first loves whose parents were incredible people, who modeled work ethic and family loyalty.
And so I spent a little time talking to these girls (we were sitting next to Kinsman Pond at this point waiting for it to be late enough in the afternoon to start cooking our dinner but too tired to hike any more) that when you love someone and the relationship ends, your relationship with their families also changes; sometimes that is weird forever or maybe you just fall out of touch.
But I loved both boys’ parents in such a way that when we did ultimately break up, my heart broke for the shared memories of time spent at their homes, with their brothers and sisters and their significant others— and even their pets.
And when I heard a few years ago about Dave’s dad, Roy, passing away, I cried my eyes out, hadn’t seen him in years but, suddenly, I was 17 again and listening to Merle Haggard in the kitchen while his mom, Carol, prepped dinner and chatted on about how her boys drove her crazy, but she loved them, but they drove her crazy. I’m sure there were things about me which probably drove them crazy as parents, but they always welcomed me into their home, brought me to the annual family reunion where the In-laws played the Out-laws in softball, and this always made me laugh. Roy and Carol always supported their kids in the activities they participated in whether it was football or hockey, but they never were the kind of parents who felt their own kid could do no wrong. I always respected them for that. And even now 20 plus years later, I can’t pass through Merrimack without wondering if Carol is chatting up a neighbor or spending time with her grandkids she adores.
And then there are the Sullivans of Portsmouth, whom I still chat with and visit from time to time. We don’t get to the seacoast nearly often enough but when I do, I know 110 Dodge Avenue is always open to me, my husband and our children. Kathy’s garden in the back yard has been tended to, moved around, quaffed, and nurtured for years, and it’s one of the most peaceful, beautiful places I’ve ever seen. This is a complete reflection of her caring and compassionate nature, nurturing every living creature that crosses her path. Harry is one always with a quick wit whose sense of humor often kept me laughing for hours even at the expense of his own children. Not only did I also live in Portsmouth when we were dating where home cooked meals were endless and encouraged and adored, but when I moved to the North Country, theirs was the house which became our home base when we came back to visit. But being as close to I was to them both along with their daughter, Brenda, my life was forever changed for the better by their presence in mine.
But these are important lessons to share with our children (whether they are 5 or 16), that it’s okay to go back to the drawing board when love doesn’t work out the way you first imagine it might. I hope that Carver and Greta fall in love with funny people who are thoughtful and compassionate– who also have amazing families. And maybe they won’t, but we can always hope! The more people we have in our corner when we are young, middle aged or older, the happier our own long term health and wellness will be. So, thank you for loving me in your own way, Roy, Carol, Kathy, and Harry. It may not have worked out with your boys, but it certainly worked out for me in the end, and I’m sure it has for you and your families as well. Thinking of you always…