Sunday, February 27, 2011

Home Alone

Saturday evening, October 23, 2010
Car in the drive and the front porch at Cloudhouse, Pullman WA
     Arriving home Saturday evening from Jesse and Ben's, I pulled into the driveway and sat looking at the porch. Beyond the burnished golden rays of the late afternoon sun I could see Les standing there the previous evening in his jeans and sweater, rolling a smoke and thinking as he leaned on the railing looking out at the sky.
     He was the calmest person I'd ever met. His was a mind that took everything in and stopped to consider consequences and choices, questioning everything and seeking answers. Dear Sir took time to honor the process and didn't get his knickers in a twist over anything. By the same token he could suss out a situation and make wise split second decisions if required. He was a strong, kind, thoughtful man. His absence left an emptiness in my heart and I knew it would feel the same in the house.
     Wee Man streaked out from underneath the neighbor's steps to greet me. Opening the front door, I stepped inside and the cat shot in past me.
     I used to tuck Wee Man up under my chin on my left side when he was tiny, and it was his favorite spot to cuddle. As W. M. grew he still thought he was small enough to settle in there.  He had a habit of launching himself up gently from floor, to knee, to chest, draping himself over my left shoulder whilst snuggling in under my jaw--all without the use of his claws. Once perched, Wee Man purred contentedly while kneading my neck. He had taken to Dear Sir, following him around and riding on his shoulder. Les wore the little tabby most of the week like a furry corsage on the left side of his chest.
     Closing the door behind me, I was engulfed in the scent of Dear Sir's aftershave lingering in the air. As I hung up my coat Wee Man sailed down the hallway to the guest bedroom, tail held high in anticipation, calling for Les. I followed and stood in the doorway. Dear Sir had made the bed and tidied up. The only clue left that someone had stayed over for a week was the scent of Joop! in the air, mingled with Les' personal scent.
Looking into the front room from the dining room, Cloudhouse, Pullman, WA
     Wee man jumped off the bed and went room to room calling for Les with his squeaky, mewling voice. I began to cry again. Sobs shook me as I followed the cat around the house. In the guest bath the pink and white striped towels hung neatly on the towel bar. I reached out a brought one close to my face, inhaling. It was drenched in Dear Sir's intoxicating scent.
     Finally I sat in one of the swivel rockers with a box of Kleenex. Wee jumped up to my lap, looking in my eyes, calling out in his squeaky meow. I gathered him up and tucked him under my chin. Even Wee Man smelled like Les. We sat bereft together in the gathering dark, missing Dear Sir.
     Eventually I blew my nose, scrubbed my face with a hot wash cloth, and made a cup of tea. Looking at the clock I realized Les was sitting at O'Hare Airport in Chicago for his four hour layover before boarding a United flight to London. Gathering my cup of tea and the cat, I strolled down the hallway to the office, turned on the computer and sent Dear Sir an email:

From: Jaqueline Almdale
To: Les Biggs
Subject: Missing you
Date: Sat 23 Oct 2010 0700 PM (Saturday, 10/23/2010, 9 PM in Chicago)
     It is 6:55 pm my time. You are in Chicago, waiting for your plane to Heathrow. Pulling into the driveway at home I feel and see your presence leaning against the front porch railing, rolling a smoke, looking out at the sky. Wee Man comes out from the neighbor’s porch and calls to me. Inside we both wander around looking for you. He calls for you forlornly and I cry. I can smell your aftershave in the bath, on the bed sheets, and even on Wee Man. Looking out the back window I see you leaning there as you did the first morning after we arrived home, your lovely bare back gleaming in the light. I almost came undone when I saw you standing there like that. I can hear your rich, wonderful laughter echoing through the house.
     I’ve had the best week of my life just knocking around with you. I knew we’d be friends but I never expected to fancy you—and I do. 
Jaqueline X0X0 

Master bedroom, Cloudhouse, Pullman, WA
    Finishing my tea, I showered and crawled into my bed with the periwinkle sheets. The cat began calling through the house again for Dear Sir. I rose, padded down the hallway to the guest bed, and Wee Man and I fell asleep together, wrapped in the grey flannel sheets permeated with Les' scent.

Sunday, October 24, 2010-America 
     The phone woke me at 4:20 A.M Sunday morning. It was Les calling from London. I knew he hadn't had time to check his email, so I said nothing about it.
     "Hi Jaqueline, it's Les. I am here in London, and calling you as I promised. Bev and the kids are taking me to her house."
      "Hi Les. It's so good to hear your voice. I'm glad you are back in England safe and sound with family."
      "You got teary in the car park didn't you my dear." 
      "You weren't supposed to see that."
      "Oh but I did--I's okay, I'll come back Jaqueline...I'll come back--I promise."
      "Okay Les, but you invited me to come to England for a visit and to stay with you on the boat. Is your invitation still good?" I hear his muffled voice say, "Bev she wants to come to England. What you think--should I let her?" The phone fills with the sound of hysterical laughter and Dear Sir says, "Bev told me 'Yes you fool, tell her to come over now.'" We laugh together across the phone lines.
     "All right my dear. I'll call you later."
     "Okay Les. Take care and say hello to everyone for me."
     "Good bye Jaqueline...good bye."
     I spent Sunday in a fog, wondering when he would check his email and what he might think about my message. I cleaned house, did laundry, made bread, and prepared for another working week while considering our conversations which often lasted into the late evening hours.
     Wednesday evening after Women & Wine, we sat up until three thirty in the morning talking about friendship and relationships.
     I knew from having read research about men who are widowed after a long and happy marriage that they often don't do well on their own. Dear Sir had endured ten years after losing Val, finding his way in the world without her love, laughter and companionship.
     Instead of coasting through the rest of his life, Les built a new one. He tried dating, hoping to find someone with whom he could be happy. He loved life on the cut and on NB Valerie and he wanted to share his life and his home with someone who accepted him for who he was.
     Val's shoes would be incredibly hard to fill--not that Les wanted a woman just like Valerie; we both knew there is no one like her. Their's was a wonderful marriage grounded in mutual respect and great happiness. They were soul mates and that is not something that can ever be duplicated; but having had a happy marriage, Les knew what it felt like to love and be loved unconditionally and he didn't want to settle for anything less to assuage loneliness.
     We had this in common, for opposite reasons.
     I had never experienced true domestic happiness--as a child in my family home; living with a man I loved beyond reason for two years between the ages of seventeen and nineteen, or married for five years to someone totally unsuited for me--and me for him. I'd had some really happy times raising my children, but that is a different happiness all together.
     After the horrible things I witnessed my mother, father, step-mother and step-father doing to one another in the name of love and matrimony; after surviving the brutal fallout from all four of them as the unwanted witness victimized by their alcoholic fueled cruelty, compounded by enduring the unhappiness of my own marriage, I would rather live alone forever than settle for less than I believe I deserved.
     I was an all or nothing woman. I wouldn't settle for half measures and close calls. I lived alone but I'd created a life of miraculous joy, and that is a gift I'd given myself. I would never risk it for a maybe or settle for the status quo because society or family expected me to do so.
     I'd done that already as an ignorant girl when I married under the pressure of my family, for whom my pregnancy out of wedlock was considered a sin. I was told by my mother that if I didn't marry I would not be welcome at family gatherings anymore. My eldest sister--a devout Christian--was offended by my pregnant, unmarried state. She considered me an unfit person for her three teen aged daughters to be around. My mother had already suffered the loss of relationship with her granddaughters years before when her alcoholism became an impediment to her relationship with their mother. Sober now, mom would not risk losing them again. Pregnant, scared, and totally unprepared for motherhood, I felt I needed a mother more than I ever had.
     So I married and we attempted to play house--two lost kids who came from similar homes and backgrounds--drawn together by our mutual neediness, circling our wagons against what threatened outside in the darkness of night.
     Our marriage was doomed before it began. Still we tried. After three years, he would say to me, "If you leave me the way my mother left my father, it will kill me." And I would think to myself, "If I stay it will kill me." I endured two more years, walking a very thin line, nearly losing myself and my sanity, knowing he wasn't any happier with me than I was with him--but at least we weren't alone--we suffered together.
     I finally made the choice to stop holding up the world for four people and decided to cut my losses and hold up the world for three. Still, divorce is not a victim-less choice. We each suffered, and I wept for the pain it caused--especially for our children. It's one thing to make stupid choices in which we alone suffer the consequences; it is something else to make poor choices that wound others. I would never again make a choice that might cause such pain to someone else; I would also never again allow myself to be blackmailed by family ties. I would find a way to cut them first and not look back.
     After a dinner of baked potato and tossed green salad, I finished up the laundry, watched a bit of BBC television and decided to check my email:

From: les biggs
To: Jaqueline
Subject: RE: Missing you
Date: Mon 10/25/2010 5:21 AM (9:21 pm Sunday evening in America)
Jaqueline my friend, my hope for the future:
      I just thought i would throw a few quick lines across the pond and find you have already sent to me what i also feel. The short time we spent together could as far as i`m concerned have gone on for ever. Not for a long time, 10 yrs in fact, have i had the feelings that seemed to be bouncing back and forth between us and was in fact just this morning complaining to Bev that i`ve met someone who means so much to me but there are 4/5 thousand miles between us.
      I went to bed at 9:30pm, awoke at 5:30am and made a cup of tea, and sat watching the moon and stars, thinking of you until the daylight strengthened and made the stars fade but you were and still are in my thoughts, that will never fade.
      Bev has just come in the door and we will be going to see Kev and Jo now, so with my heart beating a little faster than usual l`ll end these few lines by just much l want to say, could say and will say when we meet again at a time i feel won`t be too far in the future.

     YES!! Dear Sir feels the same way! While I was sitting here at home missing him, Les was halfway across the world, at his daughter law Bev's, thinking about me. I was overcome with euphoria and amazement. After rereading his email response a half dozen times, I washed up for bed, and slept once more in the guest room, in the sheets bearing his scent.

Monday, October 25th, 2010
    Monday morning dawned bright and early. The alarm was set for five A.M. I had to pull myself together and return to my everyday existence. I put on the kettle, tuned the radio to NPR's Morning Edition, started a small pan of water to boil for steel cut oats; showered, dressed, and eventually headed into town for work.
     As I entered the advising suite, my friends Chrisi Kincaid and Maria Greaney asked me how I was doing. I stood there with a huge, cheesy grin on my face and leaned against the wall for support. Maria laughed and said, "Oh Jaq! Come on, tell us, tell us. Something's happened. You are glowing like the sun! You look amazing!"
     I told them about the airport, my email and his response. Maria grinned at me and Chrisi said, "I'm so happy for you Jaq. He's a really nice man--a good egg and so are you; Les is the kind of man you deserve. We sure enjoyed getting to know him over dinner last week. So what's the plan? Is he coming back or are you going over there?" I told them I didn't know yet but I would keep them posted.
     I somehow got through the morning, lunching as I always do with my best friend Cheri Curtis. "Oh Jaq, that's wonderful news. I wish I hadn't been sick with the flu while he was here." Of all my friends and loved ones only Little Bear and my daughter Sparky did not get to meet Dear Sir.
     "You are just glowing Jaq. Really, you look beautiful, and so happy." Bear rolls her eyes towards the ceiling and declares,"Thank you God or Goddess or Grandpa Harvey, for reaffirming my faith--I just knew there was someone out there for you. You are such a wonderful woman; I just knew there had to be a man somewhere on this planet who could see you for who you really are and love you the way you deserve to be loved Jaq. When is he coming back? I really need to meet him now."
     Somehow I managed to finish my working day. Arriving home I raced inside, gave Wee Man some love while I put on the kettle and dashed down the hallway to the office. Firing up the computer I sent Dear Sir an answer to this morning's message.

From: Jaqueline Almdale
To: Les Biggs
Subject: Missing you
Date: Mon 10/25/2010 6:50 PM (2:50 AM Tuesday, in England)
     Today has been very trying. Half my head is here and half in England with you. You totally took the USA by storm you know. My friends who met you were very impressed by your handshake, your gentleness, your sense of humor, your demeanor—everything; especially the way you treated me. No less than seven people mentioned the wonderful commentary you provided to the video show at W & W. One friend said you were obviously proud of your boat but not boastful; rather you were humble and knowledgeable--and happy to share what you knew with those who wanted to listen. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed hearing about it, and of course they had words for me. Almost without exception everyone says I glow like someone has turned on a light inside me. That someone is you. 
     I realize how unfair it is that my friends have met you, and your friends and family only know me by anecdote. I know you will represent me well—“crazy American woman” that I am. :) Still I will be thrilled down to my socks to meet Bev and James, Jack and Jordan, Jo and Kev, Nicole, Lena May, Kiera, Kiernan, Steve and Oslem, Battu and Teo; Andy and Tina and whoever else is there in your life for real.
     I am moved to tears by your words, “Not for a long time, 10yrs in fact, have i had the feelings that seemed to be bouncing back and forth between us…” I am so touched Les. I feel euphoric and melancholy by turns!
     While I believe it is important to meet the right person—I think it is even more important to be the right person. I’ve never been treated by a man the way you treated me this past week—with such kindness, respect, and thoughtfulness. You saw me for who I really am and you like me—you even get me. I am not the person I was a week ago. Your presence blessed me and made me feel like a flower whose time has come to blossom—at last.
     My friend Cheri is determined to find a way to move England and the U.S. closer together without disturbing the cosmos too much! LOL! For my part I look out at the night sky and know “somewhere out there…” is one to whom my heart and thoughts fly. 
Jaqueline XOXOXO
From: les biggs
To: Jaqueline
Subject: This is i`m sure the start of something good
Date: Tues 10/26/2010 4:51 AM (8:51 pm Monday evening in America)
Hi Jaqueline,
     Sitting here in Jo`s kitchen with the little ones demanding my attention while i check train times for my return to the good ship Valerie--not the best place to answer your e mail but i feel a burning inside to hug you and this is the only way to ease the pain of the miles between us.
     As i say time is not on my side at the moment as i will be leaving here shortly but just to show briefly how i feel about us my priorities over the next few weeks are to re-new my passport and check out flights that will deposit me in your arms sooner rather than later. i know we have only had close contact for less than a week but the vibes flowed it seems both ways and i felt like a part of me had been removed when i sat in Bev`s that first morning looking at the moon & stars as we did from your rear deck.
     Time it`s said is a great healer but that is not the case with how you have affected me, i will never stop missing that warm, cozy, loving feeling that i felt in your company. Lots to talk about but not now as i must catch the train so all i can say for now is can we work on one day being together forever; not easy as it takes commitment from us both but i feel the foundations have been laid so let`s build the future from them.
Have to go now. Lots of love,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010
     I overslept and raced through my morning ablutions, showering quickly, throwing on some clothes and racing into work. I didn't have time to check my emails. The day flew by in a blur. At home I peeled off my work clothes, showered quickly, slipped into baggy flannels, a cotton T-shirt and fluffy slippers. Tea in hand, I strolled into the office with the Wee Man and deposited him on the desk. Opening my email I found: 

From: les bigg
To: Jaqueline
Subject: This is i`m sure the start of something good
Date: Tue 10/26/2010 3:52 PM (7:52 AM Tuesday morning in America)
Hello J you crazy lovely American lady,
      Well here i am back on the boat with the fire alight and the rain just about stopped. Have not even un-packed my suitcase yet as it`s full of memories of my visit, the clothes worn when dining out with you...never in my wildest dreams did i think before i arrived that i would depart thinking so much of you, it was just to be a visit of someone who i felt to be a friend sharing a common interest in canal boats but you knocked me sideways after just a couple of days and i felt i could easily spend my life with you.
     Now realising you are perhaps having the same feelings i regret not having taken a chance and held you close and gently kissed you to see your reaction but if it had backfired on me i would have been embarrassed that you felt you were being used by someone invited to your home as a friend. On reflection i believe i made the right decision in sticking to my usual style of showing a lady respect but be aware that your lips have no hiding place when next you`re in my arms.
     When you`re in my arms is something i`ve already thought about and have been checking flights but the jet lag is still affecting me and i find it hard to concentrate on dates with winter fast approaching both sides of the ocean. My thoughts are early next year but your vacation allowance and the weather (snow) might dictate dates. Even if i come over before next spring i do hope it will be possible you can visit me in the summer but unlike me i do realise you have commitments in the states so we shall have to see how things turn out.
     How nice your friends were impressed with me, it was the real me with no acting i promise. They were without exception a very nice group of people and a pleasure to meet. The meal at Keith & Chrisi's was superb as was their company, and breakfast with Jesse, Ben & the boys a delight during which i kept watching the clock trying not to face the fact that time with you was now down to just hours. i so so miss you Jaq.
     My 3 girls here know what has developed from our short time together and are all very happy for us both. How it will all pan out is what i find intriguing but as Bev says "a relationship has to start somewhere and don`t let the miles get in the way." Well i have an idea it will be a happy ending after overcoming a few obstacles but i don`t give in easily to the potholes and bumps that life throws my way so if you feel comfortable join me on the ride to happiness.
     Joanne is very intrigued and excited about your being a witch so why not surprise her with an E mail about your views on the religious side and everything else, in fact `lock stock and smoking broomstick`. Believe me she is very interested and has mentioned Pagan & Wicca--all beyond me. i just love you (i said it) for yourself, Jaqueline Almdale, lovely, warm human being.
     J won`t you miss your little people when you live on the canals, of course you will; why am i asking; so another expense will be our/your trips home. Still a best selling authoress will naturally travel 1st class.
     It`s now 11.30pm so having managed to stay awake longer tonight perhaps the jet lag is wearing off although i confess to having a shower half way through this e mail so that i can get this off to you for when you arrive home.
Going to give in to the sleepy head that is getting the better of me now.
LES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Oh! Sitting in the evening warmth of my butter yellow office, sipping my tea, I am stunned by his revelations. He said he loves me! And more to the point Les had feelings of attraction for me throughout the week we spent together but he put his concern for me before his own personal desires. There were many opportunities during our time together when he could have acted on them, but he chose to be a gentleman and think of me first.

From: Jaqueline Almdale
To: Les Biggs
Subject: This is i`m sure the start of something good
Date: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 5:52 PM (Wednesday, 1:52 AM in England)
     LOL! Ah the good ship Valerie….how I wish I were there with you.
     I appreciate that you were a gentleman Les. I’ve experienced men in many different situations and behaviors but I’ve seldom ever experienced them as a gentleman in their treatment of me. That you behaved so while being so thoughtful, kind, and considerate is what convinced me to take a chance and be honest about my feelings for you; because I believe I can trust you, and I am safe with you—my heart is safe with you.
     I’ve had to look out for myself all my life—literally. In order to survive my childhood I had to learn when to be absolutely still and unseen—and when to fight back. By the age of six I had to figure out very quickly how to be smarter than the adults around me in order to survive. I can be very tough—I’ve had to be. I always strive to treat others as I wish to be treated but very few ever see the soft interior of me without a thorough vetting.
     Consequently I have my own code for survival and living. Like you, I try to get on with folks, and some people one has just got to ignore, but I can be deadly to anyone who threatens my home, my family and my loved ones, or who threatens me physically. 
     Sparky says about me, “She may be little but you seriously piss her off by messing with her or her children and she will start at your ankles and work her way up. There won’t be much left when she’s done.” I have a VERY long fuse on my temper as a result because I know just how berserker I can be when my back is shoved to the wall and I have no room left with which to negotiate. I hate it when someone takes me there, so I work extra hard for length on that fuse.
     Our relationship began on the right foot—it has grown from friendship and I think that is crucial for a long lasting and true love. Chemistry waxes and wanes but real friendship—really liking someone—provides the best basis for love to grow with time. When we began emailing back and forth neither of us had any designs on the other—no reason to try and impress one another—we were real and authentic with each other.
     I’ve had the generous experience of getting to know you via our emails and your blog. I know who you are Les. I know you were your authentic self—and so do all of my friends who met you. It is the one thing most often remarked upon by all of them, who of course adore you because they know you too.
     And because you experienced a rich, loving, happy relationship with Val, you know what that is, and you understand the hard work involved in making a relationship live. You are the man you are in part because you were married to Val and I shall always be grateful to her. Always.
     My lips are yours for the taking when next we meet. And your arms are where I want to be.
     You are right about vacation time and weather. Had you left on Monday you would have been trapped at O’Hare airport in Chicago. They had 78 mile an hour winds, all flights were canceled for two days, and Minnesota is now experiencing severe tornadoes and thunderstorms that have closed regional airports across the upper Midwest.
     You saw how the weather changed as Saturday drew near. By Sunday night the temperatures dropped to the low 30’s with the daytime highs in the mid 40’s and roaring winds. The clouds were so low no sunlight escaped and it was as dark as night until nearly one o’clock on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday afternoon. It is truly as though your leaving flipped a switch on the weather. My friend Cheri says please come back and bring the sun with you. LOL!
     Bless Bev’s heart I love her to pieces already. I’m working towards doing everything in my power to come over next spring. Every fiber of my being wants to be there in England with you. I too am a very determined person and seldom give up...I’m glad we share this trait.
     Another reason it is good we were gentle and careful with each other is because it’s important you know I really want you and love you for yourself—not as a means of getting to England and living on a narrow boat. 
     There will be those who think I am an opportunistic American seeking to use you as an immigration scheme Les. I know you realize that my motivation comes from connecting with you deeply although we spent only 6.5 days together as friends.
     I find you totally fascinating, funny, intelligent, thoughtful, and completely real. And you really do like spending time with me and as I said, you “get” me. I could have settled many times long before now to have someone "take care" of me financially, or make life easier for me, or provide me with money and luxuries. Things aren’t important to me—people are.
     I take a bit of pride in knowing I’ve made my own way through this world. My life is a very humble one, but I could never be happy settling with someone who was less than what I thought I deserved or needed. I would rather be alone. I am just that stubborn.
     I had given up ever meeting anyone who was right for me or for whom I was a right fit. They say it is when we finally relinquish the need for something it will suddenly appear—when we are not looking for it and least expect it.
     I’ve lived alone since my divorce because I didn’t want to complicate my daughters’ childhood with a step-father. My step parents were horrible, and I didn’t trust I could choose a good man when I was younger because I didn’t really know any good men...
     I’ve dated sporadically throughout that time but I have not been intimate with anyone since my divorce in 1985 for other sexuality was stolen from me in my childhood and shaped by the adult who took it from me...I have to figure out what my desire is shaped like for me—but it’s impossible to do without the right partner. Because you were a gentleman when you could have been otherwise, I know I can trust you with the most intimate part of me and I can always be real with you.
     I also need you to know that while I have some baggage from my past—which is to be expected with anyone who survives a terribly abusive childhood--I don’t put my baggage out to trip people up with and I am relentless about working on my personal issues in order to gain peace and a healthy spirit.
     I made my decision at age nine not to be like the people who were raising me. I believed if I behaved like them then they won. I chose consciously to be different in spite of who they were. My motto is “I refuse to let other people’s behavior dictate my own.”
     You just need to know that I am a complex person Les—I experience the world very intensely and I am a deeply thoughtful person. I hope all of this has not scared you off or made you have second thoughts but if it has I need to know.
     You really did see the real me too. I delight in taking care of those I love because they are precious to me. I love to cook for them, and keep house, sew, paint, sing, dance, make things grow, sit in silence, and delight in every small miracle that I am privileged to witness every day. I love learning new things, and considering what, how, and why about things.
     Good humor is something I prize highly. I dearly love to laugh; perhaps because I was nineteen years old before I remember hearing my mother laugh. As a result I didn’t think I had a sense of humor at all. Jesse and Sparkala have put the lie to that idea. They think it is especially good that when I’m totally exhausted I become goofy and funny instead of cranky and mean. Laughter truly is the best medicine.
     I like that you are a man comfortable in your own skin, and in your movement through the world. I adore that you believe it is okay to be genuine—as you are--and that your behavior comes from that authentic place. Do you know how truly rare that is in this world?
     I will miss my family dearly, but I will email and Skype them, and send them cards in the mail. I will blog so we can stay in touch, and yes, I will get used to flying across the pond to visit them.
     It means a great deal to me that you believe in my talent and my ability to write—because writing is like breathing for me Les. I have to do it. My truest voice is my written word.
     Because I am holding you in my thoughts and my heart, you travel with me throughout my day and all that I do.
Love Jaq

From: les biggs
To: Jaqueline Almdale
Subject: This is i`m sure the start of something good
Date: Wed 10/27/2010 4:16 AM (8:16 PM in America)
Jaqueline my darling,
     In the middle of un-packing i opened my e mail knowing you would have replied. This is just a quick reply to thank you for your honesty and to assure you i am not in any way put off by your baggage. Together we will work around any problems either of us has.
     Jaqueline i love you just as you are so don`t worry about anything; together we will climb above any mountain that tries to block our way. It`s hard to explain but i just know we are right for each other. i will e mail again real soon but felt you needed a quick reply.
All my love is for you alone.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dear Sir Departs

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
     Les woke me at 5:30 am. It had rained all night and was still dark outside. The sitting room windows glistened with beads of rain. I showered and dressed while he put the kettle on. We sipped our last cups of tea together talking quietly about his upcoming flight home. I was determined to keep things light. After all we were good friends now, and our friendship would continue via email as it had begun.
     His plane departed from Spokane Airport at 1:20 p.m. It takes an hour and a half in good weather to drive from Pullman to Spokane. We were stopping at the small farm town of Spangle on the way north to meet my oldest daughter Jesseca, my son in law Ben, and my grandsons Michael and Matthew for breakfast.
     On the road we sat pensively in our own thoughts as a frigid rain lashed the car windows. It was hunting season and men in camo with bright orange vests were out stalking the fields for deer.
     We pulled into the parking lot of the Harvester cafe just off highway 195, and Les held the door for me as we stepped out of the raw wind into the coffee scented warmth of the restaurant. Jesse, Ben, and the boys trooped in shortly after and we settled at a long table in the back around steaming cups of coffee.  
     Introductions made, the boys watched Les curiously, wondering about the man keeping their Mim company; his accent fascinated them and they were thrilled at the gift of a set of British coins Les offered each of them.
     Michael, aged ten, said enthusiastically, 'Wow! Thank you Les. Mim, what can I spend these on?"
     "You can't spend those coins Mikey Boy--they're English money." Michael knitted his brow and looked at me in confusion,"We're English aren't we?"
     Les laughed and said, "Clever boy."
     "No love, Les is English--we are American."
     "Well we speak English," Michael pronounced. I laughed wryly thinking to myself that his observation was debatable.
      We ordered breakfast and chatted over coffee as plates laden with hash browns, sausage, eggs, and toast were delivered. Jesse and I both sprinkled our potatoes and eggs with vinegar--a habit from my Welsh grandmother, passed down through the generations. Les and the boys dressed their plates with ketchup.
     "I've been trying to get your mother to carry a cell phone with her but she stubbornly refuses," said Les.
     "I don't need to be tethered to the world."
     "What happens if you are in an accident? That's my main concern Jaqueline. You might be hurt and you wouldn't have any means of calling for assistance."
     Jesse raised her left eyebrow and flashed me a sardonic look; known as the Great Mim's eyebrow after my mother, from whom Jess and I both inherit the ability to raise our left brow three inches toward our hairlines while the right brow remains placidly settled above our lashes, she replied, "We know Les. We've been after her for years to use a cell phone. We even bought her one for Winter Solstice a couple years ago. She never turned it on." My favorite eldest daughter smirked at me with her root beer brown eyes snapping a mischievous smile in Les' direction.
     "If I'm in an accident other drivers around me will all have cell phones and I'll borrow one of theirs." I smiled triumphantly at all assembled. Les laid down his fork and knife, turned and leaned in toward me. Gazing into my eyes from ten inches away his green-brown orbs flashed playfully.
     " you have fire insurance on your home?"
     "Well you should cancel it and if your house catches fire just rely on your neighbors to put it out." Eyes sparkling, Les turned back to his plate. Jesse and Ben hooted with laughter and a look passed between them.
     We finished up breakfast and sat for while around refilled coffee cups, talking and laughing, sharing stories. At one point Mike commented his hands were now larger than his mother's. Jesse crowed happily, "My hands are still bigger than mom's," and reached outward to place her palm next to mine. Her little fingers were an inch and a half longer than my own.   
     Les' eyebrows shot up in surprise. Turning to me, he held his large, hard working, masculine hands up and I placed my tiny hands next to his, palm-to-palm. We looked at one another a long moment. Les slipped his fingers between mine and we stared into each other's eyes. I noticed how perfectly our hands fit together; his hands were warm and strong, yet gentle. Mine were child sized, and soft with an engraved silver ring circling my right thumb. I pulled my hands away and caught a fleeting look of regret in his eyes that unsettled and puzzled me.
Spokane International Airport
     It was time to go and we all exchanged hugs and kisses. Jesse told me to stop by their house on my way home. We parted as my family drove off for Fairfield, and Les and I resumed our trip north to Spokane International Airport, laughing and chatting about my grandsons. 
It was clear he loved children. They were certainly taken with him.
     Thirty minutes later I pulled into the parking garage, shut off the car and we unloaded his luggage. Walking to the elevator I sighed inwardly. It was three hours until Dear Sir's flight 
boarded. I was not ready to say goodbye just yet.
      At the check in counter Les was informed his luggage was over-weight. The attendant explained  he could pay a $50.00 overweight fee or go to a shop and purchase another carry on and shift his luggage weight.
Spokane International Airport
      We purchased a carry-on at a nearby shop, unloaded a bit of his luggage into it, and Les returned awhile later with two carry-on totes in hand, having successfully checked his luggage and received his boarding pass. We sussed out a coffee shop, ordered lattes--a caramel machiatto for him--and sat watching other travelers come and go; families greeted one another and said good-bye. We talked quietly about his layover in Chicago and his arrival back in London. I made Les promise to call me and let me know when he arrived home safely.
     "I will be holding up your plane with my arms, and they will be tired by then."
     It was time for me to go. I told Les so and he walked me out to the parking garage. Reaching the car I turned to embrace him. Dear Sir hugged me close, my face tucked into his shoulder. I inhaled his aftershave; we kissed each other on the cheek and I said, "Good bye Les. Take care..goodbye," and got into my car.
     Fumbling for the seat belt, I watched in the rear view mirror as Les turned and walked off toward the terminal. The realization swept over me that I would never see him again. As I sat in my car, stunned at the force of my feelings, tears sprang to my eyes. I wiped them away with the back of my hand, started the car and looked in the side view mirror to back up. Dear Sir stood there watching me intently! I took a deep breath, backed gently out of the space, our eyes meeting for a moment; I raised my hand to him in a gesture of good bye. He stood watching as the tail lights of my car disappeared down the aisle.
     I've picked up and dropped off friends and family at Spokane airport for twenty years. I was intimately familiar with the parking garage and yet now I could not seem to find my bearings. Confused about the exits, I circled around five times, finally exiting into the leaden sky weeping tears along with me. After paying the exit fee and connecting with highway 195 south, I decided to stop in Fairfield and visit Jesse and Ben, but I was still crying and I couldn't find the Hatch Road exit through the blur of my tears. Driving by it and turning back three times in succession I finally managed to negotiate the turn off.
     I knocked twice and stepped into my daughter's living room. She and Ben sat on the couch grinning at me. Jesse was large with their third son who was due in December. I just stood there looking at them like a deer in headlights. Ben's gentle voice said, "He's a really nice man, mom."
     Jesse chimed in."Yeah he is. We discussed this on the way home. I think he's perfect for you mama--he's more than a match for you." A glance passed between them and they laughed.
     "What do you mean, 'he's more than a match for me?'"
     "That comment he made about canceling your fire insurance and letting your neighbors save your house..." she giggled in delight, "He's smart and he can keep up with you. He'll keep you on your toes." Left eyebrow raised, Jesse grinned at her dazed and dizzy mother, who sat on the couch looking surprised.
     "He is a nice man." Amazement stole over me as I realised I had feelings for Les. Per usual everyone around me was aware of my feelings before I was.
     On the drive home I reviewed the entire week. I had spent nearly every waking moment with Dear Sir. Not once did I regret having invited him. Not once did I feel uncomfortable around him or think, "He's such a man and I'm bored with his company." Les had been a perfect gentleman which allowed me to trust him; I could relax and be myself with Dear Sir. And he made me laugh! In fact the week we spent in each other's presence was the best week of my life.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

One Week in America

Monday, October 18th, continued
Dahmen barn Uniontown, WA
     After a lovely breakfast of fried potatoes with onions, British bacon, eggs over easy, and homemade toast, we sat and chatted for several hours over tea and then headed out to Lewiston, Idaho.
     The Grand Canyon may be the widest canyon in the United States but Hells Canyon-- the deepest canyon in North America--is located about fifty miles south of my home. Dropping 8000 feet from Seven Devil's Peak in Idaho, the mighty Snake River slices though volcanic rock as it meanders back and forth from south eastern Washington through eastern Oregon and south western Idaho.
metal wheel fence, Dahmen barn
       We stopped to take pictures of the Dahmen Barn in Uniontown, Washington with its distinctive fence made from one thousand rusted metal farm wheels. A former dairy barn, it now housed artists in residence and their crafts. After stretching our legs we continued on across the far south eastern edge of the Palouse plateau towards the astonishing site of the Lewis-Clark valley and the gateway to Hell's Canyon where the Snake and Clearwater Rivers meet. 
Looking out over the Lewis-Clark  valley
   The Lewiston grade is a highway seven miles long traveling 2000 feet vertically from the bottom of the canyon to the Palouse at the top edge of the Columbia plateau. The view down the grade always takes folks by surprise the first time they see it.
 After stopping to shoot snaps of the panorama, we continued down into the canyon and drove along the Snake river.
     The afternoon sun was warm as the Snake river wound along to our left, separating Idaho on the far side, with Washington on the near side. Like the river, we too meandered back and forth across the two state lines. 
Buffalo Eddy, Snake River, W
    We passed through Asotin, Washington and continued fifteen miles further as the road decreased in width until it was barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass. Finally we reached Buffalo Eddy.
     At a bend in the Snake river an arm of rock juts out into the water on both sides slowing the water and creating eddies. This was a sacred place for the Nez Perce Indians who caught buffalo watering at this point, and marked the rocks with petroglyphs dating back 4,500 years.

Nez Perce petroglyphs 2010 © L. Biggs
Nez Perce petroglyphs 2010 © L. Biggs
We walked along a sand bar enjoying the wide river as it cut its way through a thousand feet of crystalline basalt rock reaching up for the brilliant afternoon sky.  Les and I clambered over the rocks and viewed the petrogryphs as fishermen maneuvered their boat in the river to fish for Steelhead and Sturgeon. We sat watching the river as late afternoon gave way to early evening, and a companionable silence rested between us.
     As we drove back to Pullman in the gathering dark, I enjoyed listening to Dear Sir's British accent. Not a posh public school accent, his came from growing up in Paddington, London. It was lovely--full of character and texture. I listened carefully to his voice with new ears. 
     We dined at a local Mexican restaurant where Les bravely tried unfamiliar foods like salsa, guacamole, refried beans, and burritos as we sipped Mexican beer.
     Back home, we chatted on the back deck under the stars as he rolled a cigarette and smoked thoughtfully. I stood wrapped in a thick shawl alongside, listening to the wild geese settling in for the night on the nearby lagoon as the late Indian summer evening spread across the rolling wheat fields. We parted with smiles each going to our separate ends of the house. We were definitely no longer strangers, but new friends at ease with one another. 
Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
     Another glorious blue sky day dawned through the gauze curtains of my room, spilling across the periwinkle sheets. Today was my fifty second birthday. I would not mention it to Les. His visit was my secret present to myself. I rose, slipped on a robe, and padded quietly out to the sitting room and settled into the swivel rocker by the large windows overlooking thousands of acres of wheat and lentils. Sitting silently with my eyes closed I breathed deeply, savoring the feel of my lungs pulling in air, the quiet of the house, and my secret happiness. 
guest room, Cloudhouse © L. Biggs
     "Happy birthday m'darling. Where am I taking you for dinner tonight?" My eyes flew open in surprise at the sound of Dear Sir's voice. He stood in the kitchen "just so;" the counter strategically placed so that I saw his smiling face, bare chest and arms, and below the counter appeared his naked thighs and calves. Well, Happy birthday indeed! I smiled to myself. 
     "How did you know it was my birthday?"
Looking into the Kitchen from the sitting room, © L. Biggs
     "I'll never tell. I've renewed your annual subscription to Waterways World. I'm off to shower." Laying a large, white envelope down on the counter, Dear Sir walked off at which point I could see clearly he was wearing crimson boxer shorts, the grey flannel bed sheet wrapped part way round his middle. The envelope contained a lovely birthday card.
     After respective showers we hopped in the car and drove to Dissmores grocery in Pullman for lattes. I can make a fine pot of tea but coffee is not my forte and Les was in the mood for a cup of joe. After some consideration he chose a caramel machiatto which--owing to our American accents which we all think we do not have--Les had difficulty pronouncing. We purchased sandwiches, fruit, and drinks, and cruised north on highway 27 to Kamiak Butte. 
Kamiak Buttte trail, 2010 © L. Biggs
     It was a weekday morning and while most of the rest of the world was working we had the park to ourselves. Chipmunks chittered at us from the undergrowth as we hiked leisurely up the path. I noticed as we climbed that Les paced himself to my short legs and small feet. For the first time in my life I was not struggling to walk fast in order to keep up with someone else. 
     At the trail ridge we stopped and watched a red tailed hawk ride invisible thermals upward in spirals out over the wheat fields below. Crickets sang their summer song in the dry ale colored grass, and a gentle wind ruffled the long needles of the lodgepole pines, their sun warmed bark scenting the air with resin. We were alone with the view, and it felt as though we were two alone in all the world. 
     Les seemed pleased by it all. He took snaps and stood enjoying the quiet and peace of nature with me. I was struck by how comfortable and at ease we were in each other's company. It felt as though we had known each other for years. Hiking upward we found a good boulder and fallen log upon which to lunch, and talked while we ate.
     "What's that over there?" Les pointed off to the left toward a clump of dry grasses about fifty feet away. I couldn't see anything distinctive at such a distance. We walked over and he knelt down. There in the grass was a praying mantis clinging to a blade of dried plant material the same faded blonde color as its shell.
Praying Mantis, 2010 © L. Biggs
      Les gently coaxed the strange stick insect onto the arm of my black jacket to snap a picture, gently lifting it in his hands and placing it back into the grasses. I was touched and amazed by Dear Sir's attention to detail. His far sight was impressive. He noticed everything and what's more he took the time to consider the world and the things he noticed, giving it all his full attention. Les treated people the same way. 
     "Well, have you decided where we will dine m'dear?" His voice too has a resinous quality like the sun warmed air around us. I nodded and smiled and we hiked back down to the car, and headed home for a cuppa. 
      After our afternoon tea I declared dinner at Swilly's would be lovely. "Swills" as Pullmanite's called it, is a local concern, serving excellent food in an intimate atmosphere. Another afternoon slid by into dusk as we repaired to our opposite ends of the house to clean up and change for dinner.
     Les sat in front of the fire in a swivel rocker dressed in dark dress trousers, buttoned down shirt and sweater, his black leather shoes shined in the firelight. His aftershave lingered in the air. He looked up at me and his eyes widened appreciatively. "You look lovely."
     It had been decades since a man looked at me like that--admiringly. His voice was sincere and so was his smile. Our glances held for a long moment and then he took my arm and helped me on with my sweater.
     At the restaurant we ordered fillet Mignon in a burgundy reduction sauce with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, haricot vert in a butter glaze, and baby salad greens with the house dressing. The evening was lovely and I enjoyed the pleasure Les took in his meal. We drank a pint of Mac 'n' Jack dark brew with our dinners, and lingered over dessert amongst the white twinkling lights in the windows. 
     At home we each changed into less formal attire and sat talking and laughing until the wee hours, discussing narrow boats and canals. It was one of the best birthdays of my life, spent in the comfortable presence of a friend from afar.
 Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Front room, Cloudhouse © L. Biggs
     We puttered around the house eating a leisurely brunch, going through canal mags and papers Les brought for me, and discussing my plans in earnest. I showed him Google Earth with the canals mapped out in different colored stick pins for each line. We reviewed my drawings of boat plans. At one point Les turned to me, his brown-green eyes intense with feeling and said, "You've really got it bad haven't you? I mean, I expected to visit a lady with some interest in boats and canals, but you've really done a lot of research on both and you are serious about moving over there and living on a boat, yeah??
     "I am Les. It is where my heart lies and where I want to live. This--oddly enough for an American--is my dream, and I am going to make it happen."
     Things changed subtly between us with our conversation. We talked about cancer, his experiences losing someone to it and my experiences fighting it, and my discomfort with air travel. Les invited me to visit him and stay aboard NB Valerie. We dressed for dinner and drove out to Chrisi and Keith Kincaid's farm in thoughtful quiet as dusk fell around us. 
     The evening with the Kincaid's was lovely. Chrisi and Keith had planned a regional cuisine consisting of local beef steaks grilled to perfection, mashed baby potatoes with garlic and butter, asparagus, a delicious salad of baby greens, pear, pecans, and vinaigrette dressing, with fresh apple crisp for dessert. The food was paired with local wines.
     We sipped vino with Chrisi, Keith, Chrisi's mom Sandy, and Keith's mom Sue. We laughed and talked about travel, narrow boats, and a wide array of topics. Everyone but me had traveled western Europe widely.
     At one point Les said, "I've invited Jaqueline to come over and visit and stay on the boat to see if she would like it, but I don't think she will fly over." As Dear Sir looked at me, his eyes turned dark and turbulent,  a note of somber regret in his voice. I was completely taken aback at the serious turn our discussion had taken. I excused myself to use the powder room.
     While I was in the bathroom, Chrisi, Keith, Sue, and Sandy reassured Les they would work on me and convince me to travel to England for a visit with him.
     Thursday, October 21st, 2010
     I rose early, a woman on a mission. Women & Wine was tonight and I had a lot to do to get ready. After we breakfasted on poached eggs on homemade toast with bacon and tea, Les settled into my office to check his email and his blog. 
      I vacuumed, dusted, plumped pillows, chilled wine, and baked a chocolate Kahlua Bundt cake; whipped up some smoked salmon dip, and Boursin for the evening's events.
office with both computers set up; © L. Biggs
     While I had been busy cooking, cleaning, and prepping for the evening, Les set up the laptop on one desk with a video of his travels though locks and canals, while on my computer he loaded still shots mixed with video of the interior of NB Valerie.  He had thoughtfully set up a virtual tour of his boat and his travels for my guests.
     Sandy Field arrived early bringing two boxes of wine glasses and we began to set up as the three of us chatted. Soon women began arriving and my home filled with the delightful sound of women's voices talking and laughing. Each guest brought a bottle of wine and an hor d' oeuvre to share. 
      Vino poured joyously into glass goblets; Les held his own with ease and comfort, impressing me once more with his ability to feel at home wherever he was, making others feel comfortable as well. He was just himself, chatting, laughing, and having a good time with my friends. He showed them the narrow boat and canal tour set up on the computers in my office, and fielded questions from the fascinated women. Eventually we settled around the fire in the sitting room and the kitchen bar, laughing, nibbling at plates of delicious savories, sipping a variety of wines. A very good time was had by all and the evening was a smashing success. 
     Later--to a person--each woman shared her perceptions of Dear Sir with me. All were impressed by his genuineness, warmth, and great sense of humor. Sandy Field said she noticed that Les' eyes followed me all evening. She smiled at me gently, and left me with a great deal of food for thought.
Friday, October 22nd, 2010
     The lovely spell of unseasonably warm weather brought by Dear Sir began to fade. Dawn opened with partly cloudy skies thinning the sun. We rose early, met in the kitchen, and drove to Moscow, Idaho where we picked up lattes at One World Cafe and ordered freshly baked pastries from Wheatberries bake shop next door.
     I took Les on a tour of the Moscow Food Co-Op and we walked along the sidewalks peering into shop windows. Again I was struck by his warmth, the way he noticed small details others overlooked, and how content he was to stop and consider what he had seen.  We laughed at our synchronization as he slipped reading glasses on to see up close, and I took my glasses off to do the same.
     Saving the best for last, we trooped into Hodgins Drugstore to purchase American toys for Les' eight grandchildren. He was totally gobsmacked with delight at their huge collection and we spent two and a half hours playing with toys, laughing, and teasing each other as we collected an ever growing pile on the counter, carefully considering the ages and tastes of each child. In this way I got to know them all even though I'd never met them.  I was touched by his desire to find just the right things for each person.
     Amongst all the toys we amassed was a squeezy rubber lamb with eyes that popped out on stalks when it was squeezed. It also bleated, "Baaah, baaah" at the slightest touch, making us both giggle.
     Toys bundled and bought we wandered down the sidewalk and sat on a bench in front of Bucer's pub while Les rolled a smoke. We sat close in comfort with one another watching people come and go.
     Out of Bucer's wandered a young thing in a very short, tight skirt which she kept yanking down with one hand, while attempting to walk in shoes with three and half inch heels.  Les' eyes thoughtfully followed her as she made an effort to walk in her tight skirt and stiletto heels. I seized the moment to make a bawdy joke and watch his reaction. 
     "I call those f*** me shoes." He opened his green-brown eyes wide in surprise at me and looked down the sidewalk as Young Thing teetered along.
     "Why do you call them that?"
     "Well it's obvious to me they are not made for walking. You wouldn't catch me in shoes like that unless I was flat on my back with my feet over my head." Dear Sir's face cracked open with a huge grin and he roared with a belly laugh that filled me with giddy delight. I loved the sound of his laughter.
     We visited the Wine Company of Moscow next where I witnessed his particular brand of laid bad back British charm at work. It was ten minutes until opening as we stood looking in the window. The owner spotted us and cracked the door asking,"Do you mind waiting another few minutes? We aren't quite ready for customers yet." Les replied in his British drawl, "Not at all mate--we're happy to wait."
  At the sound of Dear Sir's English accent the proprietor's face unfolded into a friendly smile; "no need to wait--come on in!" Yet another American fell under Dear Sir's spell, and we were welcomed inside where we tasted several locally grown and made wines.
    Afterward, on the sidewalk again, Les commented on how friendly and helpful the shopkeepers and staff had been throughout his visit. 
     "It's not that way back home I can tell you." I chuckled inwardly, thinking It's not that way here either--unless you are a beguiling Englishman with a lovely British accent. I told him so and Les stopped to consider. 
     He shrugged off my comment with "Nah, your staff are just friendlier and more willing to help." I nodded and smiled because he could not see himself the way I saw him. He cast spells of delight whenever he spoke. It wasn't just Dear Sir's accent--it was also his demeanor. Totally comfortable in his own skin, he put everyone around him at ease instantly. There were no pretensions with Les.
     Walking back toward the car, we spotted a fire engine ladder track parked on the curb down the street. I suggested we snap a picture for his grandson Kiernan and we set off to the car to deposit our bags of toys and goodies. 
     As we watched, the ladder truck started up, backed up, and disappeared off the street! We strolled down to where it had been parked and found a fire station tucked into the brick store fronts. It was wash day for the rigs. I introduced myself and Les. He explained he was visiting from England and his grandson was mad for lorries and trucks. Could we take a picture of the ladder truck?
     Once more Dear Sir's British magic worked its subtle charm and we were invited inside for a tour of the station and the trucks. The firemen chatted with us for fifteen minutes and even invited us to come back in the morning to their pancake feed! Snaps taken and thanks offered, we walked back to the car and headed for home.
     As we drove, a curious thing occurred in the back seat. With the tiniest bump of the car on the road the pop eyed lamb "baahed" insanely reducing us both to hysterical fits of laughter.  We had carried it around for hours without a peep--now it wouldn't shut up. 
     At home we shared a dinner of leftovers, and piled all the toys on the counter. I suggested we make a pile for each child and handed Les a marking pen to label the tags with each kid's name. After an hour we had them sorted, with my favorite toy--the pop eyed lamb--going to his granddaughter Kiera. 
  I tossed a load of his clothes in the wash so he could return home with everything clean. He began to gather his things and pack. I could not fathom how he would manage to fit all his new purchases into his already overburdened suitcase, but Les was confident he could make it work.  Eventually he pulled the zipper all the way round. As we walked away and switched off the guest room light a muffled "baaah" sounded from his suitcase and we were reduced to giggling fits once more. 
     "Les, if that happens when you are going back through Heathrow, British customs officials are going to pull you aside and tell you they don't allow farm animals into the country; then they will search your bag for the offending mutton."  This set off another bout of laughter.
     We settled in the swivel rockers, and Dear Sir asked, "What kind of sense of humor do you have?"
     "I have a fairly bent sense of humor Les; very little offends me and I love to laugh." He pulled his cell phone out his pocket and proceeded to read jokes his friends and family had sent to him. His delivery was impeccable and I laughed so hard I was reduced to tears.    
October 2010, Cloudhouse, Pullman, WA © L. Biggs
     Now that I knew we shared the same range of humor, I asked Les if he had seen anything of American comedian Robin Williams.  He said he thought so--but wasn't real familiar with his stand up comedy.
     We spent our final evening watching Robin Williams Live on Broadway. Settled onto the couch side by side, we experienced two hours of side splitting, bawdy, irreverent laughter. Gasping, guffawing, giggling, and nearly rolling off the couch, Les threw his head back and laughed from his belly with his whole body. The sound of his laughter warmed my heart. 
     We parted for the night relaxed and happy in each other's company--huge grins on our faces. In the back of my mind was the knowledge of how much I would miss Les when he was gone.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Coming to America

Thursday, October 14th, 2010
     I've spent months preparing for Dear Sir's visit. The house shined with cleanliness and warmth, scented with lavendar and rosemary oil. The guest bed wore cozy grey flannel sheets sprayed with rose scented linen water and fluffy towels hung in the guest bath.
     The yard was neatly manicured. The front porch sported a new coat of crisp, white paint and a large pot of Mahogony asters bloomed by the front door. On the back deck, chairs gathered in friendly clusters around the toe toaster which was set up with firewood for an evening fire.
     The refrigerator was fully stocked--including British bacon--and Women & Wine was in motion, with nearly twenty women planning to attend. I hoped to offer Dear Sir a lovely visit he might enjoy immensely and remember fondly. My hospitality was a way of saying "thank you" for all the emails he took the time to write and send, the information on narrow boats and canals he generously provided, and for his friendship.   
Hillside Dining Hall, WSU
     At lunch in the dining hall with my friend Cheri, she broached the upcoming visit of Dear Sir. Smiling at me over her sandwich, she said, "Wouldn't it be something if the two of you hit if off and fell in love?" She chewed thoughtfully as she considered her suggestion with pleasure.
     "Yes, Little Bear that would be something," I nodded my head and smiled,"but you know, he and I are friends and that's enough."
     Cheri comes from a close, loving family. She was wanted and loved as a child, and is still very close to her parents and siblings. She's been married to her college sweetheart Jerry for nearly forty years. Cheri believes in happy endings and a soul mate for everyone.
     I on the other hand, do not believe in either one. Cynic that I am, while my head is bobbing up and down in agreement with Bear's dreamy query, my mind is laughing sardonically. Dear Sir and I are friends and I am content to leave it at that.
     Life has taught me that for whatever reason, it is my fate to be loved dearly by myself, my children, and some very fine friends. I am my own champion and that must be enough. To expect more is to be disappointed. Given the abuse in my past, the terrible male role models with which I grew up and the childhood I narrowly escaped, and my inability to trust men--with very good reason--it was a massive miracle I invited this man to spend a week in my home.
     It is also a yardstick measuring my personal growth. No longer blaming all men for the heinous behavior of a few, I was able to consider friendship with a man--something that would have been unthinkable to me only a few years previously. It meant I was restructuring my inner landscape; tearing down very high walls and replacing them with safe, healthy boundaries. It was the outcome of the inner work forced on me by cancer.    
Sunday October 17th, 2010
     After a busy weekend working in Everett, Washington meeting students face-to-face and advising them in person, Sunday morning dawned foggy, hiding the sun in folds of mist. I agreed to swing by the Seattle Travelodge and pick up Dear Sir at 11 a.m. but I was so keyed up with anticipation I decided to follow the convoy of my colleagues heading back at 8:30 a.m. across the State to Pullman.
driving into Seattle Washington
     Peeling off from my friends on the I-5 just outside Seattle, I crossed the bridge and made my way to the exit by the hotel. The morning fog lifted and Seattle sparkled in the Sunday morning sun.  I turned into the hotel parking lot and cruised through once looking for a place to park, zipped round again pulling into a parking place.
     Dear Sir was sitting outside at a table, reading his book. He recognized me immediately as I swung through and when I stepped around the back of my car he was waiting for me across the lot. He smiled at me and I said, "Les??" He nodded and we hugged hello.
     We chatted amiably riding the elevator up to his room. I stepped inside and peeked around the corner. Very nice basic room. When I turn around he offered me a bouquet of exquisite fresh cut flowers from the Pike Place flower market.
I-90 heading east into the Cascades
     I was totally speechless--all my molecules froze inside me like children do when playing tag, for a VERY long billisecond--and then I smiled and thanked him shyly. Les didn't know it but it was three days before my fifty second birthday and I had just received flowers from a man for the very first time!
Near Snoqualmie Pass
     We set off on our car journey of two hundred and eighty six miles heading out of the Puget Sound. Forty minutes east of Seattle we began the climb upward toward the Cascade foothills. We chatted gently about superficial things, getting to know each other. Les was obviously taken by the scenery. It is hard to wrap one's mind around leaving a town of 563, 374 at sea level with all of its maritime urbanity to find one's self hugged by dense forests of Western  Hemlock, Silver Fir, Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedars ascending to Snoqualmie Pass at 3022 feet.
     It was mid morning as we descended from the Pass into the Kittitas Valley, stopping for lunch in Ellensburg at my favorite burger joint, The Red Horse Drive-In. It is housed in an old Mobil filling station circa 1940's and 50's.The decor is red and white--comfortable booths and tables and neon signs; the food was excellent--large, old fashioned burgers and plank sized steak fries as we call them here in America. We continued our conversation throughout lunch.
     Driving eastward, we continued  our journey in the brilliant late autumn sunlight. The weather was extremely warm for October--high 70's to mid 80's (21-26 C); the brilliant blue sky was cloudless as we wound down out of the eastern Kittitas valley, crossing endless miles of high desert and sagebrush.
leaving  the Columbia Gorge behind
     After we crossed the Columbia River we drove up on the the Columbia Plateau and traveled in a straight line for four hours, passing orchards which gave way to coulees and open desert stretching for many hundreds of miles. I am always moved by this scenery to consider what it was like when the Native tribes lived throughout this land.  
WSU Alumni Orman Johnson's barn hwy 26

     The miles and the hours flew by for us both as we talked, laughed and sat in mutually comfortable quiet while the landscape unfolded around us.
     We arrived home at 6  p.m. The evening sun slanted behind the house and lawn as we pulled in. I took Les on a tour of the house and showed him the guest bedroom and bath. He settled in unpacking and I began supper.
     I had made a pot of beef stew Thursday night before I left. I heated it up and sliced the loaf of  homemade bread waiting on the counter. I set a pan of fresh baked Angel Bars on the counter for dessert. We sat together and I watched with delight as Les' face lit up with pleasure at our meal. As dusk crept across the fields outside, Les unpacked and handed me some books: The Grand Union Canal Walk, English Canals Explained, and Idle Women. He also brought me a beautiful wooden miniature narrow boat. We said good night and parted, going to our opposite ends of the house.
Monday October 18th, 2010
     Sun streamed through the picture windows and lit the sheer curtain panels in my bedroom. I rose quietly, not wanting to wake Les, down the hall in the guest room; I thought he might want to sleep in after all the miles he'd traveled. I walked in to the kitchen to put on the kettle for tea, glancing out the window to the back deck. Dear Sir was leaning on the deck railing, wearing nothing but a pair of jeans.
     The morning sun lit his broad shoulders which tapered down to his waist, a very nice posterior, slim, muscular legs, and bare feet. I bit my fingers and grabbed for the counter to steady me. I woke up expecting to start a bit of breakfast before Les rose for the day, and looked out my kitchen window to see a Calvin Klein ad for jeans come to life on my back deck.