How often do you get to visit your past, with the chance to reconcile yourself with any part of it? Well, I had that chance, recently.
Elisabeth and I were sitting in front of our cottage beside Georgian Bay on a warm April day. Sitting beside us were our friends, Joan Rogers, and her husband Ian, nicknamed Buck, who had come over for lunch from their house in Collingwood. They have been happy together ever since they married more than fifty years ago, and we also have survived, perhaps gracefully, and for sure gratefully. Our son Andrew was also there with his bright and brilliant daughter Isabella, who was alternately shy behind his legs and then running around the grass. We were a perfect picture of long-settled married harmony. With a difference.
In our student days at university, long before marriage, but while we were definitely thinking about it, I used to be in half in love with Joan and she was very attracted to me. Those thoughts and feelings were now just pleasant memories, but the day was warm, two new generations were listening and everyone was in a good mood, so she and I began to reminisce about our few dates fifty years before. She told a little story about us. We went out to a movie one evening, and enjoyed ourselves. Around 11:30 pm, half an hour before the witching time, we were in my father’s car in front of Joan’s residence at the university. I was nervous, because Joan--who is a no-nonsense person, funny and direct, with a deep hoarse voice roughened by smoking--could be daunting to a love-struck young male presumably intent on her person.
“We were sitting there in the car, about half an hour before I had to go in,” Joan said. “And do you remember what you did?”
“I probably lunged at you.” I smiled, feeling pleasantly embarrassed.
She laughed that deep hoarse laugh, and said, “You read me a poem you had written.”
“I did? Oh, my God,” I said. “Did you like it?”
“I don’t remember,” she said.
“And I didn’t kiss you?”
“No,” she said and laughed. I couldn’t tell if she was offended, or disappointed. But it was obvious to all of us sitting there in the warm sun of our later years that everything had turned out for the best. I was grateful. Joan had picked right, and so had Buck, Elisabeth and I. It had all wound up like a Shakespeare comedy--confusions cleared away, resentments dissolved in laughter, no regrets anywhere, and the Duke smiling benignly on everyone.
She had forgotten the poem of course, but now, fifty years later, she and Buck had come to the opening night of my new play, and she had laughed so much along with others in the theatre, that she could not hear all the dialogue. Now she asked for a copy so she could read it. What was I thinking going into the house to print a copy? I was happy that finally she saw something she liked in my writing.
I printed a copy, brought it out and signed it for her, under the inscription, “For Joanie, thanks for marrying Buck. Love, Jimmy.”