Mary grew up in Western Michigan in a small rural town outside of Grand Rapids. Unlike her other siblings (all of whom still live in her hometown) she was subject to wanderlust and managed to get herself to Paris and then Madrid her junior year and that's where I met her--in Madrid. We were instant companions and I was drawn to her dry sense of humor (drier than mine even) and her shocking way of saying exactly what is on her mind to almost anyone at any time. We palled around Madrid that spring, drinking too much beer and following the cast of Conan the Barbarian to parties.
She ended up back in Michigan (as did I for a time) and we've kept in touch over the years. She got married young, had two boys young, and got divorced young. Since her divorce many years ago she has dated off and on but she seems to attract highly undesirable men and her Christmas cards are often filled with hilarious accounts of these men like the monk who liked to be spanked and the DJ who asked her to, well, I can't say what he asked her to do but she politely declined, and the blind date who was wearing tinfoil on his head so he wouldn't hear the voices. She teaches speech therapy (or something like that, she's going to correct me now) for the Flint school district which is as close to working for the Peace Corps as a paid position can be.
In all these years she has never gotten back to Europe. In all these years, she has pretty much given up on finding a nice man to spend her life with.
Laurent is my Dutch friend. I met him in 1986 when he opened the door to the communal dorm kitchen in Eindhoven, The Netherlands to find me standing there blinking in the bright Dutch sun of a June day, jet-lagged, and a little confused having arrived for an internship without anyone to greet me at the airport. I had somehow made my way to the dorm I was to stay in but no one seemed to know I was coming. He smiled and invited me in for tea and cookies. We have been friends ever since. We kept in touch by letters and then the internet. He is passionate about old cars and guitars. He knows more about anything than anyone I know in the world. He speaks Dutch (of course) and English fluently. He is also quite fluent in German and French though he downplays this. He has had little experience with the opposite sex and often wonders about this. As he says, "Charles Manson gets marriage proposals. How is it I can't find a nice girl?" Exactly. I've encouraged him to internet date but that too has had its share of disappointments. He has long ago given up on the idea of finding a nice girl to share his life with.
Then last June I noticed that the two most frequent posters on this blog were Mary and Laurent. I realized they had a lot in common: they are both socialists, they both are very interested in everyone and everything around them, they are both extremely outspoken, frank, and honest, and they are both among the kindest people I know. I knew they would have fun "talking" on the internet and I introduced them to each other then left them to chat in the corner with a drink in each hand (metaphorically speaking--this was all by internet).
A few months later Mary revealed that she really, really liked Laurent but wondered how far things could progress being an ocean apart. I urged Mary to beg, borrow, and steal money to go see Laurent.
So for the first time in nearly 30 years, Mary got out her passport and took a plane across the Atlantic.
The trip was such a success that Laurent is now visiting Mary in Michigan (in February--think about that).
They are both coming to visit us this weekend. Mary apologized for "intruding" on Valentine's Day weekend but really, can you think of anything more romantic than sharing dinner with a couple involved in an overseas romance on Valentine's Day?
Me neither! Happy Valentine's Day everyone and remember love really does come along when you least expect it.