Stories from our parents' surprisingly romantic youth.
My mom always tells me to be friends with potential suitors first, and to get to know them. She speaks from experience: before marrying my dad, they were friends for fifteen years. I met up with them over the weekend to talk about putting in the time.
So you guys met in high school. What were you like back then?
M: Shy. I only had two friends. I sucked at sports, but I always got really high marks in academics. I was young, too; I started school in England when I was four, so I was only twelve when I started high school.
D: I went to an all-boys school until I transferred. It was not great. I was football player and a wrestler. I actually won third place all-Ontario — put that in the article.
When did you actually meet?
D: She doesn’t remember, but I first saw your mom at a field day when we were both in grade eight.
Gross. Dad hit on you when you were twelve-years old and he was fourteen?
M: No, we met when I was thirteen. And we were in the same grade. And I was mature. It was 1968.
Did you guys instantly connect?
M: Your dad was funny. And he didn’t care what other people thought about him; he was uninhibited and I liked that. And he was smart but in a kind of subversive way. And he
was a wrestler.
So he was a hottie with a body?
M: No. I mean, yes, but that’s not why I liked him.
Dad, what about Mom?
D: We were in a bunch of classes together. Your mother was cute as a button and had her own opinion — about everything. This made her very independent and to me very attractive. We became “combative friends” in that we would discuss and disagree about pretty much everything. I had been going out with many other girls — as you can well imagine — given my athletic prowess in a small town. Put that in.
Okay, I’ll make a note of your athlete skills. When did he first make a move?
M: He started by just offering to carry my books and walking me home from school. And then after a while he’d stay and have tea with me and my mom. And then we started meeting up to go roller-skating, or to the fair. Our first date was at the county fair, but I didn’t even think it was a date. I thought we were just friends.
D: It was on May 18, 1968. After offering to drive Jane and her third-wheel friend Lindsay home from the Rotary Club carnival — after dropping off Lindsay, I asked your mother to go out with me and she said yes and we went to the A&W for teen-burgers and root beer. I did not score.
I didn’t even ask! But Mom, it sounds like you still didn’t get it.
M: I always knew he liked me, and I liked him, but I was too young and independent to get involved with some guy from the small town that I could not wait to get away from. I wanted to escape and experience life.
D: Neither of us wanted to be tied down in a small town. We just remained really good friends.
So when you graduated high school, what happened?
M: I went to university, and he went off to work.
But you stayed in touch?
M: He ended up going to the same university as me, but was a year behind me, so I didn’t want anything to do with him. My small town days were behind me. I wanted to go out with older men.
D: I ended up buying some textbooks from you —
M: Yeah, but then you vanished and didn’t pay me.
Dad was older than you!
M: I was playing the field. That’s what university is for. You wouldn’t know!
Burn. Okay, so you were ignoring him. What made you guys reconnect?
M: We always wrote letters. I moved to Toronto for work after school for five years and then I moved to Calgary, but we always wrote letters to each other, to keep in touch. He was the only guy I did that with.
Pre-internet pen pals — quaint. What kind of letters?
M: They weren’t love letters, they were just updates on what we were doing with our lives. With our various other partners.
Okay, Mom, we get it. You were a player. So how long did the letters go on for?
M: For about five years. It was nice to feel like I still had a connection to someone back home. Like someone was missing me. And it wasn’t just letters — every year your dad would send me roses on my birthday and on Valentine’s Day.
D: We also met once when I was managing rock bands when she came home for Christmas. You are getting this so wrong.
M: I don’t remember that part!
D: Well, I looked very cool at the time.
The flowers have been pretty awkward when you were with one of your 500 boyfriends.
M: It was. I had to hide them.
When did you reconnect, face to face?
M: I moved back to Toronto. I had a job writing for a lame movie magazine. I was walking around on my lunch break and I ran into your dad!
Was it fate? Did old feelings of love come flooding back?
M: He was wearing a fur coat and driving a Jag, so I was more interested.
Hold the phone. Are you serious?
D: It was a great coat!
M: Well, he might not have been wearing it on that occasion, but he asked me out and wore it on our date.
Mom, you’re going to sound like a gold-digging floozy.
M: Well, I was certainly not a gold-digger.
So you starting dating back up again. At this point, it’s been around fourteen years since you first met. Were you finally like, “This is the one?”
M: Not until we went out on the first date after those fourteen years. Everything just clicked. We spent hours and hours talking; we had so much in common, and we saw eye to eye on so many things. And your dad is so funny.
D: After running into your mom on the street, I called to ask her out. Her exact response was “What are your intentions?” to which I responded, “It’s a date.” Six months later we were married.
Mom was a “Rules” girl. Were you bummed that it took so long to figure out?
M: No. Because it was fun, being young and living my own life. I wasn’t ready before that. It was good because I had known him for so long, through so many different stages of life. I didn’t have to worry about him being a murderer or a creep or anything. He was familiar. Plus, he really swept me off my feet when we finally reconnected.
M: [laughs] Are you sure?
D: I did?
So you guys finally reconnected in person. How long it did take to tie the knot?
M: Six months of actual dating, and then we got married. I think we had waited long enough.
Fifteen years of courtship, six months of dating, and now almost twenty-eight years of marriage — was it worth the wait?
D: “What are your intentions?” [laughing] Who says that?
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