Sharing "How We Met" Memories With Kids
How We Met "I'll have a cup of coffee and a smile."
With those words, the handsome young sailor with dark hair, wearing a dress white uniform, places his order. It is the early 1950's. He is squeezed into a booth in a Chinese-American restaurant, the kind of place that serves both cheeseburgers and Chow Mein and features Patsy Kline and Sinatra on the jukebox. He is with a couple of Navy buddies, enjoying a few hours leave. Their ship is docked in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
The sailors have no money. They can only afford coffee, that's it. The waitress delivers the steaming cups, and, as requested, grins at the sailor with dark hair. None of the other waitresses would take their order; sailors have no money, sailors leave lousy tips.
The waitress hangs by the booth to talk. She's a college girl; educated, animated. The sailors are high school dropouts. Later, to their amusement, she invites them home to her mother's house for what turns out to be a very proper, somewhat quaint afternoon of drinking tea from porcelain cups while perched on the edge of stiff-backed chairs.
The waitress is my mother. The sailor is my father.
Growing up, my brother and I would beg to hear the story of the long-ago encounter in the China Clipper. It remained afloat in our memory, long after our parents' marital boat had sprung leaks and capsized. Though the marriage faltered, the story of our parents' first encounter was a gift that allowed us to hold onto a piece of the past.
Telling your kids the story of how you met your spouse is a beautiful way to bring the family closer, and chances are that your kids will never forget the story.
"You hear these stories with a tremendous sense of awe," agrees Jackie O., a moving company appraiser, thinking back to her own parents' war-time romance in Ireland during the 1940's. Though some of the images are blurred, she still giggles thinking of her mother trying to sneak away from an all-girls school, trying to run off to meet her father for a picnic, only to "literally back into" the reverend mother, picnic hamper in hand.
"In a child's mind, the mother becomes an ideal beauty, and the father is cast as a handsome suitor," she says. "It could have been Clark Gable, but it was your father, and the idea that you were the product of these romantic tales makes you feel good."
"To me, it's like telling them about the day they were born," says Barbara D., a newspaper editor. Her children are well acquainted with the story of how she met her husband Pierre.
"We met at a young Catholics group," she recalls fondly. "A retreat was planned and I offered to give rides. The minute I saw Pierre - there was something about his smile - I instantly liked him. He just exuded this wonderful, warm feeling. He was assigned to my car but by the end of the ride it came out that he had applied to the seminary. I thought, 'I hope he has a brother.'
"But he asked me out, and I thought we were going just as friends. Then at some point he wasn't applying to the seminary anymore! I remember the first time we held hands. I'd held hands with people before, of course, but this time it went all the way to my heart."
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