Me And My Big Ideas
I had just left off at some complicated point in the early 1980s, and I had finally gotten a mysterious dark-haired woman named “Martha” to at least go out for coffee with me while we were both students at the University of Massachussets at Amherst.
This had been no small feat. After considerable effort, and no little tenacity, I had finally managed to get all the way into the Friend Zone. The issue now, as I saw it, was to try to move onward into to, well, you know, something romantic.
Ah, but I had a plan. A humdinger of a plan. Such a brilliant plan. You betcha.
Do you remember that line in This Is Spinal Tap where one character says something like there’s a very fine line between genius and dumb as a brick?
Anyway, my plan was as follows. Martha had begun having coffees with me. Soon after that, she agreed to have the odd lunch as well. But sometimes these little gatherings included other students. (Phooey.) What I needed was more opportunities to speak to her one on one.
Now, it so happened (I learned) that the department offered a month and half long study abroad program. For a surprisingly reasonable fee, you could head over to Oxford and take a class or two for something like 90 days. Some time before, I had actually mentioned it to my parents during our weekly phone conversations. They had surprised me by urging me to go on it, and offering to foot the bill, on the grounds that I’d never been to Europe, and it might help me in terms of my career. “A little Oxford will look good on the old resume,” was the way my Dad put it.
At first, I didn’t think much of the idea. After all, it wasn’t like I was spending a whole term overseas. I was just going to be there for part of a summer. And it would be like, what? One class. And, really, what was the good of that? So, I was going to take a pass.
Inspiration struck. I discovered that my dark-haired mystery lady, Martha, had gone to Oxford the year before on the same program. Ah ha, says I, I says...
So I stop her after class one night. Say, I said, I understand you did the Oxford thing last summer. I’m thinking of doing the same thing. I was wondering if we could get together some time and I could, you know, get some tips on what it was like? And stuff? Particularly the stuff.
Why, sure, she said. Be glad, too.
Brilliant, I said to myself. I’m a genius, I added.
And, sure enough, she agreed to meet with me. And we got together for several more coffees, and then it was several lunches, and then...one night...OMG...a dinner at a local restaurant...and then...and then....Wow.
We were a...oh-my-gosh, oh-my-golly...a couple!!!
About the photos: Four today. The first is of Martha standing in front of the Unitarian Church (technically, a “meetinghouse”) in Amherst. We were married there 40 years ago. The second is of the church itself, and the third and fourth are of the stained glass window in the church. We were unable to get inside the place during our visit, so these are from the outside. But, believe me, the interior view is amazing.
And all of Martha’s friends were terribly disappointed for her. “Such a pity,” they said. And then there was Martha’s mother’s reaction. But I won’t go into that. I mean, really. I’m no masochist. Besides, she came around eventually. In time. A LOT of time. But, better late etc.. And if I’d been considering me as a potential son-in-law, well, maybe, couldn’t blame her. I mean...me? Seriously? Ouch.
Okay, but it was about then that I discovered the flaw in my oh so brilliant plan. To wit, while I was getting all that information about travel from Martha, I had to maintain a certain degree of verisimilitude. As in, I actually had to sign up for the trip. And, by the time we were, er, actually dating...everything was done. I had the ticket in hand. I had my passport. I was...yikes!...headed off to Oxford.
Somehow, I’d had this idea I’d be able to bail out at the last minute, but, the reservations were non-refundable, and my parents had paid for it, and, well...
Did I mention Phooey? How about Darn?
Anyway, with great trepidation I went off to Oxford and had a decent time even though I was terrified that I’d get back and find out that Martha had come to her senses and run off with some steely-featured multimillionaire who had an abiding interest in the American educational system and resources to build her her own school. Sort of 50 Shades but with white boards instead of whips. Much less stressful.
But, strangely enough, her common sense remained in abeyance. (Whew!) A month and a half later, she met me at the airport, and, well, things developed quite nicely after that. In ’82, we were married.
In fact, we were married in Amherst. We were living elsewhere by that time, but we wanted to tie the knot where we’d first met. So, we marched down the proverbial aisle in the lovely little Unitarian church in downtown Amherst.
I should also say that for the rest of our time together in New England and Massachusetts--almost 40 years, in fact-- we went regularly back to Amherst, even though we lived in the Boston-area. And I have some wonderful memories of those trips over the course of nearly four decades, some of which I will share later.
But, right now, I need to move on. So, when next we meet, I shall resume the tale of our most recent visit to the town...this year, in 2022...
And note how we found Amherst...so very familiar, and yet...also...
More to come.
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