Marian

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the story of a shabby old RV and grand lady she is named after. It also shows clearly why I'm the luckiest man in the world.

Submitted: June 10, 2012

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Submitted: June 10, 2012

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Marian

 

This story is true, sort of. It is true in so much as it is a family story, or a series of them, told and retold. Each time the teller of the story adds a little or forgets a little and the story is edited again and again. It is the story of a 1988, 26 ½ foot, ramshackle, really we should apologize for the way it looks, RV named Marian. It is also the story of why I am the luckiest man in the world.

On July 3rd, 1980 I met my wife for the first time. It was in a bar called Bacchus in the town of New Paltz, New York. Bacchus if you don’t know was a Greek demi-god, widely regarded as the god of everything fun and probably unwise one may do while skipping class in college. New Paltz is a college town. My friends and I were in town to visit my brother, who was an art student there. It was an art school at the time, hence the Bacchean sensibility. The place was fun as hell.

It was early on Friday evening. My friend, Joe and I were shooting pool when a woman brushed by us to put her name one the board. She wrote Su with a little star next to it. I figured that Sue was such a common name the she distinguished it by dropping the e and adding the star to keep from missing her turn. There were a few names ahead of her.

In those days I could hold my own on a pool table. Joe and I kept winning. Before long it was time for Su with a star. The first thing I noticed was that she was retrieving her own stick from behind the bar, always a bad sign. She came up to me as she deftly put the stick together, a true swordsman never looks as he sheaths his sword. She was impressive as all get out. She shook my hand and said, “I’m Su, are you playing parters?”

I introduced Joe.

She introduced the guy she came in with.

Damn.

As she promptly whooped our asses on the pool table, I think her partner might have dropped one ball, I was having the time of my life watching her. Her eyes were incredibly engaging as she sized up her shot, me, the guy at the bar, everything. This was clearly her world and I was a visitor. The fact that those eyes were parked just north of a very impressive set of boobs didn’t hurt. We lost. I thanked her for a good game as slowly as I could.

The next day was the Fourth of July. I was lucky enough to run into her just before the fireworks, which were held in a place the students referred to as The Tripping Fields. Like I said, it was an art school. We talked for a few minutes while she looked just a little too longingly at my brother. Apparently she had lived down the hall from him in the dorms.

Damn.

On Sunday afternoon my friends and I were busily making bad decisions and delaying our departure. We found ourselves in Bacchus again. She was already on the pool table. I tried to look casual as I crashed passed my friends to get my name on the board. She was shooting against a ridiculously cute guy. It was clear that they were there together.

Damn.

This time we played singles. I shot really well. She beat me anyway. It was my favorite round on a pool table ever. I shook her hand, said, “Good game,” and went home.

Note to self: The next time you go to New Paltz, look for this woman.

The summer evaporated slowly. On a rainy mid September weekend I went back to visit my brother. Again we were in Bacchus. We had been in the bar since early afternoon. You can guess what kind of shape I was in. At about eleven she came in and put her name on the board. I started drinking water with all my might. By the time my game came up I had backed myself up from stupid to, well, a little less stupid. I don’t remember the game. I was enjoying the dance. When the game ended I sat on a sat of steps at the back of the bar. After what seemed like forever, she came and sat next to me. She kissed me. She looked at my with those eyes and said, “Let’s go home and play.” To which I replied, “Yes Ma’am.”

The 70’s. Okay, it was 1980, close enough.

This system of meeting randomly and ending up together went on for a year of so. These were the days before e-mail and Facebook. We communicated through the knowing looks of bartenders. At one point, after breakfast, Su’s roommate, Annie, told her that I was a keeper. Thank you, Annie for declaring me over the legal limit.

 Su eventually left school and went home to live with her parents. Since there was no real way to pretend that I was just in the neighborhood, cruising the bar scene in Scarsdale, NY, we began to talk about what was next. Apparently, the telephone had been invented.

In the fall of the next year, she packed all of her worldly belongings in a Ford Fiesta, drove to Albany, NY and moved in with me. When we unpacked her car the manifest looked like this: 1 box of nick-knacks, 2 suitcases of clothes, mostly t-shirts, jeans and hippy skirts, 200 albums.

Inside my shabby apartment I had: 1 queen size bed, 1 used sofa, 1 dresser, 200 albums. We had at least 100 duplicates.

Since there was, of course, bupkis in my refrigerator, our first stop was the grocery store. As we headed down the produce isle we discovered that we both like garlic and onions and hated liver.

With all of our bases firmly covered, we began our lives together.

Right about now, you have to be asking yourself, “What the hell. Where’s the RV.”

 Patience, patience. Sheesh!

In the spring Su announced that her family was having a reunion in honor of her Aunt Marian’s 90th birthday. We were traveling to Kankakee, Illinois and would be staying with her Grandmother Bru. I had already met Su’s Parents. Her mother was smart, sarcastic, firepot of a woman. Her father was kind, warmhearted, welcoming man. You would never guess that smart ass Connie was a church secretary and Dave was a very successful advertising executive on Madison Avenue. We were not doing the usual in-law thing. I really liked these people and they seemed to like me. I was a big fan of Su. Her mother was a kick ass woman. I was genuinely excited to meet the old ladies.

Bru was not a disappointment. She was a feisty woman who at 85 was living alone, cooking up storm and not afraid to tell you exactly what was on her mind. She was one of grand ladies of the Revard side of the family. Having her and Connie in the same room, playing family history ping pong was fun to watch. The next day we traveled to Champagne, IL to meet the rest of the family. When we arrived I met about a million cousins, uncles and aunts in about five minutes. It took me a few years with Su to figure out all of ins and outs of this family. Marian was Su’s father’s aunt, the Kimble side of the family. Marion, being 90 was taking a nap when we arrived. Su’s Aunt Pat, from the Kimble side, filled me in a little on Aunt Marian.

The story goes that when she was young, Marian had loved a man who ended up marrying another. Marion went to work. She was a social worker. She described it to me later as, “Helping the gentle people who are living without.” I spent a portion of my life in the same field. This was gracious woman. Anyway, she worked and worked and then retired. Pat said, “Be sure to ask her about the trip to Turkey.”

A while later Marian was up and I was presented to her as her grand niece’s boyfriend. Marian shook my hand. When she stood, she came up to just above my waist. It was easy to tell that arthritis was not being kind this woman. She lifted her head with its full mane of white, white hair and there they were, those eyes. Sparkle and fire. She said, “So, I understand that you are the one who loves our little Suzi.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

I asked her about the trip to Turkey. She told me the following story:

“Well, I had these good friends who lived in Turkey and I have always wanted to visit. I didn’t have very much money so I booked passage on a Turkish Tramp Steamer. Since I already spoke Turkish (I was thinking, who in Illinois speaks Turkish) it seemed like fun way to go. One day, when we were about half way across the Atlantic I thought that the view of the ocean from the top of the smokestack was something I had to see. I was about half way up when I felt the smokestack start to shake. I looked down and a sailor was climbing up behind me. He said, “Something, something in Turkish.” (She kindly translated it for us.) “Aunt Marian (Everybody, everywhere called her Aunt Marian) I’m sorry, they say I have to go with you.” I understood why the captain sent him up. With the sailor in tow I made it to the top. He was very nice, but it wasn’t nearly as much fun with him there.”

Right then and there I knew for sure that I was going to marry Su.

 

Time, as it often does went by. Su went back to school and we had to live apart for two years. This time she went to the Culinary Institute of America. It happened to be the same exit off of the Thruway as New Paltz. It was a right instead of a left at the exit. In my ’72 Gremlin I could (and very often did) cover the 85 miles in 50 minutes. Don’t tell my kids.

A little before graduation, she came home to Albany and we went out with friends. I popped to question. You have to understand that at this point, at least according to everyone who knew us, it was a foregone conclusion. After graduation Su had been offered a job cooking at one of the Brennan Restaurants in New Orleans. I proposed like this (you have to know that she had turned me down before), “Su, do you know that campground outside of New Paltz?”

“The one in Rosedale?”

“Yes, it is exactly half way between your family and my family. What do you say we invite everyone we know to come and stay for the weekend and watch us get married. I will be the one wearing white overalls and a white tux coat with tales. (Did I mention that we were hippies a decade after it was a thing.) After that let’s move to New Orleans in a U-haul, we’ll camp along the way.”

She said yes. I had sold her on the party. We told everyone we knew imediately. Most of them were in the bar with us. There was no backing out now.  

A 279 day drought ended on the morning of our outdoor, camping wedding. The mud was spectacular. Su was spectacular. The preacher was two hours late. Kegs tapped, the congregation was properly primed when she walked down the aisle. The rain stopped.

 People still talk about the most fun wedding they can remember. It was, of course, a blur to us.

A month later we were in a U-haul on our way to New Orleans. Camping wasn’t going to happen since the drought ending rain followed us down the Eastern Seaboard. As we drove south people celebrated the rain. “The Crops will be saved.” You’re welcome. We have the worst luck with weather. Glad to be of help.

After a year in New Orleans talk began to turn to making babies. Another Kimble family reunion was happening, this time in Seattle, Washington. Five minutes in Seattle we knew. A month later we bought a truck, packed it up Clampett style and headed to the Northwest to make a family. You will notice, still no RV.

Backing up a bit. While we were in New Orleans, Connie and Dave came for a visit. Dave had just retired. Connie had been waiting a long time for the second honeymoon, for unfettered time with this wonderful man. They had spent their first honeymoon in the Moute Leon Hotel in New Orleans. They were back for their second. Dave was 65 and he didn’t look well. This when we found out that his lung cancer was very adavanced. Not long after we moved to Seattle, Connie lost the love of her life. The only part of retirement with Dave she knew involved way too many doctors.

Again time went by. We had three beautiful children, Lily, Emmett and Marley. We worked like dogs. Su worked in restaurants and had good health coverage. I was managing rental property, which paid our rent, I remodeled apartments with the kids in tow. I was the only mommy at the park with pipe wrenches in my diaper bag. It was a struggle but we got along. Then we opened a restaurant.

From construction, through opening and closing it lasted two years. With a giant sucking sound it took the cars, the house and a good deal of our friends’ and family’s money.

Fun times.

Luckily we had a friend who sold real estate. She found a buyer for our house who had very small rental house for sale. In the week between closings, with two phone and fax machine we managed to squeeze about $250,000 of debt into $40,000 of actual money. On the hottest day of the year (more weather luck) we moved our family of five into a 900 square foot house and we had $100 in the bank.

We pressed the restart button and started over.

It turned out to be great move. We ended up in a part of town called Ballard. Through the schools and Little League friends we built a very happy life, just with no money. Oh well, you can’t have everything.

Su still loved me. The kids thrived. They tolerated us pretty well. In about a year we will be empty nester’s.  During this time people began to notice that I worked way too much. I worked for a non-profit, housing the homeless and mentally ill. I loved the work. Sixty hours was a short week. I was also Chief Umpire of Ballard Little League, about forty volunteer hours a week from mid-January to mid- July. I was getting pretty grumpy. My Family was getting pretty grumpy with me. I had three blown disks in my back and a stress fracture in my foot. It was time for a change.

My kids were several years out of Little League. I retired. I miss it every spring.

I left the wonderful craziness and the great satisfaction of working with people who might die if I didn’t go to work. It turns out that other people went to work for me and nobody died. Go figure. I still miss them, crazy and all.

During this period of time Su managed to trigger the ejector seat and get out of the restaurant business. She now works in the medical field. With several Sue’s in one office she has become known as Kimble instead of Su. I miss the star that only I see, but I’ll get used to it eventually.

We had been talking for years about retiring some day, buying an RV, that’s right an RV, and traveling the country, seeing the sites and visiting every ball park in the country. The only problem is that retiring will take the one thing we don’t have, money.

When I left the nonprofit, I received a payout for all of the vacation time I didn’t take, which was a lot since was as crazy as my charges.

We looked our little windfall and talked about what we would do. It wasn’t enough to solve any of the really big problems. It was really just an extra tax return. To us it was chunk.

I brought up the idea of a used RV. She looked at me and said, “Retirement is a long time away.” It thought of Connie and Dave and said, “Let’s do it now and just retire for the weekend once in a while.” We agreed just to go look at RV’s. I knew I had hooked her.

We plunked down $3500 on an RV that really looks as if we are homeless. I told you I missed my peeps. We paid a bunch of bills with the rest.

Substituting perspiration for actual money, I worked to get it road worthy. Creative use of duct tape and sealant can go a long way. In early spring we took it up and over the mountains to a campground and brew fest about four hours away. About half way it started to snow. Su was driving the big rig. She reached over and turned the windshield wipers on. Nothing happened. She looked at me. I told her to pull over. I said, “When I tell you, hit the switch again.” I got out, pushed on one of the wiper blades and said go. They groaned and slowly started to move. “Hit the washers.” Squirt, squirt. They stared going back and forth. I got back in and said, “Darlin’ just don’t turn them off until we get where we’re going.”

The love of my life, the woman I would do anything for, thought this was adorable.

I said, “We should name her after Aunt Marian the adventurer.”

She smiled and said, “I love you.”

It was the spring of 2012, nearly 32 years had passed since Su with a star appeared on the board.

Like I said, the luckiest man in the world.

 

 

 


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