A Memoir of Courage After a Life-Changing Accident

My marriage with Eric, buoyed by children and community, offers the central haven. Eric and I have been together for twenty-two years. We first met in college at Brown when I was twenty years old, only a year after the car accident. Together, we shared an ability to sidestep danger that seemed to set the pattern for our lives: hints of trouble transformed into fortuitous events. Fortune trumped fate even at our first meeting, which took place during a hurricane, but one named Gloria, that managed to veer back into the ocean before doing any real damage and gloriously permitted us to meet. I was alone in the apartment that I shared with my friend Audrey, the top floor of a four-story apartment building filled with students. I had looked out of the window periodically during the day as the storm built. Students, taking advantage of the gale, were roller-­skating, biking, and gliding on homemade rigs with sails. Storekeepers busily taped up their windows to protect against the potential force of the wind. I didn't think much of the storm; I had a paper due.

That evening, the storm grew wilder. My electricity went out. I hadn't bothered following the advice of local weathermen and had no candles or matches in the apartment readily available. Scrambling in the kitchen, trying to light a half-­used candle with the stove, I heard a crash. Two of the windows in my living room had shattered. Taping up the windows had also seemed an unnecessary precaution. Regretting my earlier nonchalance, I raced out of the apartment and began knocking on doors. After trying three floors of apartments without success, I finally found someone who was at home on the first floor. The young Eric, blond, thin, patrician, answered the door. He was holding a croquet mallet in his hand and waved me in. Candles lined the walls, illuminating an elaborate game of croquet and a bottle of champagne chilling in a bucket. There was no furniture in the room except for a plastic lawn table beneath an open sun umbrella and six chairs, remnants of a garage sale that for fifty dollars had allowed him to decorate his first apartment. I stayed that night until the storm was over, playing croquet, drinking champagne, watching card tricks, playing poker, staring into Eric's changeable blue-­green eyes. I liked his calm. I liked his cool. I was smitten. He was deciding. It took several weeks of awkward attempts at connection—an unexpected shortage of eggs, lost keys, could I borrow his phone—before he asked me out on our first date. Or was it a date? He wondered if I was hungry and wanted to get an ice cream with him.

We always joked in later years that he would tell me when he actually started liking me only on our wedding day. I would just have to wait until then for the mystery to be revealed. We knew for years that we would get married. My mother, so sure of this event, started planning the wedding a year before we actually got engaged. Thanksgiving 1990, she called me two days before we planned to come home for the holiday and informed me that we couldn't come. When asked why not, she admitted that it would be too embarrassing; everyone in St. Louis thought that we were engaged.

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