Wednesday, February 10, 1982 was bitter cold, with a typical Finger Lakes icy wind blowing off Cayuga Lake, numbing my hands and bare legs. I had dressed up for dinner at our favorite nice restaurant, The Boxcar Restaurant. Usually we just went to Joe’s to get chef salads, but every now and then we’d dress up and go to The Boxcar. Dressing up meant a knee length dress of some sort of homespun cotton, very much the style I’d still wear, knee socks, and my thin down jacket that let the wind blow in through every seam. Not adequately warm for that strikingly clear, nearly full moon night with temps hovering near zero and the ever-present wind rushing up from the lake.
I was young and starry-eyed enough to willingly brave the cold when Stephen suggested we walk up to the overlook above my apartment after dinner. Below us Ithaca’s lights spangled the night between where we stood and the darkness of the lake. And then Stephen asked me to marry him, and I said yes. Actually, it wasn’t quite that simple…
When Stephen had called my parents’ home earlier that day to ask my father for my hand in marriage, my father had replied, “You may ask her, but she has to call me before she answers.” My mother later said she’d told my father that requiring me to call before answering was the most bizarre thing she’d ever heard. With a mother’s intuition she had immediately known why Steve was calling, whereas my usually astute father had been taken off guard.
So when Steve had dropped to one knee, taken my numb hands in his warm ones and asked if I would marry him, he immediately followed his proposal with, “But you can’t answer yet; you need to call your father first.” We hurried to my apartment to find my roommate on the phone, so then ran to a friend’s apartment, where the phone was thankfully available. I called my father, got his blessing (he just wanted to ask me if I was happy), after which we went back out into the clear, cold night, where I said, “Yes!”
These 39 years have held plenty of challenges, some due to our immaturity at the time we married, some to the normal stresses of raising children, especially while Stephen was still in grad school and we were living in a very cramped, cold, thin-walled apartment (we used to have an inch or more of ice on the inside of the sliding glass door and the bedroom windows), and some due to childhood issues that erupted like a volcano years after we got married.
But now, nearly four decades later, our lives have melded into one life- two lives in one- each richer and more steady than we would be alone, more complete as individuals because of the other, at the same time incomplete without the other. Stephen is my favorite subject to sketch and my favorite person to spend time with.
The following sketches were all done from life, most of them while Stephen was reading to me, which he has done nearly every evening for many years. His birthday present to me one year was that he would read a book of my choice to me in the evenings. After some thought I chose The Hobbit, knowing that we would then want to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which we did. By then we were hooked on reading aloud as a companionable way to close our day, and I’m guessing he has since read at least a hundred books of various genres aloud.
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