EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the A to Z Challenge, an exercise in self-flagellation we bloggers inflict upon ourselves to teach us discipline as writers and to build audience. During the month of April, I’ll be posting 26 times, once for every letter in the alphabet. Looking on the bright side, we can each be thankful this is an English language exercise and not Khmer, the language of Cambodia, which sets the world record with a 74-character alphabet! After some misgivings, I’ve decided to proceed with my initial idea of blogging about the special people in my life whose names begin with the appropriate letter. There will be difficulties, like having more than one special person whose names begin with the same letter, forcing me to choose. And then there are those letters — O, Q and X among them — where no name springs readily to mind. What will I do then? We’ll have to wait and see!
M is for Mary
You never know where you’ll be when something happens that will change your life forever. For me, it was standing at a shuttle bus stop on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin.
I’d just gotten out of one of my journalism classes and was ready to take the short bus ride back to my car. Standing with me was the target of my romantic interest, Gloria, and with her was her best friend, Mary.
Gloria and I never hit it off, but her best friend and I had almost instant chemistry, as evidenced by the nickname I gave her. Nicknames are important to me, and while Gloria never earned one that I can recall, Mary quickly became Peanut, her frequent on-campus peanut butter sandwiches making that first appellation easy and obvious.
Our relationship was no big deal at first, but after a little while, we started meeting together to study. Not a lot of studying got done, however, as we usually ended up playing footsie under the study carrels.
We almost didn’t survive our first argument. Mary broke up with me because I liked steak while she preferred fish, and because of that, she saw no hope for us long-term. I was devastated, but eventually we found the right recipe and got married soon after we both graduated. Gloria was Mary’s maid of honor, though we haven’t seen or heard from her since.
Our first home — if you can call it that — was the split-level mobile home I’d lived in through college. That 1956 model Pacemaker was photographed for an article in the campus newspaper about alternative housing for students, and let me tell you, that thing was some alternative. It was parked on the wrong side of the tracks, next to a junkyard with free-ranging pigs.
We weren’t there for long, however, as my first real job took us to Santa Fe, N.M., which was a dream locale for us. I’d traveled there quite a bit on backpacking trips and the like, and as for Mary, it was her home state, though she’d moved to Texas at an early age.
Our days as New Mexicans were numbered, however, as Mary had to quit her teaching job when our first baby arrived. We gave her an L name, and perhaps you read about her yesterday. Santa Fe was just too expensive for us with one income and me making first-job money, so it was back to Texas for slightly more money and a better support system.
Two more children arrived during our Texas years, and Mary was the primary care-giver. She ran a tight ship, and soon obtained the nickname she bears to this day, Chief. She hates it, but endures it gracefully, just one of the many things — including a move to New Jersey and an eventual gnome infestation — that she learned to put up with when she married me.
She’s been a loving wife, loving mother, excellent teacher, doting grandmother, a published poet whose work is becoming more and more famous every year, an enthusiastic naturalist, and a well-read and open-minded life companion.
We’ve now been married for 39 years, not bad for someone I met at a bus stop. And while we certainly don’t agree on everything, we love and respect one another enough that we always find the middle ground. I guess we both know that if we survived the steak vs. fish argument, we can survive anything.