Cover Story

Readers share stories of their ... 

Off-on-the-Wrong-Foot Romances

With February comes Valentine’s Day and thoughts of love
and romance. Here with are our readers’ accounts of
loves that withstood somewhat shaky beginnings ...

Bernard & Evelyn White

Bernard & Evelyn WhiteOur story began in early December 1968 at my grandparents’ 50th anniversary in Yancyville, N.C. Bernard was the photographer. Though my maternal aunt was married to his oldest brother for some years then, I hadn’t met Bernard yet.

I lived in New Jersey and he was in the Air Force stationed in North Carolina, so we exchanged addresses. By the spring of 1969, I turned 18, Bernard proposed and we were to marry July of the year after I graduated from high school. Since he was 23, he felt I may be too young and suggested we wait until the following year. By fall of that year I felt maybe he was right; there were a lot of things to consider. So I wrote him a letter (by that time he was stationed in the Philippines) saying I’d taken off the ring to think clearly. He took it as a “Dear John” letter and I heard nothing until the following summer when I was told that he was married. Stunned with disbelief, I asked my uncle, his brother, who hesitantly confirmed that it was true.

Still heartbroken, four years later, I too married someone else. Years passed, he had three children and I had four (each of us have a set of twins). When our marriages failed, while separated, family members encouraged him to look me up. I’d moved to Virginia in 1989 and he’d retired after 30 years in the Air Force and was living in Hampton, Va. We re-established our love interest and were married December 2, 2001, 32 years almost to the day of our first meeting!

Evelyn Cephas White
Fredericksburg, Va.

William & Virginia Richardson

At the young age of 16, I’d never had a boyfriend — well, at least, not a real boyfriend. I was in the tenth grade when I met my husband. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. William had already severed his relationships with friends of all sorts to see me. I was not allowed to date or have a boyfriend. I told him that, but that didn’t stop William. That weekend, he came to see me at my home. Even though it was off the road in the bushes, he came. I was afraid of what would happen. Well, my parents ran him off. Of course, being the determined person he is, he told me he would be back, which scared me to death. I didn’t know what would happen.

He came back as soon as the next weekend. He was the perfect gentleman and my father came to care about him as much as I did. My mother was always a pushover for what I wanted, so she agreed anyway. Today we have been married 29 happy years. We have a beautiful 13-year-old son, and life is great.

Virginia Richardson
Halifax, Va.

Jim & Laura Strong

Jim & Laura StrongWe began our relationship on April 16, 1964. Jim sent a letter to me, by way of his sister, to school. “If I can pick you up for church this Wednesday night, wait for me at the end of your driveway. I will be the car behind Grandma. Let your sisters ride with her and wait for me,” his letter read. I waited on the side of the road, and for the next 37 years I have been waiting on him. The next time we went out, I caught my skirt on a nail and tore it from the waist down. I had to go home and explain to my father what happened. The third time we went out, we were leaving a parking lot as it was pouring down rain and we sideswiped another car. I was beginning to think this was not a good relationship. One night, we went to Tally’s Drive Inn and saw a scary movie, For Whom the Bell Tolls. It was a dark and foggy night. You could not see your hand in front of your face. We had to walk three-quarters of a mile from the road through the woods, past the graveyard, in order to get to the house. As we got halfway between the house and the car, Jim put his arm around me and said, “Nice night for a murder, isn’t it?” I was so scared, I ran all the way to the house.

When we decided to get married, we cut pulpwood to get the money to buy my dress, pay for the first month’s rent, purchase a week’s supply of groceries, buy the marriage license, and pay the preacher. Jim cut down a tree and it fell on top of me. Even after all these years, we still laugh about this.

In December, Jim and I were married for 37 years. We have two children and five grandchildren.

Laura Strong
Mineral, Va.

Peter & Beverly Moore

I was working at an engineering firm in Northern Virginia in the early ’80s. Because I was newly divorced, the office manager used to call me when a single man came in for an interview (she meant well). This time, as I read the application, I noticed that this man used to live with his roommates in the house next door to my parents’ house. In fact, I’m sure this was the man who took care of my parents’ dog when they went out of town. I immediately introduced myself and we talked. Needless to say, he got the job. We made small talk over the next few weeks and he finally asked me over to his house for dinner. “I’ll make chicken,” he said. “Wow,” I thought, “This guy can cook!” When I got to his house, he had “made” chicken all right — straight from a fast-food restaurant. After dinner, as I got ready to leave, he insisted on following me home. He lived on top of a mountain and was concerned that I would have trouble. I insisted that he not follow me home. I told him that I would be just fine. I had him come over my house after that so he wouldn’t have to follow me. I had to kick him out when it got late because he wanted to stay. I kicked that man out time and time again, and yet he kept coming back.

He was a mountain person and I was a beach person, which should have been a red flag to begin with. I insisted that he come to Virginia Beach with me for a weekend (I had to see if he was “convertible”). I have never been so embarrassed! He had a tan — on the lower half of his arms and from his calves to his thighs. That’s right — he was pale white from his shins down (from wearing his work boots)!  I wanted to crawl in a hole in the sand. A couple of weeks later, he insisted that I go rock climbing with him (I guess he was testing me.). The whole way to West Virginia, I was silently memorizing the road numbers and directions there because I was convinced that I was going to have to call someone to come get me. We practiced rappelling and then hit Seneca Rocks for my adventure. We got a quarter of the way up and stopped on a ledge to let some other climbers pass us. I swear I left my handprints in a boulder up there, I was holding on so tight! I was terrified. I burst into tears and insisted that he get me down immediately.

Somehow, we kept dating. We found a common interest in hiking, camping, backpacking, and skiing. One weekend in February of 1985, while cross-country skiing in the backcountry of Canaan Valley State Park in West Virginia, he proposed. We were married in the backyard of his roommate’s house on Bull Run Mountain in October of that year. The leaves were beautiful! We honeymooned up the Delaware River Gap and into New England. Every town looked just like a picture from a magazine. It was perfect — well, almost. You see, we got married as the World Series was about to begin. Each time we would check into a quaint little inn, in the middle of New England, in the glory of fall, my brand new husband asked, not about a honeymoon suite, but instead if the room had a television set! Oh well, at least we have a heck of a story to tell our grandkids! We’ve been happily married for 16 years now! 

Beverly S. Moore
Haymarket, Va.

James & Jean Harper

James & Jean HarperJames and I met in Woolworth’s 5&10 in Richmond in October of 1943. He was a stock boy and I was a sales clerk. One Monday night, I had to go to the stockroom to get oilcloth for a customer. It was spooky up in there; I called several times before a voice drifted grumpily down one of the corridors, “What do you mean interrupting my homework!” My sarcastic reply was, “You’re supposed to be working; not doing homework!”  I followed him down a long, dark line of merchandise to the oilcloth bins, where he took forever to turn on the overhead light. I told him I needed gray oilcloth with fruit on it. He kept pulling out rolls of every other kind of oilcloth. When he finally found what I wanted, I huffed off with it muttering how silly he was. I never went back to the stock room, but whenever he came down to my floor, we argued about our rival schools. My school won the football game that year, so I really rubbed it in. He must not have minded too much, because when I was let go Christmas Eve, he asked me for my phone number. He called and asked me for a date on New Year’s Eve, but I turned him down and he almost didn’t call again. But, eventually he did — and that led to marriage, eight children, 18 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren. He tells everyone he found a “million-dollar baby in a five- and ten-cent store.” I think I found a million-dollar guy there as well.

Jean Payne Harper
Callao, Va.

Jerry & Judy Mitchell

Jerry & Judy MitchellMy husband and I met through mutual friends. My husband worked part-time at a local gas station where I occasionally purchased gas. The owner’s wife gave me a name and phone number to call, after my husband discovered I no longer dated another mutual friend. After encouraging me to call my “future husband,” I used their telephone to call. After trying to call several times without an answer, I gave up and left. Sometime later, the owner’s wife gave me his telephone number again. She said to let it ring for a while, because he might be outside working on his car. After a couple of attempts, he finally answered. We talked and arranged a date. We dated almost two years before we married. Our 25th wedding anniversary is March 12, 2002.

Judy Mitchell
Harrisonburg, Va.

Mr. & Mrs. J. Warren Haynie

Mr. & Mrs. J. Warren HaynieIt was December 21, 1946, and Mr. and Mrs. J. Warren Haynie were on their way to get married when something unexpected happened — a front tire on their car blew out. The vehicle turned over two-and-a-half times and then landed with its wheels in the air in the yard of what is now their home. The couple crawled out of the car window, and then after a short trip to the doctor’s office, borrowed another car and finally made it to their wedding.

From such an unbelievable beginning, my parents had 25 more memorable years together. My father looked forward to their 50th wedding anniversary with the excitement of a small child waiting for Christmas morning. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in December 1996 with their family. My father’s health began to fail after that special day and he died three months later. For 50 years, my parents had played a game with one saying, “I love you,” and the other responding with, “How much?” The answer would then be, “More than you love me.” Our last night together, as mother and I were preparing to leave the hospital, my parents started their verbal game — only this time my father’s answer was different. He said, “I love you more than you will ever know.” In a few hours we realized that those were the last words he ever spoke.

Deborah H. King
Warsaw, Va.

Bob & Judy Perry

Bob & Judy PerryJudy and I met at work. After declining the first two invitations to get together afterwards for various reasons, she finally accepted the third. Good thing, because I always thought three strikes and you’re out!

We went to a seafood restaurant and got to know each other over drinks and crab legs. Somehow the subject of West Virginia came up and I proceeded to make fun of “all the gun-rack-equipped pick-ups driven by illiterate redneck hillbillies from our neighboring state.” Judy just sat there smiling the whole time. When I finished, she looked right at me and remarked, “That’s funny, ’cause my whole family is from West Virginia.” After one stunned second, I looked down at my plate and said, “Boy, these crab legs are good!” Despite this, she continued to date me, and this May we will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary with our two teenagers.

Bob Perry
Manassas, Va.

Frank & Ruby Teets

Frank & Ruby TeetsI met my husband when I was in eighth grade. At the beginning of the school year, two new boys came to my school from a one-room schoolhouse, which had grades 1 through 8. One of the boys, Winfred Tusing, had brown hair, and the other, Harlan Teets, had blond hair. I took one look at the blond and knew he was the one for me.

I got their names mixed up and after school I told my older sister that I was going to marry Winfred Tusing and I described Harlan. She laughed and said, “Good, I am going to marry Harlan Teets.” She knew that I had the names wrong. The next day, I went up to the blond and asked him for his name. After he told me his name, I explained to my sister that I had the names confused, and that I was really going to marry Harlan Teets. Laughing, she said, “I knew that.”

When I was in the ninth grade, we had our first date. We saw the movie Annie Get Your Gun. We got married in 1956 and we have three beautiful daughters and two adorable grandsons. Last October, in a video catalog, I saw Annie Get Your Gun and ordered it to give him for Christmas. I hid it away. In December, while shopping, he told me to wait outside of a video store because he was going to get me a Christmas present. I said, “Don’t get something that I already have.” He asked, “What is it?” I didn’t answer. Then he asked, “Is it something from our past?” I still didn’t answer. He then asked, “Is it Annie Get Your Gun?” That time I answered. At Christmas, we saw the video, and unlike on our first date, we actually watched it.

Ruby Teets
Fairfax, Va.

Ned & Susan Coryell

Ned & Susan CoryellIn the ’60s, girls believed that the way to attract a male was to be fragile, demure and helpless. When it came time for me to test this theory, I failed miserably. I was at a huge teenage party when a tall, athletic-looking fellow sauntered into the room, picked up a ping-pong paddle, and announced, “Volley for serve!” Hypnotized, I found myself facing him from the opposite end of the table. I knew instantly he was an expert, but, as our game progressed, I realized I could beat him — despite the familiar prohibitions about damaging the male ego. “Oh well,” I remember thinking, “I’ll never see him again.” And I proceeded to smash and lob my way to victory. Unbeknownst to me, he was the table-tennis champion at his prep school. What he didn’t know was that I had been playing ping-pong since I could barely see over the table. My older twin brothers, one a leftie, had challenged me with forehands, backhands, slams, spins, and returns. When my blond Adonis conceded with, “Nice game,” I was sure I detected dejection. Amazingly, he called a week later and asked me out. Now, 38 years, three children and three grandchildren later, we laugh at our awkward beginning. Years later, I asked him why he called when I had battered his male ego in front of a crowd. “I was amazed,” he told me, “that a skinny little girl not only had the ability to beat a guy, but the nerve to do it. Besides, I had to get another look at that ridiculous serve of yours.”

Susan Coryell
Huddleston, Va.

Pedro & Brenda Carrasco

Pedro & Brenda CarrascoIn 1963, during my high school days, the church I attended acquired jobs and housing for local families that had left their homeland of Cuba and were living in Miami. Ironically, one of these families moved next door to my aunt, Martha. Back then, my spending money came from babysitting and my aunt used me a lot. One of the times I was at my aunt’s house when she told me that the oldest son of this new family had seen me at church and wanted to meet me. She explained that this family didn’t speak a lot of English, but were very friendly. Being kind of shy, I just listened. One afternoon, I had just settled in to read. My parents had gone out. Just as I opened my book, there was a knock at the door. To my surprise, it was my aunt, her husband and the young man! As he spoke, his broken English was quite an attraction for me. After talking for a while, I agreed to a date for the following weekend. Mom and dad had been invited out for dinner, so I was thinking that he could meet them when we returned from our date. We had such a nice time, and I had no problem understanding him as he spoke. I had just listened intently as my mind seemed to understand where his English had left off.

When we pulled up to my front door, I noticed my parents had already gone to bed. Back then our small town in Virginia had a curfew of 9 p.m., so I knew we only had a few minutes. As we stood on my front porch, he was telling me how from the first time he laid eyes on me, he loved me. “Yeah, yeah,” I thought to myself. Being so caught up in the conversation, I didn’t notice a police car pull up. Our house was on a main street of town. As the officer approached, I kept thinking, it’s okay because I’m on my porch. The officer said, “Young lady, are you aware of the curfew?” And then, before I could answer, he handcuffed me and was leading me to his patrol car. I kept asking him if I could please go get my parents. As I looked back, my date had complete puzzlement on his face. Talk about starting out wrong — he had to wake up my father and try to explain what had happened. In my last year of high school, I married this young man, and almost 38 years and three children later, we still laugh about that night.

Brenda Carrasco
Gum Spring, Va.

Jeff & Julie Black

From what we’ve picked up over the years, it seems that there was a good deal of wagering going on at our wedding. Most people were betting that we wouldn’t make it a year. Those were the people who knew both of us, and knew how very different we were. Apparently there were a few folks going for the long shot, but they only knew one of us and thought we made a cute couple.

Now, we may be very different, but one of the things that we do have in common is that we are both very stubborn. Depending on the circumstances, that can be good or very, very bad. One of the times that it worked in our favor is when we actually were having problems with our relationship. Both of us knew about the bets people were making about us at the wedding and neither of us wanted to let them win, so we worked that much harder to keep things together. Unfortunately, the trait we have in common was almost the thing that drove us apart. Stubbornness and pride have to be about the worst ingredients ever for a marriage.

But enough about that — what I’m supposed to be writing about is our differences. That should be pretty easy because the things that attracted me to Julie are also the main differences we have.

She is cheerful, even when faced with great adversity. I would guess that when she was born and the doctor smacked her, she gave him a big smile. When the doctors finally diagnosed her with a serious disease, she was sad, but then she smiled and moved on with living her life and coping as best she could. I, on the other hand, am the ultimate sourpuss. It’s not that I can’t smile, it’s just that I have trouble finding things to smile about. Even when good things happen, like getting a good grade on a paper or a raise at work, I’ll find something to gripe about. It’s hard to keep your guard up every minute though, and sometimes she gets to me. A smile will slowly creep to the surface and the next thing you know, it pops out. I try to hide it from her, but she knows.

Some people would say that cheerful and optimistic are the same thing. I believe that a person can be optimistic and still be a jerk. Julie may be optimistic but she certainly isn’t a jerk (that’s my job). It’s annoying really, always being around someone who looks at the bright side of everything. She will come home from work and tell me about the way someone treated her, or about the workload that was piled onto her desk. I get mad and tell her to quit. She just smiles and tells me that things will be better tomorrow. Invariably, I will interpret things that happen in the worst possible way. To me it’s just a way of preparing for the worst, and if things work out better, then it is not as bad as it could have been. There’s nothing wrong with a little personal-risk assessment; in the Navy we were taught to always consider what the downside of a situation could be, and take action accordingly. She tells me that kind of attitude will just lead to an early grave.

Trust. Now that can be downright amusing if you pay attention. A few years ago, one of our friends and neighbors got pretty chummy with my wife. All the signs were there, indicating that our friend had a very strong attraction to Julie. Because our friend was a woman, Julie refused to believe that such a thing could be true. It wasn’t until a number of people observed this behavior and pointed it out that she started to believe. When she finally realized it was true, we had a pretty good laugh.

Although we have an abundance of differences, we still manage to get along very well. Over time, we have both taken on some of the qualities of the other. We are still two opposite poles, but just like a magnet, when you join the opposites together you end up with a single, larger magnet having only two poles.

Both of us know that we are very lucky and that sometimes it is better to cut your losses and quit trying to make things work. We should know — we tried it once. What we found was that we were both more unhappy apart than when we were together. So now I wonder why she puts up with my sunny personality and she wonders why I don’t trade her in on a healthy model, and we both thank our lucky stars for what we have.

Jeff Black
Amissville, Va.

 

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