Valentines Day, a day to remember loves lost and love found. Remember fourth grade when boys and girls exchanged valentines and you studied each one looking for some hidden meaning? It’s probably a good thing most people don’t choose their soul mate in 4th grade. It’s like buying a horse because it is cute, beautiful or handsome. As an old timer once told me, cute doesn’t make the horse. It’s brains, attitude and personality. He also mentioned they need to have good feet, and that they don’t kick, bite or run away. I guess those things could be applied to humans too.
When it comes to love and horses I personally believe in fate and test drives. Fate is how Mrs Ed and I found each other. We were a bit younger then. Funny how we grow older but true love stays forever young. I digress. It was the fall of 72 when our worlds met. She left her home in a small west central Minnesota town and I left the farm for Morris and the University of Minnesota. My older brother was there and it seemed like a pretty good place to go.
It was late September, as Morris starts later to accommodate the farm kids like myself who needed to help with the fall harvest. We had just finished filling silo when I packed my suitcase and the quilt mom made me. She made quilts for each of us when we left home. Again I digress. Heading down the driveway that day I knew my life was changing forever. Little did I know that in less than twenty four hours, it would be tipped on it’s ear.
Morris has a freshman orientation week for new enrollees. This helps with the transition from home and high school to the rigors of college. The week was filled with activities to help us meet new people and get adjusted to life in the dorm. It helped to keep shy farm kids like myself from becoming homesick and bolting for home. The process begins with being assigned to your freshman orientation group, students from your dorm, with whom you do orientation activities.
Digressing for a moment, remember in the classic Christmas movie, Christmas Vacation , when Chevy Chase spots the perfect Christmas tree? That’s kind of what happened when I first laid eyes on the future Mrs Ed. We were assigned to the same orientation group. I didn’t know about the lifelong thing at the time but she told me later she did. I guess that’s because she is smarter than me. One time when we were having a little difference of opinion, I made the comment “I can’t be too dumb, I married you”. Again I digress.
For me it was the smile. A nice smile will get you every time. There is an old saying, smile, they will wonder what you are up to. I smiled back. That night we sat on the steps of the Music Hall and talked for hours. The future Mrs Ed turned out to be a very compassionate person and intelligent student. I on the other hand, was more helpless and naive, kind of like a puppy I suppose. Girls love puppies. Maybe it worked.
I never took typing in high school. They probably should have made it a prerequisite for college, especially for people with bad handwriting. Gayle, on the other hand, could type thousands of words a minute. And she could spell too! It took her awhile to decipher my bad hand writing. When things got tense, I reverted to printing. She and the old Smith Corolla got me through college.
Remember when I mentioned the test drive in reference to horses? I learned the hard way that when you go to buy horses take them for a test drive. You should learn in a hurry if you should write out a check or say ” thanks, but no thanks”. There came the day, actually two events in our relationship, that might qualify as the test drive. they both involve laundry.
Growing up a boy on a farm, I got clothes dirty, I didn’t wash them. It was something mom did that I suppose I just took for granted and didn’t appreciate until later in life. Again I digress. Back to the first test drive. The future Mrs Ed and I became best friends. Best friends do stuff together. Eventually I ran out of clean clothes. When you run out of clean clothes best friends tell you you stink. I had two choices, buy new clothes or do laundry. When I said I was going to buy new clothes she scoffed at me,”Don’t you know how to do laundry?”. I guess my helpless puppy look gave me away. “Get your clothes, we are going to the laundromat “. I had a car. I felt I could contribute and off we went.
Laundromats are pretty scary places for first timers. Lines of whining machines, top loaders, front loaders, coin slots, detergent chutes, ironing, folding and hanging areas. It was intimidating. Everyone there seemed like they knew what they were doing. I carried in the baskets. The future Mrs Ed took charge. “The whites, go here, don’t wash the towels with the jeans, put the socks and underwater in a separate pile”. “Wow”, I thought, “Clothes are all made of cloth, can’t we just throw them together?”
I suppressed my naive thoughts and did as I was told. Washing machines loaded, we sat quietly and read magazines. Ding! The washing machines stopped one by one. Time to transfer the clothes to the dryers. The future Mrs Ed staked out dryers, putting different clothes in different whirling machines. “Here” she said, “Take this basket of underwear (best friends can wash underwear together) and put it with the something clothes” I don’t remember exactly what, but she pointed to a dryer down the line. I did as I was told, I picked up the basket, walked up to the dryer, opened the door, flung the load of wet underwear in, closed the door and pushed the start button. The machine whirled round and round. Quite proud of myself I looked at her and smiled. I knew something was up when she didn’t smile back. “What”? I asked. “What were you doing over there?” “”Putting the underwear in the dryer” I said, probably looking a bit bewildered. “That’s not our dryer”. She scoffed.
About that time a young man walked up to the machine to check his clothes. I excused myself to go finish reading about Stalking Big Bucks in Field and Stream. The future Mrs Ed calmly walked up, and proceeded to help sort out the personals from a stranger’s clothes. If the roles had been reversed and this would have been a test drive of a new horse, I would have said “Thanks, but no thanks”. Not the future Mrs Ed. She apparently liked the animal enough to give him a second chance.
The second event took place about two weeks later and again involved laundry. This time we went to the other laundry in town. I guess people usually go to the same laundromat so the chances of running into someone you had met there before were less likely. Anyway we’re we’re loading washing machines, front loaders. You put the clothes in, plug in the quarters, push start and at a certain point, add detergent. Again it’s a busy day, lots of machines going. Clothes in, machines spinning, the future Mrs Ed decides to give me another chance. “Here’s a box of soap, go put some in the machine. Put it in the chute at the top that says Detergent. Got it” “Yup, I can do that”. So I walk over to the machine, open the chute and pour in the powdered soap. I give it a little extra because my jeans had a little grease on them. I close the chute, look up and smile.
“Now what”? I remember saying when I didn’t get the smile of approval I was expecting. “What were you doing at that machine?” “Putting soap in like you said. And I put a little extra in so the clothes would get cleaner” I figured that would show my initiative to learn to be helpful. “That’s not our machine” she whispered. “And how much did you put in?”.
By this time the suds building up in the glass door on the front loader were noticeably apparent. I watched as it crept up the glass until the clothes were no longer visible. Seconds passed, minutes seemed like hours as the machine swished and chugged. Them the little chute at the top moved. It started to open on its own. Wisps of soap bubbles began to ooze out and crept across the top of the machine.
About that time I remembered I needed to check the oil in the car. That took a while to make sure I was reading the dipstick correctly. When I observed the future “Mrs Ed removing clothes from the dryers and putting them in the basket I figured I’d go and help carry them to the car. As I walked past the errant washing machine I observed a young man inspecting the white residue on his jeans.
Sad to say, I remained silent.
Fortunately for me the future Mrs Ed was apparently so smitten by love, that she got past this second test drive. Funny thing, she had me teach her to drive a stick shift so she didn’t have to bother me the next time it came to do clothes.
Four years of college passed quickly. Our friendship endured. We met on the first day and were married the day after we graduated. We still have those test drive moments. A few years ago,on our anniversary, someone asked me how long we had been married “27 great and wonderful years” I said with an exuberant smile. I glanced at Mrs Ed for her reaction. She scoffed. “We have been married for 28 years “.