A Romantic Story For Valentine’s Day

The Owl And The Pussy Cat (In French)

Written by Edward Lear and translated by Francis Steegmuller

In 1975 my great-aunt, Wylly Folk St John sent me this book in a birthday gift box for my fifteenth birthday. She always sent the best presents, and packages from her were special even when I was uncertain as to why she gave me certain things.

I collected owls or owl themed items when I was growing up and since I did not speak French, this may have been what led her to choose The Owl and the Pussycat translated into French as a gift for me, or perhaps she imagined I might consider taking French in high school. Having a terrible facility for foreign language, I went with Spanish which was said to be easier than French and saved this book  for sentimental reasons even though I could not read it.

When I moved to Cornwall I had loads of books that had to find a new home. This one made the cut because Aunt Wylly had given it to me and it found a home on a bookshelf that my husband John built for me after we married. I displayed it in a way that made the cover visible and it sat there looking pretty next to a little owl that had been a gift from her as well.

A few weeks ago, just before our fifth wedding anniversary, I looked up from my desk and saw it on the shelf and it occurred to me that while I still did not speak enough French to read it, my British born husband did.

John seemed a bit surprised when I brought it in as we were getting ready for bed and asked him to read it to me. I think his exact response was,  “Now ?”

Even though the poem was not new to me it sounded pretty sweet to hear him read it in French, 39 years after opening it on my birthday.

I know most would argue that it was just a bit of coincidence, but I can’t help but wonder what my aunt would think about our love story and how the romantic in me never gave up on finding lasting love.

The Owl And The Pussy Cat (In French)

Today is the sixth anniversary of our meeting face to face having met almost “by accident” online six weeks earlier. I flew to Cornwall in 2008 on Valentine’s Day and when my visit was over two weeks later, we both knew our future was set.

Despite an 18 year age difference that created loads of initial objections from my family and friends, I think we both would agree that the ocean between us, a five-hour time difference, and the limitations imposed on the amount of time immigration would allow me to stay were some of the bigger issues in our early relationship.

Being wooed from across the sea was full of surprises and I can still remember when John quoted these lyrics not long after I had returned to the US from my two-week long Valentine’s Day visit.

How could I not fall madly and deeply in love with a man who said such reassuringly sweet words.

At 17 he falls in love quite madly
with eyes of azure blue,
At 24 he gets it rather badly
with eyes of a different hue.
At 36 you’ll find him flirting sadly
with two or three or more;
When he fancies he is past love,
It is then he meets his last love,
And he loves her as he’s never loved before.

~ Peter Dawson

Please feel free to share your own stories  in a comment or links to a blog post you have a special one for today.

I have told our story in different places on my blog, but I will include a few links for those who might be here for the first time. The highlighted words above will take you to other earlier posts if you wish to know more.

The Gift You Keep

Will You Stay With Me Will You Be My Love

Remembering The Day We Met – Valentine’s Day 2008

Buttercup Madness and Mid – May Diversions

The Buttercups Cometh

I remember the first time I walked through this field. It was late afternoon on Valentine’s Day and I was in Cornwall meeting John face to face for the first time. All it took was one comment from him for this special place to become my own personal “Field of Dreams.”

When he said, ” You should see this in May when it’s filled with buttercups,” I knew I had to come back.

We took a walk yesterday evening catching the last bit of good light and the first glimpse of the buttercups, which are not yet in their full glory, but they’re definitely coming.

Feeling The Sun From Both Sides

 To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides  - David Viscott

Young sunflowers follow the sun their heads turning as the day changes from morning to night powerless to resist the movement of the light, but mature sunflowers hold fast, firmly planted and permanently facing east. They stand like silent sentries content to feel the warmth as the sun passes over as if they know somehow the benefits that will come from feeling the sun from both sides.

Three Years

Today is our third wedding anniversary. John would say getting married was a piece of the puzzle necessary for immigration which sounds decidedly unromantic, which he is not.

He would say that the date we met online and the date we met in person are more significant for him and more noteworthy than our wedding day and I can see why he would feel this way.

Wedding Day - John Winchurch & Elizabeth Harper - 2/2/2009

Our wedding day was our most public declaration and more of a celebration than the deeply moving experience of some marriage ceremonies. It was a period at the end of the sentence that meant I could stay forever.

Snowy Wedding Day - John Winchurch & Elizabeth Harper

While all three dates have their place in our history there’s one we note more privately which is how it occurred. We both see it as the most significant of the three and the one that marked a defining moment in our relationship. I’ve written about it before, the look that passed between us while standing on bridge built in the 14th century only eight days after we met in person.

This photograph of me was taken almost immediately after that moment occurred. I’m standing on Helland Bridge with no doubt and no fear, loving the man and the moment, ready plant my feet and face permanently east. 

Taken only minutes later, this is one of my very favorite photographs of John. There are a million reasons why, but this act that came later is just one of many that confirmed what I already knew that day.

Much has changed since I wrote my first blog post, but as you can see from the title if you follow the link, some things are exactly same.

If you’d like to share a sweet story of your own either through a comment or link, I’d love to read it.

A Good Four Years

Online dating can be a nasty business from what I’ve heard and I can see why that might be so for many people. I’ve only had two experiences with it, one with my husband John who turned out to be exactly who he represented himself to be, and one a few years before that was disappointing and educational. I’ll leave it by saying there are some lessons I’d rather not have learned.

If you’ve followed my story you’ll know that I wasn’t really interested in dating men in the UK as much as I was reading about them. You’ll also know that I found John by a happy accident on New Year’s Eve after reading through several hundred profiles on a UK dating site.

I bring this up again because today marks four years since he received an email that I had no idea I’d initiated, from Guardian Soulmates informing him that he had a ‘Fan.’

If you’re interested in the romantic details, you can read more here and here. A lot can happen in four years and a great deal of our last four years can be found on this blog site and in my earlier version of ‘Gifts Of The Journey.’ 

John, romantic sweetie that he is, came into the room where I was sitting a few days ago and said that he had been rereading the emails from when we first met online and said that our conversations then, were much as they are now, honest, straight-forward, and without pretense.

I was lying on the couch looking rough this morning, a result of a post holiday illness when after reminding me of today’s date and the time that had passed, he gave my hand a tender squeeze and said, ‘They’ve been a good four years.’

He’s right, you know. With little effort we’ve been very happy and I feel so lucky to have found such a dear man.

John Winchurch & Elizabeth Harper - 2011