Your stories of true love

Monitor readers are a loving and lovable bunch, it seems. We were impressed and gratified that more than 150 of you took time to craft (and likely trim) mini-essays on the topic of love. How did you meet, fall in love with, or marry your sweetheart? we asked. We heard from 20-somethings to nonagenarians, from spouses and fiances to their children and grandchildren. You made it very hard to decide. (In fact, we are publishing a few more "love story" essays on Monday, July 2.) We'll send an honorarium (enough for a nice dinner for two), Monitor lapel pins (two each), and extra copies of this issue to those whose essays we chose. Our sincere thanks to everyone who participated.

If you love me, you'll love to dance

Ben and I met in college through mutual friends. We hit it off immediately and started to spend a lot of time together. We would play tennis, go out to eat, see movies, and talk into the early hours of the morning.

We had so much in common, but there was one thing I wished I could change. I loved to dance. I was a teaching assistant for the ballroom-dance classes on campus, but Ben did not dance and was adamant about not wanting to learn. I'd joke with him that I would never marry a man who didn't dance; his response was a smile and "Oh well!"

That summer, I was living and working about two hours away from Ben. Despite his busy schedule, he'd drive down to see me a couple times every week. I loved his commitment to our relationship. We continued to grow closer together.

Late that summer, Ben and I traveled to a friend's wedding, and he said sadly, "So, are you going to find some cute guy to dance with you?" I replied without looking at him, "I hope so." I so wished he knew how to dance!

After dinner that evening, the music began and people started to dance. Ben looked at me. "Do you want to dance?" he asked. I replied smugly, "I would love to, but you don't know how." He said, "Well, maybe you can show me some moves."

Once we were on the dance floor, though, Ben grabbed my hand and led me in a swing dance. I looked at him in complete shock, but before I could say anything, he whipped me into a complicated spin! I turned around, and he greeted my look of absolute wonder with a business card from a local dance studio. He'd been taking dance lessons all summer so he could surprise me at the wedding.

I just grabbed him in a big hug - I have never loved him more than at that moment. We blissfully danced the night away.

Kristin Kuelthau Denver, Colo.

A man who didn't flinch at fatherhood

My kids and I were alone after a painful divorce. Then I met a man named Andy at work. Our conversations progressed from shy to amiable. I was interested in this tall, quiet, and intelligent man.

I wanted to see how he handled two rambunctious kids, so we met for dinner. The evening started out well, except for the fact that my son picked all the toppings off the pizza and handed them to Andy, while my daughter insisted that he converse with her favorite stuffed animal.

Andy seemed to take all that in stride, and I began thinking that maybe here was a man who wouldn't flinch at the realities of child-rearing.

But the true test came about two months later. We'd planned a date, but I'd been reluctant to go since the children seemed listless. We cut short our date, then sat on my couch in the living room, talking quietly so we wouldn't wake the kids. Suddenly, my daughter called for me, and I raced to her room to find her throwing up. Then my son called from his room. Sure enough, he managed to throw up on the floor on his way to the bathroom. In the midst of soothing words and cleaning up, I hardly had time to notice Andy, sitting on the couch. "So much for romantic dates," I thought. "Welcome to my life."

Andy helped me clean up and change bedsheets, then quietly read a book in the living room until I was able to get both kids settled back down to sleep. At that moment, to me he embodied true love. I knew right then that this was the man for me, for our family. We were married nine months later, and have been happily raising our brood ever since.

Sarah Stockton Daly City, Calif.

Hearing those three little words for the first time

It wasn't exactly "some enchanted evening," but it was "across a crowded room" when my husband-to-be spotted me in the Student Union Cafe at UCLA during a midmorning break. That's when he uttered the three little words that sealed our fates, romantically speaking.

No, not "I love you." That came later. It was "Come on in!"

I was a sophomore, majoring in English Lit and enjoying the life of a coed. I was lingering in the mob outside the little fence separating the "haves" from the "have-nots" inside the cafe. The "haves" had seats at tables within, and the "have-nots" were waiting tiredly, impatiently, for someone to get up and leave. No one could go in until a seat was available.

Suddenly I noticed shuffling at a nearby table, where four young men were seated. I heard a voice protesting, a voice I recognized as that of a friend and neighbor named Charlie.

"I'm not ready to leave," he said.

"Oh, yes you are, Charlie," another voice said. "This seat is needed."

"What do you mean, 'needed'? I haven't finished my coffee!"

"Well, drink up in a hurry. That girl in the blue sweater needs your seat."

"What girl? Oh that girl! Betsy! I know her. She lives on the street in back of mine."

"Then you can introduce me to her on your way out."

So it was that the two young men approached the barrier and motioned me over to the gate. Introductions were made, and Joe bowed (rather grandiosely, I thought) and gestured toward Charlie's now-empty chair.

"Come on in. I've been saving you a seat, Betsy."

Betsy Ramelkamp

Marina del Rey, Calif.

An actress, a critic, a romance

Daddy was a writer, a poet, and a romantic. Mother was a beautiful young actress with flowing red hair that fell below her waist. She was in New York for her first show at the Palace Theatre. Daddy was managing editor and drama critic for The Daily News.

A photograph of Mother reached Daddy's desk, but there was no caption attached. He published it with the headline "The Mystery of the Lost Photograph." "Do you know her name?" he wrote. "Do you know in what company she appears...? We will tell you this: She is now appearing in New York, she is a comedienne, she is pretty, and she has ambitions."

When Mother saw her photo in the paper, she immediately contacted my father's office. Daddy arranged to meet Mother. In those days, a young lady had to have a chaperone, so my Aunt Cee accompanied Mother. They met for tea, and when they parted my aunt said, "Muriel, you're going to marry that man."

Mother had no intention of settling down at that point, but love triumphed. They were married at the height of her career.

My husband and I met through our proximity on the Near North Side of Chicago. We were neighbors and had mutual acquaintances. It was a lovely neighborhood, relatively close to my job as an editor at a publishing company.

Frank was fun, funny, and inventive. We began to see each other. I lived on the 11th floor of an apartment building with two friends from school. One evening, when they were gone, Frank produced a diamond ring. It was beautiful. But I hesitated, and then said, "No, I don't think so. No." It was too soon. Frank was not down on the classic knee attempting to persuade me, although he could be very persuasive. He asked if I was certain. Again I hesitated, but again I said no.

So he flung the ring out the open window. I was so startled, I leaned out the window, looking far down to the street. The room was quiet, although I am sure I murmured words of protest or puzzlement.

Finally, Frank said, "Don't worry. It's from the dime store." He was still perched on the sill next to the open window, big, bright blue eyes laughing. In another moment, I was laughing, too.

Was I naive? Yes. Did that bother him? No, for he prevailed shortly thereafter with a real diamond ring. How could I not marry such an original, entertaining man?

Natalie Sterba Monte Sereno, Calif.

Twice the rice was nice

All Saints Chapel was a Victorian gingerbread-fringed landmark in my bride's town of New Bern, N.C. It was barely bigger than the foyer of other churches in the area and had been renovated by the local historical society.

When our long-anticipated day arrived, Barbara was as beautiful as a spring blossom in her dress; I wore my "choker white" Navy uniform. After the ceremony, chairs were pushed back against the walls and food was brought in for the reception.

As the festivities wound down, our well-wishers were eager to give us the traditional send-off. We finally ran down the chapel steps hand in hand under a shower of rice - and right into a film crew on the sidewalk, grinning and almost giddy with their good fortune.

"We're from the state Department of Tourism," the leader explained. "We're filming promotional spots for an advertising campaign." He paused; we probably looked a little startled. Then he pointed to the chapel and our families and friends. "Would you mind doing that again?"

I may be imagining it in hindsight, but didn't the matron of honor sweep rice off the steps into a dustpan for reuse? We ran the rice gauntlet again, and satisfied the crew with just one (more) take. "Thanks!" they hollered, speeding off.

We had folks of our own to thank, of course, and it took us a while to make our way a few blocks to the inn where we would start our honeymoon and our life together. I must have been thinking about all that as I checked in, because it took me a moment to take in the desk clerk's excited proclamation. "There's a film crew right out front from the state Department of Tourism! Do you want to go out on the porch swing? They want to film some of our guests." Barbara and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

We used the back stairs.

Michael William Hamilton Quantico, Va.

Sweethearts on the frontier, circa 1880

This account from the diary of my grandmother Martha Mann tells of her courtship with my grandfather David Russell.

I was a little girl when we came to California from Iowa by wagon train in 1869. [David] came six years later, by railroad from Chicago, when he was 18.

We met because of a portrait of me in a Dixon [Calif.] shop window, taken by one of those itinerant photographers. He admired it, and located my dad to introduce himself. I was only 12, the oldest of five girls, still in school and with plans to attend Hunt's Seminary in Sacramento and become a piano teacher.

He was the youngest of six children, born in New York State, and by the time he was 5, both his parents were gone. He lived with foster families and his older sisters, and had only a third-grade education, but he had worked at everything under the sun and he was willing to try anything. Such an adventurer! So much initiative! He even invented an improvement for my father's harvester machine and had it patented, when he was just 19.

I guess he wanted to marry me when he first saw my picture, and he hung around for two years. Of course my folks said I was too young, and his prospects were dim. So in '78 he went back East to start a cattle business in Dakota Territory, and I gave him a little Bible to carry with him on the drives.

For five long years we exchanged letters. My family moved to another town, I finished at Hunt's and taught piano, but I almost gave up hope that my Life Companion would return.

Well, he did, finally - successful enough to satisfy my parents. We were married in Oakdale [Calif.], July 23, 1884, and honeymooned in San Francisco. Then we took the train to his sister's in Chicago, and crossed Indian Country by wagon to our homestead in Dakota. We stayed long enough for the locusts and droughts to convince us that California was the better place to raise our family. We came back in '90 and settled on a ranch near Jamestown, where our 11 fine children grew up. I'm happy!

DeAnne Hart Watsonville, Calif.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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