Smitten at First Sight

The sweet exhilarating scent of a Michigan spring wafting through the dormitory window that morning was a perfect preamble to the wondrous day that changed my life forever.

After preparing myself for several hours of work in the second-year Architectural Design Lab, I sat and looked out the window, dreamily contemplating a big flowering dogwood tree that carpeted the lawn beneath with white blossoms each time a breeze gusted through.

''Well, what are you daydreaming about!'' droned a voice from the next table, accompanied by the bang of a tackle box, filled with drafting tools, being set down. It was Bob Johnson, my best friend and confidant.

''I don't know,'' I answered, ''everything's just so right this morning.''

''Everything won't be so right if you don't get your plan finished today. You've been fooling around with that thing for a week.'' Bob was right, the tennis club was our first assignment to design a real building, and I just couldn't get it to work.

Then, true to that perfect day, a wonderful thing happened. The plan of the tennis club resolved itself with just a few strokes of eraser and pencil. I looked out the window again. There were three girls sitting on the white carpet under the dogwood, their white blouses and skirts forming a stunning composition of white on white.

''There you go again,'' said Bob, ''looking out the window and daydreaming.''

''Come over and look at this plan,'' I said.

Bob gave me a curious look over the top of his glasses and sidled over to my drafting board.

''The dining room overlooks the courts; the entry is right at the end of the parking lot,'' I explained while Bob looked down at the plan, hands on hips.

''When did you do that? It actually works.''

''Just now,'' I answered simply.

Bob gave me a look of cynical disbelief, said nothing, and sat back down, becoming absorbed in his own work.

Immediately, I started work on a model of the tennis club. The first thing I had to do was build a model of the site with successive layers of cardboard. When Bob saw me struggling to cut the cardboard with my razor-blade knife, he snorted and said, ''Haven't you ever heard of a jigsaw?''

Although Bob's delivery wasn't always pleasant, he invariably made good sense.

The wood shop was empty, so I was able to begin sawing right away. About 15 minutes into the work, something moved on the periphery of my vision. Looking up, I saw a girl with shoulder-length brown hair. I couldn't see her face because she seemed to be looking for something that was supposed to be hanging on the wall. Then she turned slightly, her hair flipping back momentarily to reveal a profile that was delicate.

My eyes went back to my work just before the jigsaw blade would have sliced into my finger. I kept my eyes on the place where the blade was cutting the cardboard, but my mind was on the girl, who I sensed was still in the shop.

Suddenly, I found myself turning off the jigsaw. There in front of me was the girl.

''Do you know were the hacksaws are?'' she asked in a musical voice with a Midwestern twang.

With that question, time seemed to stand still. Her face had a unique beauty: patrician by virtue of a strong chin and high cheekbones, yet soft with friendly blue eyes and a ski-jump nose.

After what seemed like an hour of suspended animation, I finally blurted out, ''I think they're over there,'' and started walking to the wall opposite the jigsaw.

''Thank you,'' she said as I took a hacksaw from the wall, ''I've got to cut this wire for a sculpture armature.''

''That looks interesting,'' I said. ''Can I help?''

''I would appreciate that; it needs to be cut there and there.''

I cranked the wire into a vise and sawed.

''Gee, thanks,'' she said, her face lighting up into a warm smile. ''What school are you in?''

''Architecture,'' I said proudly.

''My dad works for an architect.''

''Which one?''

''Beysters, in Detroit.''

''Is he a designer?'' I asked, since design was the big thing in my life at the time.

''Oh no, he sells Beyster's services to school boards.''

At that point I didn't much care what her father did; I only had one thing on my mind -- to get to know her.

''I'm Jon Myhre,'' I daringly offered.

''Eian Olson,'' she returned, as I had hoped.

Unusual name, I thought, Scandinavian most likely.

''Are you here in design school?''

''No, this is just an elective, I'm in lit. school.''

''Do you live nearby?''

''Yeah, just over at Cheever House.''

''You mean the co-op across from Sigma Chi?''

''Yeah, where do you live?''

''East quad, just down the street.''

''I had better get back,'' she said, looking at a tiny wristwatch.

''Me, too,'' I returned.

''Bye,'' she said, smiling over her shoulder as she went through the door.

I grabbed my finished pieces of cardboard, glided down the hall, flew gracefully up the stairs, and landed with a light hop at my drafting board.

''What happened to you?'' asked Bob in complete amazement.

''I showed a girl where the hacksaws were.''

''Did she teach you to fly?''

''She must have,'' I answered ecstatically, my feet still hovering slightly above the floor.

In response to Bob's queries about the girl who taught me to fly, I only smiled dreamily and said: ''She's beautiful.''

''You're impossible,'' Bob snorted and turned back to his work.

That night, I called Cheever House and asked for Eian Olson. The voice on the other end of the line said, ''Eian Olson? No one here by that name.''

MY heart sank. Had I misunderstood, or did the girl deliberately lead me astray because she already had too many boys chasing her?

''Is there anyone there with a name that sounds similar?'' I asked desperately.

''Rowlson,'' said the voice. ''Ann Rowlson.''

My heart leaped up from its deep descent. ''May I talk to her?'' I asked in a quaking voice.

''Sure, I'll buzz her for you.''

With an inner turmoil, I waited for what seemed an eternity. Finally, I heard that same Midwestern twang, ''Hello, this is Eian Olson.''

Eian Olson, indeed! Ann Rowlson, the marvelous human being I loved at first sight and love infinitely more 35 years later as my dear wife.

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