Around Valentine’s Day

Falling in Love at Pacific University

Twenty two years ago Franz Kafka introduced me to my wife. She’d signed up for George Evans’ Studies in Fiction as a freshman, a year younger than the sophomores in the class, and far, far more able than most, most especially me. I caught her eye with a pen and ink sketch of a cockroach drawn in the white space on a page in Classics of Modern Fiction.

Not long after, George paired us on a presentation. I talked more than I should have and left her little to say. She had the grace to let me make a fool of myself without comment, at least not until years later, when a lifetime away from Pacific we talked about first meeting. I told her then about waiting on the steps of Marsh Hall for her to come down from class, puzzled when some days she didn’t, and convinced she must be avoiding me. It took weeks before I found out she was taking Latin upstairs twice a week with the dean and a small group of students.

By Easter I knew I was in love.

Looking back now, those first months are a jumble of dinners together at the UC, walks through campus in the rain, and long goodnights under the lights between Mac and Walter Hall. I cherish those memories, my richest of Pacific, and they maintain that magical quality reserved for monumental love.

Jeannette and I spent three years together at Pacific, living on campus and off, taking classes together and apart, and making the transition from being kids to adults. The spring of her graduation we got married in Old College Hall, professors and fellow students quietly smiling at how young we were.

We’re old enough now that our six year old daughter, Ella, can laugh aloud at my silly undergraduate hair, and see just how beautiful my wife looked, just a dozen years older than Ella is now. Truth be told, I’m still goofy looking, just with less hair, and Jeannette is as beautiful as she was when I first sat next to her in Studies in Fiction.

Pacific was the setting of our courtship, and still inspires thoughts of young love. We’re far away from Forest Grove, Oregon now, with experiences diverse: joyful, tragic, beautiful and mundane separating us from our undergraduate years, and yet, when I got the postcard from Pacific titled LOVE and inviting an opportunity to share”Pacific Love Stories,” it took me all of ten seconds to put my hands on my copy of Classics of Modern Fiction.

Conspirator

When my five year old son
who was not cooperating
in the cleaning of his room
put my wife’s black leather gloves
on his feet
my first thought
(they look like gorilla feet
and he is a monkey
almost, at five, an ape)
was not parental.
Take those off,
I said
in my stern dad voice
the timbre a man with a pipe
and slippers
and a newspaper
might display
in a movie from the Eisenhower years.
My son
who at five,
a very simian five,
does not fear me
as he fears his mother
sensibly
looked at me and said:
But they look like gorilla feet.