My one & only
By Peter Carter
The Northern Ontario summer sky was cobalt blue when we started for home. The canoe ride that Helena and I were on in Killarney Provincial Park had been serene, but now, heading for shore, we realized it was going to get rough. Helena was up front; I sat at the back. The wind grew stronger. Waves swelled. Water splashed over the bow. The breeze seemed determined to render even our most heroic paddling futile. The quartz rocks and pine trees on shore that should have been crawling by with each paddle stroke appeared to stay put. Ahead of me, though, sat this fascinating European girl; so pretty I couldn't believe she had agreed to go out with me.
I was the local boy who lived in a tiny village on the very shores of the lake that we were on. Helena had arrived from Toronto a few months earlier. That's how we met and ended up going for a paddle together. She was a city girl, but once the wind came up, I started sweating while she remained calm. And to every third stroke of her paddle, she added a joke. Bad bear puns are actually what they were. "If bears have cooling pots, what's bruin' in them?" Helena asked aloud. And, "Do you think some might be bipolar?" A lesser woman would have griped, but Helena paddled and punned her way into my heart. On shore, our journey got a lot easier. We've been married for just over 20 years now. And laughter still makes the rough waters navigable.
We could have danced all night
By Elena Lobsanova (as told to Kathryn Dorrell)
Nehemiah Kish and I met while rehearsing for the annual Spring Showcase at the National Ballet School in Toronto. He was a second soloist in the ballet company, and I was just graduating from the school.
Some of us at the school were learning the second act of Swan Lake, and when my partner got injured, Nehemiah was called in as a replacement. Over the course of three weeks we would only have about six rehearsals to piece the tricky partnering together. In such a short period of time we would rely on each other for inspiration and passion to make it work. During rehearsals there wasn't much time for words, but I remember there was a lot of unspoken communication between Nehemiah and me.
Three weeks before our first date, Nehemiah surprised me by showing up to my graduation ceremony. When I first caught a glimpse of him coming into the building, I was happily surprised. It was a four-hour ceremony, and he sat through the whole thing. Afterward he found me, and we shared our first kiss.
I then went to Europe to dance, and I really missed him. We kept in touch by e-mail and phone when I was away. When I returned we went for a walk at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto -- our first official date. It was a misty afternoon, and the Toronto Symphony was playing Brahms' Hungarian Waltz at the outdoor stage.
We've been together for two and a half years now, and this past fall we moved in together. What have I learned in this, my first romantic relationship? That it's so vital to listen. Everything stems from listening.
Oh, what a feeling
By Tom Allen
I was 21 when I first saw Jane. She was across the stage from me, reaching for something. The morning sun was pouring in on us through the trees. It caught her hair and gave a softness to the light around her face. She was up on her toes, her right hand arcing above, like a dancer. I held that picture of her in my mind. It gave me a feeling that stayed with me for years.
It was the summer of 1982. We were both playing in an orchestra in Pittsburgh. It was my first real job as a musician, and my first time in Pittsburgh. It's not the place people go to find love stories, I know, but it has rivers, hills and leafy parks, and that's what I remember. We walked together, held hands, laughed, and I realized I was in love. It was my stomach that told me. I had butterflies most of the day.
Ours was an innocent kind of love. The orchestra couldn't afford hotels, so we were put up in people's homes, with kids and dogs and church memberships. Jane and I didn't get much time alone, but we made the most of it. We watched mediocre movies that became delightful. We made up our own words for things. We floated through the month of June on a river of giddiness as fizzy as ginger ale. I called Mom and told her I thought I'd met "the one."
Then July came and I had to go home for another gig. I remember the feeling as Jane's and my hands slipped apart at airport security. I remember looking down on Pittsburgh from the plane and seeing the rivers and the trees sinking away.
For the longest time I couldn't explain why the romance hadn't lasted. That was the hardest part. Five, 10, even 15 years later, with so much water under so many bridges, it still hurt to wonder why. There were all kinds of practical reasons: Youth, distance, restlessness.… None of them really fit, though, and nothing ever explained away that first feeling – that this was what was meant to happen, that this was a joy I would always know.
Eventually, that feeling outlasted the rest. Youth and restlessness finally did explain themselves. Mediocre movies are now just that and nothing more, but that joyous fizz is still there, and always will be. It doesn't need to be anything more.
Page 1 of 2 — Read about a beloved companion who helped a girl through tough times in Vancouver in the late '50s on page 2.
The boys next door By Jacquelyn Waller-Vintar
My first love was Matthew McCann. But he was in a dead heat for my heart with Brian Anstead. You could say it was my first love triangle at the tender age of six. Brian lived directly behind my home. Through well-worn but well-hidden gaps in the fragrant lilac trees, bleeding hearts and forsythia bushes, we had instant access to each other. We made complex mud pies together, tortured helpless insects, played in the sandbox, dodged my younger siblings and hoarded our Halloween candy. He had a supershort haircut and lots of freckles. It was definitely love, but friend love.
Then I started grade school, where I met Matthew. He was so cute with his blond hair, tanned skin and scrapped knees. Matthew gave me chocolate bars at recess, and he and Brian vied for my attention in class with spitball contests and by pulling off my hair ribbons. They even made a contest out of which of them would eat my banana peel. Now that's chivalry.
Then at the end of Grade 2, the unthinkable happened. My family moved into a new house that my
parents had been building, and Matthew was going to a different school. I felt abandoned by the two most important men in my life.
The social life of a Grade 2 girl being what it was back then, there were no phone calls, e-mail exchanges or Mummy-chauffeured playdates. That summer in my new house was a no-man's-land, which provided lots of time for youthful reflection. What did I take from that first brush with love won and lost? That love at first glance can last three years, boys can be friends and boyfriends, I can survive the departure of any male from my life, and chocolate is definitely the way to my heart.
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My guy By Jocelyn Laurence
When I was a toddler, my great-aunt made me a doll out of grey and white work socks. Sandy -- he was definitely of the male persuasion -- might have been monochromatic, but he had a jaunty red knit scarf and jolly red wool tassels on his wrists, ankles and on the top of his tuque. He also had a hugely cheerful smile.
Sandy became my beloved companion. When times were tough at home, as my parents painfully geared up for a separation, I'd make Sandy dance, which he always did with a joy that he transferred to me. Not only were my parents tense, so was the rest of the world. This was Vancouver in the late 1950s, and the Cold War was making everyone jumpy. At school, we rehearsed for potential disaster by crouching under our desks to shelter from The Bomb (yeah, right) while the fake sirens howled. Lying in bed at night, the wail of a fire engine or ambulance had me convinced we were all about to die. But I wasn't alone. I had Sandy. He smiled and danced on, and allowed himself to be squeezed, turned upside down and smothered without ever losing his gentle good spirits.
I loved Sandy so much he grew grubby and sprouted bald spots that I had no idea how to fix, nor did my mom (darning wasn't exactly her forte). So at some point, my great-aunt made me another doll. I don't remember the transitional moment, but Sandy disappeared and Sandy II was born.
Trouble was, I never loved him as profoundly as I had his predecessor. I treated him with care and respect -- after all, Sandy II, like all Sandys, did his best. He smiled, he waved, he danced. In fact, it made me sad how hard he tried. None of this was his fault. But he wasn't the same Sandy who had seen me through the dark nights of my eight-year-old soul. We could be -- and were -- good friends, but I had already given my heart to another.
He likes me, he loves me not By Helaine Becker
It's 1972. I'm 11 years old, in Grade 6 and in love. Madly, obsessively, Crocodile Rockin' in love. I've got hearts with the name Jeffrey Friedman inked inside them all over my yellow smiley-faced binder. He likes me, too; but not in the boy-girl way. But I know Jeffrey kind of likes me because he sometimes bikes around to my block, just to hang out. Once he even let me climb behind him on the banana seat for a spin. For five glorious minutes I got to wrap my arms around his scarecrow-skinny waist and let my chin rest on his shoulder. But he won't ask me to go steady, and I don't get an ID bracelet from him -- the true marks of Grade 6 affection. I am madly, obsessively frustrated.
Then the aptly named Gail November appears on the horizon. She's a gymnast and can do five round-offs in a row. Jeffrey asks her to go steady and gives her an ID bracelet. I cannot believe my love would let his head be turned by Gumby Girl.
Fast-forward to 1982. I am at the library and recognize Jeff at the next carrel. He's the first to speak. My heart lurches as he asks me out. I am giddy with shock. I have waited 10 years for this. Jeff takes me to a New Year's Eve party. For me, this is the 20-something equivalent of an ID bracelet. So at midnight, when he kisses me and then whispers in my ear, "Doesn't that girl over there look like Gail November?" I hit him -- hard, really hard.
We have not seen Gumby Girl since Grade 6. Yet when I look over to where Jeff points, I know, with total certainty, it's her. We approach with Jeff holding my left hand. She turns to us, blinks and says, "Oh, my God, I know you! And you, too! Are you two still together?" I clench my teeth. My jaw aches with the effort of not screaming. I make Jeff take me home at 12:20. He laughs and promises he does not want her phone number; he is not interested in Miss Gail November.
Jeff and I date for two more years. There is, at the end, a prolonged period of sadness when we both realize that, while we care for each other, we are not in love. No words are necessary.
Fast-forward one last time to 1997. We are in a sports bar, drinking beer as we always do whenever I make my annual visit to my hometown. I am now married, Jeff is divorced, and one night a year, I let myself pretend he is mine all over again. Jeff says, "You'll never believe what happened. My son is three and has a new friend in day care. He went home with her after school. I went to pick him up and guess who answered the door? Yup -- Gail November, back in town. Her daughter and Greg are the nursery school sweethearts."
I laugh so hard I cry. And funnily enough, once I start, I just can't stop.
What I did for love
5 ways to guarantee lasting love
50 ways to say I love you
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