David C Schwartz is:80 years young;a Ph.D.[MIT'65};author of 34 stories,poems and essays published in US,UK & Canadian literary venues. Paula Smith,CEO of the ElderCare Companies,is coauthor of 7 US,UK & Canadian publications.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT, EVERY MORNING
A: Rescued Again
It was about 11 a.m. on the first Monday in December when I heard the
door to my office at the London School of Economics open without a knock or prior
telephonic notice from my secretary. Josh walked in, smiled, stared into my eyes as
if he was viewing the most precious work of art imaginable… and my 5 years of hiding from my future ended in a dizzying, dazzling whirlwind of clutching, kissing,
tender touching, and uncontrollable tears of utter “thank God you’re here” relief.
I disengaged from his caress just long enough to close and lock the office door. Then it was my turn to let my senses bask in the just perfect sight, smell, taste, touch and sounds of romantic love. I looked at Josh the way he’d looked at me.
I didn’t just love the way he looked. I loved the way he looked at me. His intense gaze showed he wanted to know the real me again; to care for and to possess me. He stared at me with an urgency that made me breathless, awed, dizzy, hot, wet and happy beyond comprehension. I literally didn’t want to blink, to take away his visual caress.
Then, I saw a facial expression before me I had never known existed. It said:
“I’m so vulnerable that I will not take you seriously if I have the slightest reason to think you might hurt me.” As we moved to the office sofa, I caught another special sight: the wall mirrors’ reflected golden sunlight. The image of the two of us looked just perfect. He was too short for me and I was too skinny for his muscular frame, and yet I thought we were in Divine light; that there was simply no other couple on earth more beautiful than we were. The black walnut caramel color of my skin blended with his tanned ivory coloring like an icecream sundae. The tender intimate fantasy in his eyes (yes, call it ogling) was more than flattering, it took my breath away. It still does.
The sexual whirlwind which followed felt like a life-altering communion to me. What might have seemed “too fast” to others was experienced as “at last” to us.
Our intimate experience was, by turns, tender and frenzied, novel and familiar life affirming and desperate. Amidst all that, a thousand “I’ve missed you so muches.” led to 5,000 “I Love Yous” until I finally asked “how long can you stay in England?” “A month, this time” he said. I immediately picked up the phone, called the Deans office and announced that I was going to take a one month personal leave starting immediately. “This is very sudden and highly unusual Kendra,” the Dean replied. “Yes it is” I agreed “but I’m well published, well liked by the faculty, a popular teacher and I’ll have to resign if you don’t approve the leave.” “ If it is that important for you Kendra, of course I’ll approve your request.” “Thanks, and wish me luck sir”. “Yes, yes of course” he said.
Josh and I spent the month together in wondrous love and lust, never really
discussing the reasons for our separation. On his last night in London, he suddenly
went to one knee and proposed marriage. “Yes darling” I answered without hesitation. Yes. Yes. Yes of course” I said . The diamond ring he put on my finger was exquisite... and huge. It was a perfect 5 carat, platinum, cushion cut heirloom ring that had belonged to Josh’s grandmother Paige Kenton. I told him that it was
magnificent but that “I can’t accept this priceless family jewel. It should belong to your mother.” Josh smiled and said “when I told mom and dad that I was coming to London, mother went and got a blue velvet box and the ring. “This belongs to Kendra, the woman that has your heart” she said.
B: Kendra’s Surprise HomeComing
I had accepted Josh’s proposal of marriage in London gleefully and exulted in his week long visits from January to July - - agreeing to wed in November after his election as Governor. And now I was flying from Heathrow to Riverton City, Kentucky to begin a new life. As the flight neared the destination, I had: few
expectations which I deemed realistic; lots of anxieties; and great wonderment about how I would be received by Josh’s family and friends. I knew that, as Mayor of Riverton, Josh (and his inner circle) had a city to run, a Gubernatorial election to conduct and busy, happy, successful lives to live. How would I fit in? How well?
I knew that I had not been there for Josh and his team for the 5 years of his Mayoralty. We had been lovers for three years after he graduated from law school - -living together in London and in Cambridge Massachusetts. Josh and I seemed to be getting over the fact of our separation but so very much had remained unsaid. The matter of our racial differences, his family’s Southern aristocratic status, the baby I lost without telling him of the pregnancy or the miscarriage… all of that was on my mind all the time. I had some good reasons, loving reasons, for not telling him everything (reasons that included his father’s heart attack) but I felt guilty all the same.
My plane landed . . . and it was instant family, total welcome, more than
reassuring . . . love! Josh was there with all the flowers that he and his driver could
hold- - but so were his parents and grandmother and Freddy Gold ( who I had met)
and Marissa ( my white-sister-to-be) and – oh I don’t know how many others.
Of course it was overwhelming. It was a surprise party, a coming out party, a girl-meets-world event all rolled up in one smiling, sweet, embracing whole. I had never anticipated that greeting; I’d never seen it before. Hell, I never even imagined it before. I loved it!!!
Amazing: They’d rented a bus so that all of us could be together for the ride
from the airport to the Estate. It was a great decision. (I later learned it was the thoughtfulness of Big Mike, Josh’s father, who didn’t want any one of his crowd to
feel excluded or to lose the authentic, enthusiastic, happy, friendly intimacy of the
On the bus, I sat between Josh and his mother, Lorena. She was more than
pleasant, showing genuine warmth towards me, expressing the hope for
grandchildren openly. Her authentic openness was impossible not to appreciate and to emulate.
Big Mike, looked at me with a delight and tenderness and an interest in and about me which was delighting. Everyone wanted to know how I felt. Mike wanted to know, too, what I thought and what I thought about.
It was flattering. I knew that I’d call him Dad before long. Freddy Gold (Josh’s uncle) and Puppy (Josh’s driver) just smiled a lot- - showing me that they expected to be my good friends. But the surprise and star of my arrival was Freddy’s wife—Aunt Marissa. She was a one-woman bridal shower. She produced slippers and pajamas and lingerie and shopping expeditions and - -believe it or not she prepared a briefing book for me on the people, places and organizations I’d be expected to know and care about.
I expected to be alone with Josh pretty quickly after we got to the Estate but
Mike and Lorena had had a lunch prepared and I was suddenly ravenous and sensed that something important was supposed to happen. We ate, we talked, we laughed, we smiled and then, I found myself alone with the Big Mike on an open air balcony overlooking the river. He looked at me with such affection that I just melted. Then he told me that he knew a little about me, that he had heard my mother sing once, and that he’d read all of my books and two of Grandma Grace’s poetics. “ I want for you to be happy here, Kendra,” Mike said in an emotion filled whisper, which I knew to be uncharacteristically self-revealing. “ I know that you’ll want to continue your scholarly research - - even though I hope you’ll be a busy 1st Lady of our State,” he said. “So, for when you are ready, I’ve put some resources at the State University for your use in conducting your studies. You know, for research assistants, computers, travel, books, journals, that sort of thing.” I was speechless and I hugged him and cried and thanked him. “Now, this is not intended to buy your love, Kendra.” he said. “ It is just intended to give you some space if you want it.” I nodded: “of course, I am totally grateful for your wonderful thoughtfulness and generosity” I said “Good,” Mike replied smiling. “ The monies are in the hands of the President of the University in trust for you.” I believe we called it the Kendra Martin Meyerson Economics Research Institute Fund. “An Institute? How much did you put in trust?” “One million” I wanted to say that I couldn’t accept that much but what came out was “ Thank you, oh thank you.”
I knew then that Mike had heard my mother sing more than once. It didn’t matter. I didn’t matter at all.
Josh’s inner circle took good care of me. Lorena took me to church. Mother Meyerson took me to synagogue. Marissa took me into her heart - - and everywhere else. She arranged cooking lessons (at the farm, at the estate, at
Mother Meyerson’s for caramel marble cake). Councilwoman Donofrio was happy to see that the Democratic Committeewomen and female city workers made me welcome at their coffees, teas, bowling parties, golf outings and picnics. Marissa and Lorena invited me to serve on the board of several charities. Yeah, I was happy.
It was expected that Josh would love me, ( and his love and his loving was wonderful) - - but the fact that Big Mike loved me made the whole City open up to me. The economics faculty of the University gave a welcoming reception in my honor. I was given a membership at the exclusive Riverton City Club.
Josh’s inner circle was not very much racially integrated - - but the African
American community found me quickly. I was glad to be found.
Of course, I was aware that most of the people who were being so kind to me didn’t know the real me, and that I didn’t know the real me. Also I was very clear that the time and attention being lavished upon me was due to the respect and affection for the Meyersons. But I didn’t care because, whatever their insights and whatever their motives, they got it right. I needed to feel like I belonged somewhere and they made me know that my somewhere was here. More than once, in the very early days of my stay in Riverton, I found myself suddenly smiling or tearing up. I felt emotional arousal at a very high level constantly but was soothed by acceptance, approval, affection.
Josh went campaigning for Governor 6 and 7 days a week ( and almost every evening). It was decided that I should not join him on the campaign trail until our engagement was announced. I needed him terribly, ached for his company but knew that the campaign’s decision was correct -- good for Josh, good for his candidacy, good for me.
Lorena was hospitable but sometimes reserved. She would be a great
mother-in-law and a truly wonderful grandmother but neither of us expected that I
would soon call her “mother”. She accepted me as Josh’s choice and I had to
respect that basis of her affection. She was more than pleasant - - yet, I couldn’t
help but worry; I couldn’t help but wonder if she secretly thought Maria Iverson
would have been a better life partner for Josh. Still: Lorena opened her beautiful
home and her vast circle of acquaintances to me - - and she had approved the $1
million for my Institute. So I got a lot from Lorena and gave her the deep respect
and good will that I felt for her.
The father-daughter thing with Big Mike was totally different. There was a
bonding at the cellular level, a melding of souls across the generations that made
me happy and amazed at the same time. “Josh is a very lucky man ,” Mike said
every time he saw me. He appreciated me as a person. I wanted to say “I don’t care about what ever happened between you and my mother, I’m here now and I love you and I exult in your paternal love.” Of course, I never said any such thing out loud (to Mike or to anyone else). I intuited that no one would ever tell me
any of Big Mike’s life secrets anyway but I quickly came to the realization that I
simply did not need to know them. In Josh’s absence, Big Mike had us driven all
over Riverton and conducted a daily tour and oral history of the city they knew so well.
Marissa took me to her farm and showed me to a cabin - - away from almost
all of the other buildings on the plantation. It was a one-bedroom log home, cozy-
but -comfortable, with a study and a fireplace and state-of-the-art computer
hookup. The Queen sized bed had a firm mattress which bounced just right when
I flopped down on it. “Josh will enjoy you here,” Marissa said. I gasped “You
mean…?” “Yes,” she said, “it’s yours.” She smiled. “Both you an Josh will need to
escape from the Estate sometimes - - separately and together.” I wept with love
The cabin was the scene of my first fight with Josh. It happened this way.
The President of the State University at Riverton asked me to lunch at the faculty
club. We had a private dining room. He asked me how I planned to spend my $1
million endowment from Big Mike. I told him that I don’t know yet. He suggested
that I come up with an alternative spending plan quickly because “there is plenty more where that came from.” I chose not to be offended by the President’s crass
attitude, but told him that I’d have my plans for the Institute ready shortly. Then he offered me a job: Senior Vice President for Intercampus Liaison. “You’ll be
living in the State Capitol after all. Why not help the Riverton Campus and the
Capitol Campus work together.” Why not, indeed. I all but accepted the well-
paying job on the spot but promised to respond in a week or two.
Josh was against my taking the position. “It will look like the University is
bribing me by hiring you,” he said simply. “Besides, isn’t the Institute my father funded enough to keep you busy? I said: “this is not about you, Josh, and
respectfully, its not about your father either.”
Well, we discussed it at length and several times. In the end, I took the job
but agreed to wait on the announcement of my decision until after the election.
C: An Identity Crisis Resolved
But if things went very, very well for me in Riverton City, my world nearly
fell apart in North Carolina. I had come home to talk to my Grandmother about the wedding. As soon as I walked in the door, Grandma Grace had a serious, “we have to have a talk, girl” face on. “OK.” I thought, “bring it on. I’m going to marry a rich white boy from a southern aristocratic family and you don’t like it one bit, do you.” I guessed wrong. “Have you told Josh that you got pregnant with his baby, got cold feet about marrying him, lost the baby, ran away and hid all this from him for 5 years?” she asked simply-but-not-harshly.
“No grandma,” I said feeling sad, mad, bad and angry all at once. “I
haven’t told him anything about all that. I don’t know what I think about
all that. I don’t know what he’d think about all that. I don’t know what he’d think
of me if I told him.”
“Are you afraid that he won’t love you if you tell him, my sweet one,” she
asked softly. “No. I mean yes, I guess. Yes, shouldn’t I be scared?” Grandma
Grace had a smile on her lips and tears in her eyes. She shook her head. “No, baby
You can’t walk down the aisle hiding behind your bridal veil. You can’t get
married to a man you don’t trust to love you, warts and all. You can’t get married
being scared of who you were and who you are or who you are going to be. If he
loves you right and you love him right, you’ll work it out together.”
I resisted her loving logic, “Does that mean that I have to tell him about his
father and my mother?” Doesn’t he have the right to know that, too?” “No dear,”
Grace said quietly. “That’s not about you. You had nothing to do with that and
you don’t even know for sure what happened between them. But you do know
what happened, and what didn’t happen, between you and Josh. So he has to
know that too.” She paused: “you didn’t want that dead baby lying in bed coming between you and your man. Trust Josh even if you don’t fully trust yourself.
Trust Josh or give him up.”
“And if I don’t Grandma? What if I don’t.” She got sad then but answered
quickly: “I couldn’t come to your wedding, darling. I couldn’t bless you properly
knowing that you were lying in silence.”
That was enough for me. “I’ll tell him. I’ll go back now and tell him
Grandma nodded and smiled. “But you have to come with me.” “ Me?
Why?” “To bless me if he loves me right…and to rescue me a second time if he doesn’t.”
“Where will I stay,” Grace asked. “I have a cabin,” I said and was rewarded with my grandfather’s delightful facial expression of surprise, pleasure and
I called Josh and told him I needed to see him, tonight and that I was flying back to Riverton City. “We need to talk” was all I could get myself to say in reply
to his repeated, insistent queries as to “what’s wrong?” “Why the sudden change
of plans?” “Are you alright?” “Is everything ok?” “Are we ok?”
When I told him that Grandma was coming home with me he seemed to
relax a little. I think the word “home” was appeasing to him. He told me that he
would cancel his campaign schedule immediately and meet me at the airport.
Thoughtful, even in his nervousness, Josh asked me where Grace would be
sleeping. “At my cabin on the farm.” I answered quickly and got a response I
hadn’t expected. “My mother will not hear of it,” Josh said decisively. She will
have one of the guest suites at the Estate prepared. “I Love you.” “I love you too.”
Grandma Grace was packing her suitcase when my cell phone rang; it was
Lorena. As Josh predicted, Grandma was invited to stay on the grounds of the
Estate - - a guest suite? The gatekeepers’s cottage? Wherever she wants!” I agreed: I wanted Grace near me to catch me if I fell, but I was less fearful now. Lorena surprised me by saying “I want to love you Kendra, I want you to know that, and I hope that you will come to love me too.” “Oh wow,” I cried … again joy and
gratitude. Grace hugged me.
As we got into the taxi to go to the airport, my cell phone rang again. Big
Mike. “I understand that there is to be a multi-generational beauty contest in
Riverton City tonight,” he said happily. “Is that right?” “Yes,” I laughed. “It’s
being held at the Estate, right?” He inquired, “Yes dad.” “Good, now tell me
honey, has Josh done anything wrong? Is there anything you need? Can I help you?” “No, no and no. Don’t worry. See you later.”
So now I was reassuring others but feeling anything but reassured myself.
Grace fell asleep on the plane and snored through the whole flight. The ride was smooth but my stomach did flip flops all the way. We landed and there were two greeting groups. Big Mike, Lorena and Puppy were there to take Grandma Grace to the Estate. Josh was alone to take me wherever I wanted to go. I chose the cabin at the farm: My turf.
In the car we kissed but not passionately. Then we suffered through
an hour of awkward silence and even more awkward small talk. One step inside
the cabin and I collapsed into his arms sobbing uncontrollably. I wept myself into
the dry heaves and couldn’t get my breath. I struggled to speak for an hour or more. Josh was beside himself but terribly patient under the circumstances.
When, at last, I could speak words, they were words of guilt and shame and
sorrow, guilty grief for the lack of trust I had had in Josh, unreasonable but guilty grief for getting pregnant, for not telling him, for losing the baby, for living somehow during and after that, for not being there for his Mayoralty.
My emotions were genuine but even as I expressed them, I realized that I
was being manipulative and strategic. I was blaming myself before he could
blame me. I went on talking and crying for a long time but ultimately I had to stop
the filibuster and find out if I was going to be married or jilted, forgiven, abandoned
ADORED, ACCEPTED, UNDERSTOOD, BEFRIENDED, KISSED, CARESSED,
MADE LOVE TO, FUCKED HARD, HELD, SLEPT WITH, LOVED AGAIN.
When we woke up, Josh whispered the words I most needed to hear: “we will overcome the past, darling. We have a whole lifetime to make babies.” I wept again feeling warm, understood, accepted and at peace. And than I began to feel
sexy too when he said “and we do it very well don’t we?” I agreed “Yes yes of course.”
Back to the estate by noon, both of us were exhausted and relieved. We met
the family at a pool side lunch. Grandma Grace and Grandma Meyerson were
crooning over baby pictures of Josh and me. In attendance was the family: Big
Mike, Lorena, Freddy, Marissa, Marissa’s father and Puppy.
As we approached the party, Josh whispered . . . “So, will you still marry me?” “Yes, yes, of course.”
Josh was elected Governor by a landslide. The wedding ceremony and receptions were splendid. The inauguration and the Governor’s Ball were fun to plan and to attend. Life in the State Capital was interesting. But those are other stories.