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Tuesday, 28 October 2008


By Lois Cochran of Guitar Grandma

A soft blanket of snow covered the sidewalks, and snowflakes drifted down lazily through the darkness dusting our hair and jackets as we walked along the avenue looking into the shop windows, pretending to be interested in the merchandise. It was one of those magical northern nights when the gentle snowfall that cushions every step, allowing even cars to move quietly, creates an atmosphere that is profoundly peaceful.

But this was our first date and we were both feeling a bit awkward. It’s not that we weren’t acquainted; we knew each other quite well as co-workers at the University. We had worked in the same office for almost a year, been in attendance at several office functions and been together at the staff’s regularly-scheduled, payday pizza parties at the Rathskeller in East Lansing.

But always we were part of the group; never a couple. I’m sure we liked each other well enough, but I never considered dating Mike and was caught off guard when he asked me to have dinner with him. I accepted the invitation mainly because I couldn’t think of a good excuse to turn him down and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

Mike was a genuinely nice guy and everyone loved him. My office manager was elated when I told her about the date, and I began to suspect that she had put him up to it.

We had driven a few miles out to the small town of Williamston and dined at a local restaurant that was well known for its "down-home" food. Following dinner, we decided to walk a while to settle our dinner and to enjoy the extraordinary beauty of the night.

We walked for about 30 minutes, talking some but mostly just enjoying the rare calm and becoming more comfortable with each other. Soon the cold began to penetrate our jackets causing our teeth to chatter and we turned to make our way back to the car.

Mike had a brand new 1962 light-yellow Pontiac. I think he had purchased the car only days before our date. It was a real beauty! As we approached, we saw that the car was filled with smoke.

"Oh, my God," I cried. "It’s on fire!" Mike ran to the car and opened both doors.

"The seat is smoldering," he said. "I think we can put it out with some snow."

We both began scooping snow in our hands and piling it onto the seat and soon the fire was out, but it would take a few minutes for the smoke to clear. The smell would be another matter. Gone was the "new car" smell, replaced with the stink of burnt fabric and plastic.

Mike was a pipe smoker. I smoked cigarettes. We saw that there was a small hole in the middle of the bench seat, where an ash had been dropped. I thought it probably came from his pipe; he thought it probably came from my cigarette. We discussed that as we drove back to town with the windows down, snow drifting in and chilling us to the bone, trying not to breathe because the smoky smell was so overwhelming.

"Let’s stop in at Joe’s and have a drink. Give it a few minutes to air out," Mike suggested.

"Okay," I said. "I’d like to get out of here for a while." The drive to my house would take a good half hour and we really needed to breathe!

At Joe’s we had a couple drinks and got better acquainted. Mike had just been through a nasty divorce and was a little gun-shy. He was also a few years older than me which is why I never really considered him as a possible love interest. But as we sat in Joe’s Tavern that night, I began to see into the heart of the man who would ultimately become my husband of forty years. A gentle, self-effacing, considerate and funny man. I loved his sense of humor and the amazing fact that he could still talk to me when he believed I had just ruined his brand new car!

"I think your name from now on will have to be ‘Smokey’," Mike said.

"ME?!" I returned. "It was the ash from your pipe that started the fire," I declared.

"I don’t think so," he replied.

And so the debate continued. We called each other "Smokey" for a long time, but in the end, the nickname stuck with me. Even our friends began to call me Smokey. Mike called me Smokey for 40 years. The children got a kick out of the story and even the grandchildren have heard it.

My Smokey left this life five years ago to go to a better place. My bet is that he is telling this story up there, still blaming me and still calling me Smokey.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


What a good story - and nicely told!

Lovely story. Some couples may not have made it past that first date.

if your first date survived such a disaster, you were destined to make it all the way.

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