Thursday, June 9, 2011
Finding "The One"
I first met the young woman who would become my wife on paper. Actually, on two pieces of paper.
During the Christmas break of my senior year in college, I spent the holidays with my family and then went back to school two weeks early. I was the new managing editor for the college newspaper, and I had a ton of work facing me – assigning reporters to beats, organizing editors, laying our plans for a new arts and entertainment section, figuring out photographer assignments – all the usual stuff.
A professor whose insight I valued had given me a list of five people whom he thought were the top reporters/writers in the class: Tom, Mary, Jeff, John and Janet. I had never met any of them. I had to assign the five and some 50 others to beats. Each soon-to-be reporter had submitted desired areas to cover for the paper.
Fifty-five people said they wanted to cover student government. Well, sure. I needed two. I had covered student government as a reporter, and it was the plum assignment, because it was almost a full-time job for two people (who also happened to have classes to attend).
So I looked at the five to determine which two would get the student government beat.
Janet’s requested beats caught my attention. She had asked for student government. And she asked for the religion beat. She was the only person who asked for the religion beat. No one in their mind asked for that. It might result in one story a semester. It never had news.
But if she wanted it, it was going to be hers. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to browbeat some unwilling reporter into accepting it. (Why she wanted it is another story.)
And I gave her one of the two positions for student government.
Shortly before classes began, the new reporters started drifting into the editorial office, introducing themselves, finding out their beats, asking if I had anything for them to do. And I did, since the paper resumed publication before classes started.
Her first words to me were this: “Hi. I’m Janet Lowrey. Do you have anything for me to do?”
And my first words to her were: “Yes. I need a story on the new chemistry building.”
She went out and did the story.
The student government beat included covering meetings of the student assembly on Wednesday nights. She and the other student government reporter alternated each week. The meetings would be over by 9 or 9:30 p.m. Then the reporter would return to the editorial office to write the story.
Janet wasn’t a slow writer. But she was a painstaking, perfectionist writer. It became something of a ritual. At 11:45 p.m., I would walk into the typing lab and ask her for whatever she had. “I’m almost finished.” I’d nod. “It doesn’t have to be perfect,” I’d say. “It won’t be,” she’d reply. After getting her story, I’d edit it, write the headline and fit it all into the layout, and then deliver all of the copy, headlines and photographs to the back shop for typesetting. I’d get to bed about 1:30 or 2.
In theory, the managing editor usually went home about 7 p.m., and the copy editors managed the editing, design and layout of the paper. But that semester was the semester of the great flu, and all the copy editors got it – and for weeks. Three of us escaped the illness – the editor, who focused on his editorial page and left the rest of the paper to me; the sport editor; and me. So I’d work to 1 or 1:30 in the morning, and then get up at 4:30 to get to the back shop to do the paper’s “paste-up.” It was a long semester. I was paid the princely sum of $10 an issue, which worked out to about 75 cents an hour.
But somewhere in there something happened. Three weeks after our initial conversation about the chemistry building, we were dating, and dating seriously. In fact, it was so serious that we were already talking about getting married. Yes, that was three weeks after we had met. It seemed way too fast, but it didn’t. It was as we both knew, if not from the first meeting, then not too long after that.
We met in Janaury and were married in August. That was 38 years ago.
And she’s still “the one.”
She’s also still a perfectionist.
This post is part of the blog carnival on “finding the one,” hosted by Bonnie Gray. To see more posts on the subject, please visit Faith Barista.
Top photograph: The One. Bottom photograph: The One with the grandson.