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Our Love Story Winners

After much deliberations, we’ve settled on our favorite three stories in this week’s Open Your Hearts contest. It was strong field, in our opinion, and so we’re not going to bother ranking these three. Each is terrific in its own right.

We’re leaving out the names of the authors, as we did with all the stories, but if you wrote one of these winning entries, check your email for information on how to retrieve your prizes.

Evenings in Paris
It was a Sunday evening in November 1964. The front page of Le Monde newspaper read, “Mike Jagger est arrive!” and his huge open mouth took up half the page. I was a student in Paris, helping an American woman to unpack things in her new apartment in the Latin Quarter. There was a rap on the door.

“Open it! It’s the guy from Montreal,” she said and my heart sank. Now I’ll be stuck trying to speak French with a French Canadien, I thought. I opened the door and a tall, svelte man with long sandy-blond hair, red beard, and ocean blue eyes stood there, giving me the once over twice.

“Hi. I’m Maurice. I hear you’re from Ireland. Eh!” he said. God. The man who looked like a Viking spoke English! I was delighted. We spent hours unpacking Libby’s packages of ready-made foods.

“Let’s go an’ see the movie My Fair Lady, eh,” he offered.

“Is it in English or French?”

“English!”

“If it’s in English, I’ll go.”

We sat in the dark and watched Rex Harrison teaching Audrey Hepburn about the rain in Spain. Things sped up fast between the man from Montreal and me and our evenings in Paris were exciting. We went to see Goldfinger and other James Bond movies. While walking hand-in-hand down the Boulevard Saint Germain in the rain one January day, he stopped and looked into my face.

“Will you marry me?” he asked me. I was speechless with surprise.

“We could get married here in Paris, eh,” he went on.

“I’ll think about it,” I said. “I will. But not yet,” I told the man who lived like a hippie.

In May, he went to Houston. He wrote almost every day. I never had a wish to go to the USA. He sent me a one-way ticket. I arrived in December. When I saw him at the airport, his beard was gone and he had a crew-cut.

“I’ve joined the reserve army,” he announced. Within a week, he was gone to boot camp for six months. In September we were married in Houston and he got a job with a steel company.

“We’re being transferred to Buffalo!” he shouted one day when he came home.

“Buffalo! Where’s that?” I asked.

“It’s in New York, near Canada,” he said.

The Bekins truck came and took our things. We drove up to Buffalo. It was January 1968. Parts of downtown were burned out. We couldn’t find an apartment anywhere.

“Only people who are evicted move in January,” people told us. We stayed in the Lord Amherst Hotel for six weeks.

We finally found an apartment and our first child was born. I was lonely being home alone with a baby, no family around, and it snowed endlessly.

“We’ll be transferred outta here within four years,” Maurice assured me.

“Let’s go an’ see a house,” the hippie who now wore a business suit every day said one Saturday morning.

We arrived at a big, old house with shimmering windows in the City of Buffalo. By nightfall, he’d bought the house.

“We’ll only be here four more years an’ then we’ll be transferred somewhere else,” he said many times.
The next year our twins were born. I was home all day with three babies. I gazed out at the snow and wondered how I ended up in such a Siberian place.

“We’ll be transferred within the next couple of years,” he said when I felt down.

But within another year, he started his own business. We were in the Aud Club for dinner before hockey games twice a week. He played hockey two other nights. There was no more talk about the five-year transfer plan. I became active in the women’s movement. When he came home at night, I standing on my head doing yoga. One by one, we blew out all our fuses, then got divorced. Maurice still looks like a Viking. He now has four wives living in Buffalo. His 10 children have four different mothers.

The Aud is gone, the steel mills are cold, but the Lord Amherst still thrives. My three children and four grandchildren all live in Buffalo. Forty-two years later, I still live in the old house and love to watch heavy snowfalls through the shimmering windows. None of us have a five-year plan to leave Buffalo.

GI Joe Surprise
In August of last year, I deployed to Iraq for what I was told would be a seven-month tour. In September, they surprised us, telling us we would be home by Christmas. For the next four months I kept that news a secret from all but my co-conspirators. With a lot of help from my siblings, we arranged to have me wrapped up in a giant GI Joe box, placed into an enormous crate, and delivered to my unsuspecting girlfriend on Christmas Eve. She thought I was still in Iraq. All of the secrecy and plotting was well worth it to see the look on her face and have her jump into my arms. Now the only problem is…how do I top that?

Aces Full of Nines

Green grass and blue sky. Comfy beds. Cereal for breakfast. Being happy doesn’t take much for us. When we have each other, a warm house is pretty much all we need—the rest just falls into place. We live simply and get by just fine for being 23—Jordan, me, and our little dog Sola, a family made of three. We play games to stay entertained and poker is our game of choice. Last summer we started a one-on-one tournament that required the loser to plan a fun day for the winner. A fun day being a surprise 24-hour date that could start at any time. Back and forth our war of chip-stacks raged on, I’d get lucky just after he’d call my bluff…until a full house hit: aces full of nines. I won. The fun day was mine.

I waited, wondering when my fun day would pop up. I told everyone about it—the girls at work, our family, our friends. I was so proud to have won I just couldn’t wait for the prize. On a perfect weather morning, full of tricks, Jordan surprised me by coming home from work all ready to go, telling me to hurry up and get dressed: “We don’t have much time, hurry, hurry, hurry—your fun day starts now!”

Cruising down the 219, we ended up at our favorite spot: Griffis Sculpture Park in Ashford Hollow. Three metal birds stand at the top of a field mirroring our matching tattoos and reminding us how good life is, and that it’s never over. Two conditions got me to the park without many questions: 1) Don’t look in the trunk. 2) Just go with the flow. I walked over to our picnic spot and watched as Jordan pulled out a brand new brown blanket to lie on, a full sushi Love Boat lunch from Wasabi, and a bottle of champagne. I had no idea he’d put so much thought into my treasured afternoon. After a cheers moment, I told Jordan that I wished my fun day could last longer. He sat up and said, “How about it lasts forever?” He put his hand into his pocket, and maneuvered himself to face me kneeling, and I realized that the moment I had dreamed of was about to happen in real time.

Marriage. To be together with one and only one person for the rest of your life almost seems silly to believe in today. All over the news there are scandals and cheating, a love child creeps up, another divorce takes place—I was losing faith in the whole idea of holy matrimony. Finding the right person renewed my belief. To meet your perfect match is unbelievable, so unbelievable that you don’t even realize it. You meet, you fall in love, things move so fast you don’t question it and before you know it you don’t see anyone else on the street, you don’t notice anyone else in line at the store—you are completely and entirely taken over by one single being. It’s amazing.