For those of you who have been distracted lately, I want to point out that today is Valentine’s Day.
I know, I know, you are thinking “Again?? I just did this holiday!” It is true that tempus fugit (Latin for “the clock is running too fast”), but you would be wise to remember your experience last year when you also waited until the last minute. Holidays don’t seem like holidays if you are expected to do something each time, so if you need a hint about what to do now, let me say that what people usually prefer is receiving a creative expression of your love; something tailored to them. If this seems like a high hurdle, it’s not, but I don’t mean to add to your stress. Instead, I’d like to share a story.
It’s always interesting how we meet our significant others. In my case, the way I met Margaret is both trendy and a little strange. I know some of you have heard this story before, so I beg your patience. It’s a story I like to tell.
Trying to meet anyone new in our society is difficult. We drive alone in our cars, spend hours staring at little screens and look at the sidewalk when we encounter someone on the street. These days, the best way to meet a lot of eligible people quickly is through an internet dating site.
Both Margaret and I had been married before, and we were both ready to try again in the spring of 2003. It had to be a coincidence that we signed up to a site called “Science Connection” at the same time.
There is no doubt that internet dating can be a disappointment. More than once I wrote, “Hi, my name is Greg, how do you like me so far?” Surprisingly, I got few laughs with that line on eHarmony. Science Connection was different. I was smitten by Margaret’s profile and the fact that she was a geologist, especially as she was living near where I received two of my three college degrees. I emailed her and asked if she had attended my alma mater. She said no but she did go to their geology summer field camp. This meant that she knew the camp director (my advisor, Dr. Grant) and I learned that her advisor at Southeast Missouri State was a guy with whom I went fossil hunting. These events happened in the late 1970s, so it was amazing to find out about these coincidences 25 years later.
She flew from Kansas City to meet me for the first time on July 3rd. I was living in Eastlake, and the next day we went to a party to watch the fireworks over Lake Union. Nobody had expected me to bring a date, and my friend who hosted the party took me aside and asked, “Wow, where did you find her?” with the clear implication that Margaret was far above my league. I had suspected as much and was worried the ax would fall on the powder keg, but that never happened.
It was also that weekend I discovered she worked for ARCO in Midland, Texas, in 1990 when I was trying to sell mapping to others in the same office. We were on different floors of the same building at the same time. Then I mentioned that I went to school with a Burchfield (her maiden name) whose first name was Carolyn, and she cried out, “That’s my cousin!” She said, “You know, it’s too bad you didn’t go to field camp in 1979.”
My own field camp attendance was in 1973 (I’m a little older) and again in 1976 when I went as a teaching assistant. I knew their schedule well, and so I knew where they’d be on the opening day of field camp when, a few years later, I happened to be passing through southern Utah and climbed Red Hill above Cedar City to say hi to Dr. Grant.
“I think I was there in 1979,” I said to Margaret, “I climbed Red Hill to say hi to Grant.”
“Oh my God,” Margaret replied, “you wouldn’t have been introduced and said something like ‘Watch out for the structure because it’s more complex than you think,’ would you?”
“Yeah, that was me,” I said.
“I was looking for you the next day,” Margaret said, “Where did you go?”
We married one year later under the fireworks on Lake Union. She’s taught me to polka since then, including on the boat under the fireworks. I was afraid of dancing until I met her, and now I’m a lot more confident about myself. That was her gift to me.
For the record, Margaret is still far above my league, but I’ve grown to accept that and remain confident that somehow I measure up. It’s the power of polka.
— Greg Wessel is a very busy Vashon geologist, but for Margaret, he’s never too busy for romance.