Monday, March 12, 2007

The Viennese Waltz

Last Thursday would have been my parents’ wedding anniversary. They only made it to their 32nd, still a remarkable stretch considering their inauspicious beginnings. I’m going to be sentimental, but it’s only natural---I’m half-Viennese.

My mother Margarete was both a war widow and a war bride. She grew up in Vienna, Austria, the daughter of a watchmaker and a plump little hausfrau. Her older brother died in a climbing accident, knocked off the mountain as he was changing his shoes by the sliding carcass of a frozen mountain goat (Really. Who could make such a story up?). She worked for a couturier (and once, just like Scarlett O’Hara, made dresses from my Great Aunt Helen’s drapes). Margarete married a tall, blond, handsome guy named Tony, who was immediately conscripted and died on the Russian front. He was not a Nazi but did wear the uniform.

My father David was short, dark and chubby, a decorated cook in the Rainbow Division of the U.S. Army. Yes, he single-handedly won a Bronze star for accepting the surrender of a small group of young German soldiers as he was reconnoitering a town for the best place to set up his kitchen and any stray bottles of wine. He had been somewhat unsettled as a young man, the only child of two “society” people. They sent him to boarding school when he was nine so they could get divorced. A disappointment to them and a prep school drop-out, he followed the horse racing circuit up and down the east coast before he was drafted.

Towards the end of World War II, my parents met in the Vienna Woods, long a trysting place for lovers. My dad was with a buddy, my mom with a girlfriend. My dad spoke no German but fractured French and so did my mother’s friend, so he got stuck talking to her when he really wanted to hit on my mother. Eventually, he learned fractured German, my mother learned fractured English, and they carved their initials on a tree where they first met. The war ended, they married, moved back to America, and had me. A happily ever after.

My parents did not share a culture, language or religion. In fact they had very little in common. But they did have romance. And that was enough for a while.

How did you/your parents fall in love? How did you get your characters to meet? We had friends who tried to fix us up for years. When my husband finally met me, he thought I cursed too much, and I thought he was too handsome. But we got married nine months later anyway.


terrio said...

Gosh, Maggie, that is such a great story. My parents are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year and I believe they might be renewing their vows. It's in the talks phase anyway.

My parents worked together at a grocery store - he a bagger and she a cashier - and she didn't like him at all. But he needed a ride and she had a car. They had their first date Feb. 20, 1966 (my dad's b-day) and were engaged by the end of April. When I asked my mom how the proposal went she said they were on his parents' couch and he wanted to go a bit further. She informed him only if he married her, he gave in and the rest is history. Yep, my parents got married to have sex. Ain't I proud. LOL!

Today they have four kids ranging in age from 38 to 18. I'm hoping for the vow renewal but only because I love any excuse to get prettied up....

Hellie Sinclair said...

My dad met my mother in church. (Which is why he is constantly harping I should meet one there.) His friend dragged him around to various churches until he found a girl he liked.

Then again, my father was a Navy boy in WWII, so he could be fibbing.

My mother was 17; and he was 25. And I think mom was his rebound girl. He'd been dating some chick from Illinois, but her parents didn't like him--so he decided to look elsewhere. He met Mom, and boom, the rest is history. They were married for 50 years.

Not sure what they really had in common...but I do know they were both earth signs (which is a match); and they were complimentary Chinese horoscopes too.

Tessa Dare said...

What a lovely story, Maggie!

My parents met at college, during the first week of my mom's freshman year (my dad's senior year). They were married the next June. This was near the end of the Vietnam War, and my dad was going to get drafted for sure once he graduated, so he enlisted in the reserves instead. They had their wedding all planned for a Saturday in June, the invitations were sent, and then my dad got called up to report for training 2 weeks before. So they changed their wedding to a Monday and honeymooned in New Orleans just before dropping my dad off in Louisiana for bootcamp, and my mom went home by herself, a little 19-year-old child-bride. They've been married almost 36 years.

I have a fairly romantic story of how Mr. Dare and I met, but it's too long.

Mr. Robinson too handsome? Ooh, pictures please!

Tiffany Clare said...

Such great stories, ladies.

How romantic...nothing like that for my parents, unplanned teenage pregnancy brought my parents together. They were together 25 years before they divorced.

My story isn't so romantic either -maybe this is why I suck back all the romance novels :)

yes maggie share pics of what's too handsome for!

RevMelinda said...

Hi Maggie,
What a wonderful story. My parents met in church and no doubt it was very romantic for them, but I'd say the romance lasted for about 5 of the (so far) 48 years they have spent together. When I was a kid I used to wish my parents would get divorced and put us all out of our misery, but no, the marriage and the misery continues and likely will until they die.

My own story is also too long to tell here but it involves being "set up" together by a whole community of Episcopalians because the two of us were unmarried Presbyterians. It took us about 3 months to get engaged. And unlike my parents, the romance is still going 18 years later! (hurray)

Janga said...

What a wonderful story, Maggie!

I have told my parents meeting story on the EJ BB, but it always makes me laugh. My mother was the overnight guest of one of my father's six sisters. Gran gave my mother my father's room for the night. He came in from a late date and found my mother in his bed. My mother said the first words she ever her him say were, "Mama, why do you put every stray girl that comes here in my bed?"

They were married a year later and celebrated their fifty-fifth anniversary four months before my mother died. One of the hospice nurses told us that she came in one evening to check on my mother and found Mother and Daddy both asleep, heads together, holding hands, as he sat beside her bed.

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

I love your stories. No matter what your parents' marriages were like, they produced some wonderful women!

I'll have to see if I can rustle up a picture of John for a future blog...but neither one of us is as cute as we used to be. :(

Lenora Bell said...

Hi Maggie, that story was beautiful and so well-written. Thank you. I'm not sure how my parents met, through friends I think.

Eight years ago my sister and I threw a party with the theme of "The Future." We asked everyone to come dressed as their vision of the future. We raided the Goodwill for futuristic decorations and did the entire house up in tinfoil and blue lights. It looked like a bad set from Barbarella. But that's how I met my true love. At The Future Party.

uswarbrides said...

As a daughter of an American War Bride I hope you will visit my website 'The American War Bride Experience' at
I would like to add your parents' story to the many stories I have on my site. Please stop by.

Lindsey said...

That is such a cool story, Maggie! And everyone else too - how fun!

My grandparents also met during WWII. My grandfather was stationed with my grandmother's brother, and they become friends because they were next to each other alphabetically (Ewalt & Faber). One night when they were bored, my great-uncle persuaded five of his friends to write letters to my grandmother - and my grandfather's was the only one she answered! They corresponded all during the war and my grandmother also started up a correspondence with her future MIL when my grandfather accidentally mixed up their letters!

My parents were high-school sweethearts, set up by my dad's brother & my mom's best friend (who also - after a much rockier relationship - eventually married). When they decided to get married, my mom bought the engagement ring, and my dad had to pay her back for it!

Sarah Palmero said...

I do not honestly know how my mom and dad met. I know it was in graduate school, where they were both studying sociology. That's about it. They were married only 9 years, sadly, but knowing what I know about both of them now, I'm not surprised.

I met The Engineer online, I freely admit it. We knew each other about three years before we ever even spoke by voice. We got together at a friend's wedding and have been together since. Not the most romantic thing ever, but it works for us. :)

santasmbslt said...

My parents grew up in the same village in Italy. When they started dating, they were chaperoned by my grandmother. LOL, my father used to drop his keys in the potted plant in the front hall of her house so he could sneak back for a quick kiss. When he asked her blessing to marry my mother, my grandmother made him ask her brothers for permission. My uncle told him to get the &^!@ away and ignore my grandmother's old fashioned ways. He did and they were married four months later. They were happily married for 36 years.

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

From high school sweethearts to online dating to chaperoned in the "old country!" Not to mention Lenora's shiny back to the future party. All these stories and the rest above should find their ways into somebody's romance novel. I can see Lindsey's grandparents'letter scenario in a movie right now, Benny Goodman playing in the background. Janga's reminds me of a Walton's episode.

Thank you all for sharing these. I am touched.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Oh, Maggie, what a beautifully written story. Funny and sincere and really poignant.

I'm so glad you told me about your blog, and, clearly, you've got some of the best romance bloggers visiting, too. :) (btw, Santa, if you see this, would you email me, please)?

Congrats on this lovely blog project, Maggie.

Ericka Scott said...

My mother came to the US to visit her sister (a war bride from England) in order to get over a love affair.

She met my dad in the drugstore where she was volunteering/helping the pharmacist (as she worked in an apothacary in England).

Dad asked her out and the rest is, well, history.

Their 50th wedding anniversary was in 2005.

How time flies!