Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Story of Tammy and Ken (Not the dolls. Us.)

  Our 24th wedding anniversary is coming up tomorrow, so I thought it would be a nice time to tell the story of how we came to be a couple.The story of our first date is a doosey, so hang in there.

  I think I have mentioned that Ken is from England. His dad was American though, and when Ken's mom died his dad eventually reestablished contact with his high school sweetheart, and ended up moving back to America to marry her after she was widowed too. Ken came to visit his dad and decided that he liked it here. Just before his 21st birthday he came over again with the idea that, if he could find a job before he was supposed to return to England, he would stay. Otherwise he would go home and forget about living here. As fate would have it, he was hired by a Heck's store in the small town where his dad lived. So, Ken stayed in America. That was 1984, and he hasn't been back since.
  Meanwhile,I lived in another part of the state, but was originally from a place very near his Dad's home town, and not much farther from the place Ken was then living. I was living a bit farther away in 1984 though, having moved to live with my dad when I was 12. In 1984 I was also very into all things British. Almost all the television I watched or music I listened to was British. My favourite comedy,movies,music: it was British, mostly English. I was a total Anglophile.(I attribute it to a harrowing experience I suffered as a child. During the height of The Monkees era, Davy Jones, the band's sole English member,was the most popular. I never liked to go with the popular vote, so I became so sick of him that I rebelled against all things English. I refused to drink tea because,"It's English." (However I still managed to love The Avengers.The English tv show, that is, not the comic book.) One day,to punish me for my anti-Britishism,my sister and cousin chased me and held me down to inflict what they referred to as The English Tea Torture.That is, as opposed to the Chinese water torture. Only, instead of dripping water in slow torturous drops on my forehead, they poured boiling tea on my stomach. Well, it's hard to drop slow careful drops on a writhing 5 year old.)

There must be something to this Tea Torture stuff. My favourite Monkee was Peter, but post Tea Torture I have always had a preference for dark haired men with big brown eyes. That's why I married a blue eyed blonde. Huh?

  I wanted to go to England so badly. I saved my money obsessively for the trip. I finally went in March of 1985, and again in 1986. I even went to Ken's home town, because one of my friends was attending art college there.I lose very few things because I'm kind of obsessive about keeping track of them. But I lost my hat there. I always joke that it sounds like a song from the Beatles parody about 'The Rutles'. Instead of  this:

 ...mine is "I Left My Hat on a Bus in Hull".
   So most people assume that I found Ken in England, but the fact is, he was already here. I've been there twice since he has been there.But the point I was aiming at here is,I think it was destiny that brought us together. So many things had to happen in exactly the right way for us to meet. If he hadn't moved to America. If I hadn't moved to live with my dad. If both of us hadn't gotten jobs with the same chain of stores. If Ken hadn't been moved so many times.If I hadn't come back to work at the Heck's store when I came home from England. I wanted a nice, sweet Yorkshireman, and Ken was sent to me!
  While I toiled at my Heck's, Ken was transferred several times to other locations. As an unmarried guy, and someone for whom work was everything, (This is Ken, so the possible exception would have been food.), he was asked to move to several different stores when they needed someone. He got promotions for doing it, but after awhile he got tired of it. Finally he refused to move unless they gave him something he wanted: to be allowed to take all his vacation weeks at once so he could travel far away to visit someone. The someone was his former girlfriend, whom he still pined for, but who had married someone else. She was getting a divorce so he figured it was time to make his move. So in exchange he agreed to move again. Of course, you're guessing by now that the move was to the store where I worked.
  I remember the night, in July of 1988,that he first came to the store. I was behind the jewelry counter, as usual, across from the service desk, right up front. Somehow I missed him coming in, but the girl at the service desk said, "That guy. I think he was English." Jokingly, I nearly flew over my counter. "Where?!" She didn't know. "What did he look like?" "He was blonde, with a mustache." "Oh.Never  mind." I said, sliding back off the counter.My preference ran to dark hair, brown eyes, and clean shaven.(Fortunately Ken's mustache wasn't blonde.That might have been a deal breaker. I could never stand a blonde mustache.Brings to mind that invisible mustache Martin Mull had when he was young. It's like his mustache is wearing the mustache equivalent of those perception filters from Doctor Who: You know the mustache is there, but you can't quite see it.)

Martin Mull and his amazing invisible mustache.You have to look very closely, but it is there.

   Ken was introduced to everyone that night except me. And since it was Friday and I had the weekend off, I didn't see him again until Monday. When the store opened Monday morning the first thing he did was to arrive at my jewelry counter to put the door on, something that was supposed to have been done weeks before. We talked while we worked and he seemed nice, but when he finished putting the door on, a very meaningful moment happened. He decided to "see if it works" by swinging the door. When he did, it cracked me right in the knee. That could have been the end of any possibilities, right there. But I guess we're both weird. Instead of getting mad, or figuring this guy was a clutzy loser,I joked,"Now let me test it.Put your head right here." He laughed. And that is probably where we started.If I had gotten mad, or he had gotten mad when I said that, (He was my superior, after all.), that would have been it. But we shared an admittedly odd sense of humour and, I suppose, a matched temperament. (To an extent. In those days it was practically impossible to make Ken mad. I however have always had what I grudgingly would call a 'redhead temper'. I only use the biggoted  phrase because I did read somewhere that the same genes which give us red hair also give us bad tempers.That also allows me to claim that I can't help it...)
  So we became friends over the next few months. Because I was familiar with the accents,and because my friend Jenny, (She's the one who was attending art college in Hull.), has a heavier Yorkshire accent than Ken could ever hope to have, I had no trouble understanding him, as most of the employees did. Because of my infatuation with all things British I got most of his references and he got most of mine. That kind of confused him sometimes, as he didn't know my 'history'. Ken has crazy curly hair, made crazier by his insistence on making it lay down, rather than, as I like to say, 'embracing his curliness'. One day some bigwigs were in the store and Ken ran by, desperately trying to flatten his hair. "How's my hair?" he quickly asked. "Is your last name Dodd?" I asked. He gave a stunned look. I never found out if it was at the thought that he had Ken Dodd's hair, or that I knew who Ken Dodd is.
British comedian Ken Dodd, And yes, those are his real teeth.
   Nowdays, when the mustache and hair get a bit too long Ken sort of resembles Einstein.

My husband the genius. No wait. This is Einstein
  He still planned to visit the old girlfriend and in fact, ask her to marry him. But he was beginning to feel guilty for having some feelings for me in the meantime.(He told me this later.) I was beginning to like Ken very much too.When he returned from his trip he looked so sad. She had turned him down,saying there was 'no spark'.I knew none of this at the time, only that he had gone to visit his 'girlfriend'. One night soon after his return we were closing the store together.(Managers were required to have an employee follow them to the bank.) Just the two of us in the whole place.I remember standing on a cart while he turned everything off in the stock room, and he asked me out. I was 26, but I'd never been on a date. I had been asked a few times,but never by anyone I would have been tempted to go out with.(The first person to ever ask me out was a guy I worked with. It was nearly midnight on New Year's Eve, 1984, and he had asked everybody in the store out at various times, except for me and a middle aged lady named Helen. Helen wasn't there that night...  This set a precedent for the type of offers I got.) I never really wanted to 'date'. I wanted there to only ever be one person. I wouldn't have gone out with anybody unless I already knew I had some feelings for them. The idea of just dating for the sake of dating didn't appeal to me. But when Ken asked me I said yes. (Although I did ask him about that girlfriend thing.) My dad told me later, "I knew you were going to marry Ken." "Why?" "Because you went out with him."
  Being an assistant manager Ken wasn't supposed to 'fraternize' with the employees. (Even though a previous assistant had married one of the employees.) So for our date we had to leave town, so as not to be seen together. The day was overcast, but we started to the Big City to the zoo. (Ken figured that because I'm a vegetarian I must like animals.Not necessarily, but in this case he was right, although zoos have a tendency to make me cry.) When it began to rain half way there we started trying to think of somewhere else to go.Suddenly Ken said, "Have you ever been to Canada?" I hadn't, but I thought it was too far away to go to in a day."Can we?" Ken assured me that it wasn't all that far, so I said yes, I'd like to go. (Why not? Well, I'll tell you why not...)
  We made it to Canada. In those days they didn't check your passport, which I would have been prepared for  anyway. I didn't drive, but I traveled, so I always carried my passport. Ken had been to Canada before and they had never asked to see his passport. We looked around and had dinner at a terrible Chinese restaurant. It was called The House of Lee, but the sign was hard to read and it looked like 'The House of Noise', so we still refer to it that way. It started to get late so we decided we should head back to Ohio.When we tried to go through we were asked for our passports. I had mine, but Ken didn't. We were detained. Ken tried to tell them that he was an American citizen since birth because his father was American and had registered him in England. (Ken has dual citizenship since he was born in England to an English mother and an American father. If we ever get them their papers, our kids have it too, since Ken can pass on his British citizenship to them because they had the reverse situation to him. And strangely enough,if we bothered to get the paperwork, I have, in a sense, become English. Technically that is.) He tried to show them his Ohio driver's license, which only received the response, "Anybody can get one of those." They finally threatened to put him in jail if he didn't stop arguing with them. He calmed down a bit then, not wanting to leave me stranded in Canada alone.In the end Ken had to call his father and ask him to bring his passport to Canada so he could get home. His dad wasn't too pleased and said he wouldn't bring it until the next morning. That put me in the awkward position of having to call my Dad (I still lived at home.), and tell him that I wouldn't be coming home from my first date that night because I was trapped in Canada. I saved both our hotel receipts to prove we had separate rooms. Canada took us back with no problem. (We actually had trouble reentering the United States on subsequent trips, even with Ken's passport. As soon as they heard his Yorkshire accent there was a problem. Eventually I took to doing all the talking other than Ken's response to "What is your citizenship, sir?", which was limited to "U.S." I figured nobody could detect an accent in that.)
  Being trapped in Canada meant we spent more time together than we would have on a normal date. Once again, my reaction to Ken's international equivalent of banging my knee with a door wasn't anger or even 'This guy is cursed.'. I wouldn't even let him pay for my hotel room because, "It was an adventure." Ken was an underdog,and I always had a thing for Underdog. I just didn't realize I was
 Sweet Polly Purebred.
Just a quick note from Ken Tam I love you (my sweet polly pure bred).

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