The Unsuspecting Groom
As a young man prior to getting married I used to wonder about the lady I would end up sharing my life with. Who would she be? That is, if someone would have me.
Eventually I found a gal who would have me. However, the odds were stacked against us from the beginning. We met while I was in the U. S. Marine Corps. I was 25. She was 37. From the start, everyone said the age difference was too great and it wouldn’t last. Additionally, she was Okinawan and her command of the English language left a lot to be desired.
It was 1973 and I was stationed on Okinawa as a combat correspondent (news reporter for you terminal civilians). Okinawa is 60 miles long and 12 miles at its’ widest point.
I took leave to visit my grandparents in Arkansas prior to going to Okinawa. I can still hear grandma’s sage advice ringing in my ears. “Don’t you go over there and marry one of them furreners now, ya here?!”
To make a long story short, it was a whirlwind romance. We got engaged, I was ordered back to the States and I sent for her to join me at my new duty station, the Naval Air Station in Millington, TN. She came and we made the 600 mile trip to my grandparents’ house.
As I mentioned previously, my fiancé’s country is very small and she had never been anywhere else. You could drive the entire length of her country in about an hour, so any stretch of highway exceeding 60 miles was beyond her comprehension. About two hours into the trip she began asking me “Are we almost there yet?” The question came up about every ten minutes.
Approximately seven hours later we neared our destination. Grandmas’ advice about not marrying a “furrener” returned to haunt me. I needn’t have worried though. Once my grandparents met her, they saw in her what I had. They loved her immediately.
We got married in their house the next day. Coincidentally, standing on the same spot where my mother had gotten married. The preacher got to the point in the ceremony where he asked, “Does anyone have any objections why this couple should not be married?” Immediately granddad piped up with “Hold it right there Rev…!” My bride did not know granddad very well yet and she shot him a warning glare.
Granddad and her hit it off immediately though. She became his favorite target for good natured teasing. Since her Japanese name was a little difficult to pronounce I just nicknamed her “Tommie”. They also teamed up on grandma. My wife would say something to granddad in Japanese and he would respond in gibberish convincing her he was fluent in that language. From that point on grandma always thought they were talking about her and she would continually ask me “What did they say?” This ploy worked equally well on my grand aunts and uncles.
One grand aunt, Malisa, became especially fond of Tommie and they became fast friends. In the beginning when she and I would go visit family it was “Here comes Jimmy and Tommie”. Now it became “Here comes Tommie and Jimmy.” I had been demoted.
This duo teamed up on granddad! They pulled the “snake eggs” gambit on him. Simply put, it was a rubber band wound up between the two posts of a bent piece of metal stuffed into a small envelope. They unceremoniously presented granddad with the envelope and stepped back to watch. It was the first time I ever saw granddad get bested at any prank.
Shortly after our marriage I separated from the Marine Corps and we joined the civilian ranks and moved to Arkansas.
My new wife was fairly intelligent, although somewhat naïve. This was proven to me early one morning as we drove to work at zero dark thirty. There was a beautiful huge orange, Harvest Moon” hanging in the sky. Tommie stared at it for a long time before stating, “It’s entirely the Americans fault, you know?” I was completely puzzled. What was she talking about? “The dirty marks on the moon” she said. “They went up there and walked all over it and left their footprints everywhere!” And she was totally serious. I gave her the scientific facts which embarrassed her I guess. To this day she claims she was just kidding but I know the truth.
Don’t get the impression my wife was dumb. It’s quite the contrary. She was extremely inventive and resourceful. She had to be considering her height of 4’9”.
Here’s a case in point. One Sunday I was watching a football game when she came in and declared she was going to wash our car. I continued watching the game. Then it dawned on me she might need help getting the top washed, so I went to help. I needn’t have bothered. There she was with a mop expertly swabbing it down.
Other situations come to mind where her ingenuity came in handy. One day she decided our yard needed raking and she couldn’t find a rake. I came home to find her with a broom “sweeping” up the leaves.
Tommie also loved cooking. She and Grandma had a blast swapping Japanese and American recipes. One day I found them both engrossed in cooking supper. Spotting me, Tommie excitedly exclaimed grandma had taught her how to make “chicken and dumpoos”. Grandma chimed in with, “And she showed me how to make measle soup.” Dumbfounded, I had no idea what they were talking about. I went to see what concoctions they had been making. The “measle” soup was a Japanese staple called miso, pronounced “meezo” made with soy bean paste. The other dish was actually chicken and dumplings.
Grandma considered herself quite the beautician (although she held no license). So when Tommie decided she needed a perm she was quick to offer her services. It was a disaster! Apparently, grandma had let the perm set way too long, and the result resembled an unraveled red “brillo pad". Poor thing, had to wear a scarf for about a month.
Tommie and I spent 21 years together. Unfortunately, we went our separate ways but I won’t go into details. Suffice it to say it was best for both of us and there are no hard feelings.
I don’t think I’ll ever meet anyone quite like her again. She was quite unforgettable.
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