We recently had a visit from Our Mutual Friend, Melon.
I met Melon in 1976, when we were both studying at the University of Exeter during our junior years of college, she from Kenyon and me from Oberlin.
“If you go to Oberlin,” she said to me, “you must know my high school boyfriend.”
I did learn about a fifteen-month expedition through sub-Saharan Africa the two of them joined with a group loosely connected to Dartmouth College.
Melon and I continued our friendship when we returned to the states. Over Winter Break in 1977, I even made a multi-day visit to her family’s farm in Hartland, Vermont.
I was enchanted.
We skied out the back door, across pastures and through woods. For dinner, we ate homegrown turkey and green beans accompanied by home baked bread. We washed it down with cider hardened in the cellar. After an evening by the wood fire, we retired to the unheated bedrooms upstairs. The room was cold, but a hot water bottle warmed flannel sheets on the bed. I slept well while frost formed inside the windows.
By the time I spread honey from the family’s hives on our morning toast, I knew this was how I wanted to live. This visit influenced me to dream about someday moving to Vermont.
I moved to Vermont for the summer of 1984 with every intention of returning to New York City in the fall. A week before I had to be back in the classroom, I had my first date with Tim, the new doctor in town.
On the phone, I’d learned that he’d gone to Oberlin and that he’d read Pride and Prejudice, so I invited him over. While we were talking before dinner, he mentioned traveling across the Sahara with a group of people from the Upper Valley.
“You’re Melon’s high school boyfriend!”
“How do you know Melon?”
That first date was also our last. We’ve been together coming on thirty-five years.
Meanwhile, Melon moved to North Carolina in 1978, where she still lives. But when she returns to Vermont, she often visits us. “I tell people I’m coming to visit two friends I knew before they met each other, but I didn’t set them up!”
She was just here. We warmed ourselves in front of the wood stove before enjoying a homegrown dinner of chicken and a dessert of red and black raspberries from our berry patch – the kind of meal I learned to dream about during that first visit to her family farm in 1977.
While she was here, we walked, we moved chickens into a new pen, and we talked about the progress of our lives since our last visit, of our current lives, and of the deep past that Tim and I share separately with Our Mutual Friend.