February Brings Love, Marriage, and Gossip
Ahhh, February…the month of groundhogs, love, and presidents! It is cold here, dark, and just far enough into winter that the charm has begun to wear off. We’ve shoveled snow, chipped away at ice, and scraped our windshields quite enough for now, thank you very much. So, in looking at the list above, we’ve decided to focus not on weather-predicting rodents, or the men who have held the highest office in the land, but instead on love. We’re something of a couple of experts on the subject, having watched love go right, love go wrong, and love just simply go throughout the years we’ve been together. We have grandparents who were married for more than 65 years when death did them part. We’ve had siblings who’ve stayed married against all odds, and even a few family members who waited way too long to make the divorce happen. Yep, we’re pretty much experts on the subject of love. So, it was with real happiness that our neighbor, who was born nearly 70 years ago in the house he still lives in across the street, sent us a copy of the wedding announcement for the newlyweds who built our wonderful old house.
Now, if you’ve been reading along with us here, you know that we live in a cool old house on the main street of a small farming community nestled in a valley in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They are mountains to those of us who have lived all our lives here in the East, but if you’re reading this west of the Mississippi, you’d consider them to be speed bumps. Still the valley has some of the most fertile and beautiful farm land you’ll find anywhere, and the couple who built our house came from two very old and prosperous farming families whose descendents still live in the valley.
Walter and Naomi (Doub) Remsberg were married just before Christmas in 1913. They eloped, which seems really quite romantic, but who knows? That could have been because they knew two prominent old families would create way more drama than either one of them wanted to endure just for the sake of getting married. The announcement said the couple would be keeping house and welcoming friends in the “beautiful new home Mr. Remsberg built on the East End of town.” Now, no one considers this the East End anymore, and town extends a good deal beyond our house to the east, but it’s fun to think about the day when this was considered the “outskirts.” The house, of course, is still beautiful, but the windows leak cold February air, the mirrors could stand to be re-silvered, and the plaster is cracked in more than a few places. (You either love old houses and don’t care about those details, or you don’t!) We were touched and thrilled to imagine the newlyweds settling into a happy life with a showplace of a new home.
Then we talked to the other neighbor who lives across the street. He is one of the few people who still remember Naomi. He moved into his house in the late 1960s, just before Naomi sold her home. She and Walter had lived here until his death in 1963. It was always just the two of them, with no children to help her manage the big house. (That also explains the good condition of the woodwork!) Anyway, our neighbor told us that Naomi made it clear to Walter that she would only marry him once he built her a beautiful house that they’d live in. What? We had all these sweet and nostalgic fantasies, and now we’ve resorted to crass materialism? Oh, where had all the love gone? Then we remembered who was telling us this story. Our neighbor across the street is the biggest gossip known to humanity! He and his wife both always have a discouraging word for every human they’ve ever had contact with! That’s why in the more than 15 years we’ve been neighbors, we’ve never said more than “Hello” or “How are you?”or “Lovely weather, isn’t it?” Oh, they’re nice enough people, but Mama told us years ago, he who brings tales also carries them away.
So, we’re going to stay nestled in the warmth of Naomi and Walter’s beautiful once-new home. We’re still going to imagine them happily sharing the day-to-day details of their life together, and we’re still going to believe the newlyweds enjoyed more wedded bliss than angst. Yes, it’s February. It’s cold. It’s dark. The thrill of winter has worn thin, but the glow of a long and happy marriage can keep even the crankiest couple warm and dry. At least, that’s the way it looks from where we sit.
|From the Library of Congress Print Collection|