- Maggie Wallem Rowe
A California Love Story
In the 15 years I’ve been chronicling tales, tender and true, I’ve never posted a simple love story.
Mike and I are ten days into a two-week California road trip. Starting at my brother’s home in the Bay area, we’ll have visited ten sets of family members and friends-who-are-like-family up and down the coast between San Francisco and San Diego. (Our friend Patty joked before we left that our ambitious plans sounded like one of the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, minus the shipwrecks and floggings.)
O Californians, I understand why you love the lives you share here!
In winter, the hills are verdant with green, and practically every home has citrus trees bowed with ripe fruit. Gardener Mike is especially impressed that the dry coastal soil is so wildly productive. Our daughter Sarah’s terraced yard near San Diego sustains eucalyptus and rosemary bushes taller than NBA superstars, as well as lush lemon, lime, peach, and orange trees for juicing. She can pluck avocados and pomegranates at will, and her kitchen garden produces mint, basil, parsley, and oregano for cooking.
So what if the house rocked a bit this week when a tremor shook the earth, and residents keep vigil for wildfires stirred by the fierce Santa Ana winds? Despite natural peril, everything seems to grow here.
The young woman was in her early thirties when she swapped East Coast for West. There aren’t many places in this country farther apart than Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and San Diego, California. She knew no one, took nothing with her but her tiny Maltipoo, clothing, and a few possessions. As stagecoach travelers discovered a century prior, there are few material things worth transporting 3,000 miles.
But she carried with her what mattered most: Resilience borne from a challenging life, and resolution to craft a new one borne from personal choice.
Blessed with long auburn hair and large eyes the color of sea glass, the young woman had many admirers throughout high school, college, and beyond.
But admirers are not always friends. Some take more than they give, expect more than they earn, demand more than they deserve.
And she was through with that.
The young woman quickly found a job in retail and used her savings to rent a modest apartment with a balcony. The concrete platform suspended in the sky was too small to hold more than a chair or two, but large enough for dreams and prayers.
The job held little future, and the future is all that she had. So she found a new position in a field that demanded early hours as well as keen intelligence, logistical acumen, and a fiercely strong determination to succeed.
Qualities the young woman had in spades.
But what she did not have was love. Not the kind of love that fills the longing of the heart for a life partner who will cherish you in return.
Fifteen months after her arrival in southern California, she stood on her tiny balcony looking into the horizon where the sky met the mountains.
I don’t think God intends for me to die alone, she thought. Somehow I just know that. Because I know Him.
And tilting her chin towards the setting sun, she spoke to Him about it.
“Lord, I can’t make this happen. I’ve tried, and it was no good. I release my desire for a man to love. For a husband.
I'm done. It’s in Your hands.”
…exactly one week after launching her prayer into the heavens, the young woman saw a notice about a local restaurant and museum, the Green Dragon, that was hosting an exhibit about Boston. With a rush of affection towards her native New England, she stepped into the exhibit on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the eleventh of November.
And at the very same moment, a young man with tousled blonde hair – a former history teacher – walked into that very same exhibit. A young man with a deep reverence for God and a passionate love for all people, particularly his own family.
His name was Dale.
Her name was Sarah.
And just over one year later, Mike and I were home on an ordinary afternoon in North Carolina when our cellphones suddenly buzzed with photos of that same young man with sandy blonde hair on his knees on a hillside. He was proposing to that beautiful young woman. She had tears of joy in her sea glass eyes.
California is the land where Hollywood screenwriters plot stories with happy endings. Fictional characters meet at the dog park or bump into the love of their life in the supermarket or are brought together through wildly implausible circumstances. It’s the stuff Hollywood peddles because it just doesn’t happen that way in real life.
Until it does, because Someone else has written the script.
What led Sarah and Dale to step into that little museum exhibit at the same moment in time?
Who introduced them to each other?
I suspect you already know the answer. Because you know Him.
No, I’ve never told a tale of love in this space before, but then again?
Maybe every story that is truer than true is just that kind of tale.
- (c) 2022 Maggie Wallem Rowe