Travel back to 1978 with me, and you’ll see us on the isle of Crete looking like a couple of characters from the flashbacks in Mamma Mia.
The Consultant and I had been dating for eighteen months and we’d already extended our agreement. The agreement was to go our separate ways if we reached the one-year mark. We thought it was sensible since we were so young and neither of us had been looking for a partner when we met. It was reasonable to think, at 17 and 19; we needed to keep our worlds open to other personalities and experiences.
But when the anniversary arrived, we were enjoying life. We modified our plan – we agreed to stay together as long as we were having fun. The fun included a trip to Europe and over a month in Greece.
Our first stop in Greece was in a little town called Ierapetra. We found accommodation at the Cretan Villa, a pension (type of boarding house, pronounced pen-see-on) with community bathrooms and kitchen, for the equivalent of about 2.70 CAD per night.
It was full of young people from all over the world – Australia, Sweden, Canada, and the U.S. We spent lots of time on the rooftop, getting to know our fellow guests, making friends and sharing meal preparation.
One night, The Consultant helped one of our new friends, a girl from Seattle who was travelling on her own. He saved her from some lecherous, old guy by pretending he was with her. I felt jealous.
We argued and his explanation was simple. He wasn’t going to stand by and watch this girl in trouble, even if it made me unhappy. It hadn’t even occurred to him that I’d be mad when his intention was to help a damsel in distress. He’d do it again if he had to. It hadn’t occurred to me that his actions weren’t about his relationship with me. Me, me, me. I was only eighteen at the time.
I cried, we talked, I cried some more. We hugged, we kissed, and we found our connection. We realized we were raised in similar ways. We were each trying to be good people. We had similar family values and wanted to do right. We fell in love with the differences and the sameness we saw in each other. And that’s been our foundation for 37 years now.
So, have we been having fun all this time? There are times when I wonder.
In a long-term relationship, fun doesn’t always take the spotlight. You know how it goes. Life with children and work is busy. Healthy meals, skinned knees, and carpooling are front and centre, and take most of your attention.
We know we can have fun as a family but, once the kids mature and move into their own lives we wonder whether we can still have fun as a couple?
It’s easy to lose sight of the person who lies beside you at night. The person I committed to has changed with time and so have I. I know the foundation is still there but will it hold?
Next week, we’ll fly back to Crete. It’s been our dream since we left so long ago. Traveling is our thing. But, I’m a bit worried about revisiting the place we fell in love. I’m not naïve enough to think that Crete or our relationship is the same.
In 1978, our relationship was still budding, we were still learning about each other. Everything about the experience was new. The world seemed like a much bigger place. My flight to Europe was my first plane ride. It was exciting to find a whole new culture across each border.
We returned home from that trip with a great deal of travel experience under our belts, a deep connection with each other and a soft-spot for Europe.
Now, our relationship is mature. When we return, we’ll carry thirty-seven years of history with us. Will that history be weighty or will it propel us into another level of reconnection?
I know we can’t recreate our first experience but I look forward to a new adventure. This time, instead of renting a room in a pension in Ierapetra, we’ve rented a house eleven kilometres north of the small town.
Instead of scooting around on a mini-bike we had rented for a single day, we’ll travel the hour or so south in a car we’ve rented by the month. We’ll park and stroll around the same streets we did back then and reacquaint ourselves.
We’re hoping for breathtaking views of the sea, for crisp cucumbers and flavourful tomatoes bought daily from the market, shop owners who beckon us from the doorway and the friendly calls of “yasoo” from children as we pass by. We are anticipating the fun time ahead.
I wonder whether Crete, with its sweet and salty air, will hold the romance we discovered back then.
My hope is that we travel back to the island of Crete and fall in love all over again. Will we?
(You can see the sequel here)