merchant mariner families

...a highly unusual, sometimes maddening,
but mostly comical way of life.

July 09, 2013

sweater girl

   So in order to read this story, you have to know that my real name is Jennifer, not Callie, but you can click here afterwards to find out who the real Callie is.  Promise you won't be disappointed! 

  It began as it should, I guess, the eventual meeting between Beady and I.  It was December of 2002, I had just moved to Portland, Maine, having completed my stint in the military, and was starting a new job there.  I had also just ended a 2 1/2 year relationship with a man I thought was the love of my life, but you know how that goes, right?  Needless to say, I was in a very fragile state of mind having set into motion three huge life changers, experiences you're only supposed to have one at a time if at all possible.  Moving, working in the civilian world for the first time in 11 years, and breaking up with a fiance.  I live for danger!  Not... 
  About a month into the job, I started to settle in and was getting to know everyone pretty well while they were getting to know me with one exception--I made no mention of my ex as I was extremely concerned about appearing flaky, perhaps someone who would leave the job just as quickly as she came because California (that's how I refer to him) came-a-calling.  I didn't even think of the position this omission would put me in, a single girl in her twenties working with a lot of women who had sons and brothers they felt sure would be just right for me.  The last thing I wanted to think about was another man.  I had a man hangover, like drinking way too much tequila in one setting, just shy of alcohol poisoning, and finding it'll take a good amount of time before you can even go into the Mexican aisle at the grocery store for fear of getting a whiff of the golden libation even though I'm pretty sure they don't put tequila in refried beans.
    So I rebuffed a lot of the ladies and put them off with excuses that included wanting to focus on work and studying for my ultrasound boards, promising that I'd eventually be done with all of that and would have the time to date again.  Looking back, I think it worked out really well for them as they were probably quite pleased with dodging the bullet of adding me into their family permanently.  Because as you may have noticed, dear Reader, it takes a special kind of people to bring my kind of crazy into their lives. 
    Life went on in this way for a short while and I found myself speaking with a co-worker one day about my father having been a merchant mariner.  Unbenounced to me, another co-worker, Sweater Girl, had just rounded the corner and overheard a good portion of the conversation.  Okay, I'll break for explanation...

Sweater Girl worked in the office with me, a pleasant woman who seemed to look like this every day.  I mean, I'm heterosexual and found it distracting, so much so that when she'd walk up to my counter to say good morning, ask a question, or just stop by for a quick conversation I'd usually tell her to get those out of my face as I was trying to work. She always laughed.  She had a lot to be happy about.  Back to the story... 

   So as Sweater Girl processed the last bit of our conversation, her face took on a look of extreme excitement and she immediately blurted out, "OH MY GOD!  YOU HAVE TO MEET MY SON!  HE'S A MERCHANT MARINER, TOO!  HE HAS SO MUCH TROUBLE WITH WOMEN!"

   'He has so much trouble with women' seemed to hang in the air for eternity and I watched her face fade quickly from delight as she began to realize just what had come out of her mouth.  "Gee, Sweater Girl (yup, I really called her that to her face) that sounds like a ringing endorsement, you catch many single ladies for your son that way?"  And though I guessed what she meant by trouble, I feigned confusion simply to mess with her as long as I could. 

"By trouble you mean, he's a pervert?"
"What's he look like, ugly right?  He's ugly?"
"Is he serial killer material?  I mean, I know you'd still love him and all, but that's kind of a turn off for women."
"What's he smell like?  Pretty bad, huh?  No wonder he has so much trouble..."

    "None of those things, Jennifer!" Sweater Girl cut me off and started laughing.  "You know what I mean...the girlfriends he's had in the past just don't understand his-"
    "-proclivity to wear a cumberbund with jeans?"  
    "No," she smiled, "his schedule...they can't seem to get used to his schedule and the kind of work he does."  
    "Gotcha," I said having truly understood what she was saying.  I felt for the guy, too, thinking of Big Daddy Mitchell and how hard it must have been for him until he finally met my mother.  But I wasn't going to get involved in that kind of a mess, after all I'd just gotten out of a huge one and wasn't thinking about dating a normal guy, never mind one that would only be available for short bursts at a time. 
    "Sweater Girl...much as I'd like to make you as happy as you've made me with each and every one of your magical sweaters, I'll have to decline.  Since Daddy was a mariner, I'm just not interested in going down that road with another man, I'm sorry."  And I really was, and she really got it, but it didn't stop her from trying again.  Five weeks later, she asked if I'd like to go out with her and her family.  They were going out to a couple of bars, probably playing darts at some point, and having dinner.  She mentioned her son would be there, but no pressure, he didn't even know she was asking me.  I begged off, happy that I actually had another engagement so I wouldn't hurt her feelings and told her perhaps another time when he came back, which I knew wouldn't be for about 5 or 6 months.  Enough time to reveal my darker side which would surely discourage her from match-making in the future.  

 But something really strange happened... Sweater Girl and I became great friends and hung out at least once a week after work and even on the weekends.  We talked about everything girlfriends do, I even shared 'The California Incident' with her and I think she finally saw where I was coming from.  She certainly spoke of her son often, but only as much as she did the rest of her family.  She didn't push him on me, in fact she never mentioned the two of us getting together again, and I never had any second thoughts about sharing my tiny, I mean really tiny, like one guy, dating life with her.  Consequently, I spent a lot of time with her husband, got to meet one of her daughters, as well as a nephew.  Each of them I instantly liked and was so happy to have found a small group of people to have fun with.  
     Eventually, after having heard so many stories about her son and having had a good amount of time pass, I asked Sweater Girl if I might write to him as that seemed safe, a perfect way to get to know someone without any obligations.  The worst that could come out of it was a friendship with another one of her family members.  So she said she'd write to him and ask, then get back to me.  He replied in the positive, so I sent off my first e-mail having labored and worried over it for about two days, getting it just right, and a sigh of relief came over me when I read his response...
       "Hello Jennifer,
        Is it Jennifer, Jenne, Jenny, Jenni, J, Jay, Jen, Jennie, Ralph or something completely different?  I started with Jennifer because that's what you signed out your e mail with, but if you prefer to be called Bob or Frank, I can deal with that, too."

     Jackpot!  A man with my sense of humor!  And I knew then it was going to be okay no matter how this turned out.  We wrote for the next two months to each other nearly every day, it was not dating, just two people getting to know each other without the pressure of looks, sex, or the distracting games couples sometimes play in the battle of love.  There was none of that because we were not a "we" and it was just what I needed.  And then it was time for Sweater Girl's son, Beady, to finally came home, where we met for the first time (another ridiculous story), and have been together ever since.  Having gone against all my instincts to stay away from merchant mariners, I quickly fell in love with this wonderful man.  And I found that despite his "limitations", the very thing that turned away other women, he gave freely to me, more than any other man had, everything I needed in a relationship even though he was only home for less than half of the year.  Pretty heavy stuff, right?  Yeah, it totally messed with my mind for a while, too. 
     Happy, sure of each other, but not so sure of the future, we moved steadily toward that day of days, when two become one and join their lives together forever as they say in Hollywood.  Yes, it was THE most important day of my life...June 19th, 2005...the day Sweater Girl became my mother-in-law.          

Do you like what you're reading?  Subscribe or Like Me on Facebook to get notifications of Callie's next posting!  Thanks!

Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner        


  1. What a great story! Thank you for sharing. :)

  2. Jennifer what a great story. I love it!!!

  3. Just when I think your last blog post is my favorite, you top it! I love this story! Thank goodness for sweater girl! :) So happy to hear about your wonderful matchmaking mother in law. It's great that you can write with such vivid details, I almost felt as though I was hanging out by the coffee pot in your office watching this all play out! (slurp....needs more sugar)

  4. This makes me so happy! I love it!!