Hamilton and Lillian Foster have been married for 10 years. An accomplishment when you figure that between them they have 4 failed previous marriages over 30 years. Hamilton was twice married before he met Lillian and vice versa. Hamilton’s first wife died tragically in a car accident in their fourth year of marriage and his second wife divorced him after two years, saying that she couldn’t replace his “dead wife” and wanted to stop trying. Lillian’s first husband was killed in the Vietnam War; they had gotten married to try and stop his draft - to no avail. Lillian’s second husband also left her, saying that he couldn’t compete with a ghost. Both were alone for a long time, nursing their wounds and wondering if those fleeting loves were all they were going to be allotted in this lifetime.
They came together over a shared passion for paper. Yes, paper, that stuff that they used to use in the olden days for writing letters and printing newspapers. Papermaking is a hobby that can tap into many creative skills such as infusing paper with plant materials and flowers, even fragrances, or into works of art using dyes and Japanese fibers such as Kozo.
Lillian was in her favorite local paper shop where she was browsing for just the right paper to write her daughter a letter for her upcoming 30th birthday. She heard a voice, as she describes, “that sent shivers right down to my toes.” Lillian looked up to see the back of a tow-headed man asking the young girl who was working the cash register if the store offered calligraphy classes.
The clerk told him that they did not at this time, because they didn’t have a teacher. Hamilton smiled and pulled out his card, done beautifully in hand set, elegant print and offered his services.
Lillian struck up a conversation with the intriguing man – how did a middle-aged (she teases herself and says out loud “Oh who was I fooling, middle-aged is still 50 right?”) man get into calligraphy?
Hamilton invited her to tea (tea! Not coffee at the local yuppie hangout but a proper tea!) and she swooned (swooned!).
“Hamilton and Lillian Foster have been married for 10 years. An accomplishment when you figure that between them they have 4 failed previous marriages over 30 years.”
Over tea and biscuits they learned a great deal about each other and their common backgrounds. A friendship was formed and then nurtured when Lillian signed up for his class and learned to take the jet black Indian ink and write lovely letters on her beloved paper. She in turn taught Hamilton the fine art of papermaking. She discovered that Hamilton had turned to calligraphy when his first passion – writing – failed him. He says “My fiction was painful to read, even to myself. I had no delusions that I was never going to write the great American novel. But, I did find that the art of actually writing, transcribing like the old monks and clergy did, was something I immensely enjoyed.”
The first Christmas they spent together was a tricky one. Lillian wanted to get something special for Hamilton, but nothing too expensive or too serious because she didn’t want to jinx the relationship or frighten him off. She decided on binding one of his stories in an elegant handmade paper cover and wrapped it in beautiful paper – as delicate as a bloom on a summer’s day – and presented it to him. He opened it, and she could tell from his eyes that he was indeed touched.
He left and came out with her present. It was a long box and for a moment Lillian panicked. Had he gotten her something expensive? Would her gift pale in comparison? She opened the box, and gasped when she looked inside. The box contained an elegant pair of long white gloves, strung up the sides with a delicate stitch and hand created mother of pearl beads that formed an intricate pattern of flowers, similar to a design she had created in a paper display a long time ago.
She gasped, “These are so beautiful!”
Hamilton smiled. “Now I’ll have to take you to high tea in them every month.”
Lillian and Hamilton went to many teas, and the following year he hesitantly asked Lillian to be his third wife. She smiled pluckily and said “Third time’s the charm! For both of us!”
Thank you Lillian (& Hamilton!), for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2008 by Adara Bernstein and Story of My Life ®