Religion Magazine

A Love Story Begins At Box 25, Willow River, BC

By Marilyngardner5 @marilyngard


A Love Story Begins……by Robynn

Lowell and I are getting ready to celebrate our 21st  anniversary on May 7th. Our twentieth was lost in the shuffle of death and memorials and details last year but we are redeeming our 21st! Lowell has already booked us into a bed and breakfast for a weekend getaway in the romantic Atchison, Kansas. This little story seems appropriate….

Through all the years of moving around western Canada and then across the globe to Pakistan and back again, one thing stayed the same: Grandma and Grandpa’s address and phone number.

Theirs was the address (Box 25, Willow River, BC) and phone number we used for our permanent address on the countless forms and applications we filled out.  It was our pivot point. A place we always returned to. A fixed spot that didn’t move or change.

This meant a great deal growing up in South Asia. There was comfort in knowing we had such a place in the universe.

But it mattered even more, after I had left Pakistan, graduated from high school, and felt a particular type of vulnerability. I was untethered, unmoored. I wasn’t from anywhere any more. It was unsettling. In the midst of that though, I still had an address I could use, a phone number I could call to mind.

College applications, and later, job applications had Grandma’s address and phone number written on them. I used that number in filling out visa applications when I went home to Pakistan to visit. I used that number in my attempts to apply for a credit card. I used it for drawing entries in a silly quest to win round the world airline tickets, or free laundry detergent for a year.

Years later it was the address and phone number I gave out to a particular Lowell Bliss, a man I met at a training program in New York City. He was on his way to India to study. He suggested we keep in touch. I gave him Grandma’s address. I was on my way there, to my fixed spot, my permanent place. I would eventually catch up with whatever Lowell might send me.

On the way I stopped to visit my dearest Auntie Carol, in Kelowna, when I got a call from my Grandma. A letter had arrived from the mysterious Lowell Bliss. Auntie Carol and I were squealing on one end of the line. Wouldn’t Grandma please open it and read it to me over the phone? Mary Doerkson was in the middle of giving Grandma a permanent. We could nearly smell the intense chemicals all the way in Kelowna. Grandma opened the letter painfully slowly. She put her glasses on and began to read. The only thing is Lowell’s writing was difficult on first glance to read. Grandma struggled through, “Mary…what does this say?” Mary would stop rolling hair into curlers long enough to peer over Grandma’s shoulder. They sounded words out, they squinted, they guessed. Each passing line successfully read was met with screams and sighs and squeals and silliness from Auntie Carol and me.

I had intended to linger in Kelowna a day or two with my aunt and uncle….but it seemed of utmost urgency that I press on quickly for Willow River to retrieve the letter and Lowell’s affections. We threw my things, strewn around my temporary room, into my suitcases and rushed to the Greyhound bus depot. Auntie waved me off with tears in her eyes and excitement for me in her heart. Grandma, hair freshly (and tightly) curled, met me at the bus stop in Prince George with Lowell’s letter in her hand.  I hugged grandma tight, and dove into the letter first thing. I understood why she had struggled to read it right. His handwriting was impossibly tiny and at odds with the paper. But I read his heart and his intentions and so the love story began–

There at Box 25, Willow River, BC.

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