I sure did! He was sitting in front of me in my 8th grade science class. I was drawn to Tommy 1st because he was so exceptionally handsome. No other boys in our class had hair on their chests! He was so funny and so kind. He also had an unusual amount of “worldly wisdom” compared to other boys my age. But what really caused me to love him was finding out that this sweet, street smart guy was unable to read. It broke my heart.
His life had been so much different from mine up until that point. I’d been in a family that was stable and financially comfortable. He had been raised in a family that was continually breaking apart and had no idea of where he would be living in the next year.
Initially I think I loved him more than he loved me. Of course everyone thought this was puppy love. He on the other hand was simply delighted with the attention of all the girls in our class.
The day he turned 16 years old he joined the Merchant Marines. My heart was broken. I didn’t know if I’d ever see Tommy Garrett again.
I began my pursuit by purchasing his freshman pictures and sending the package to his Mother. She was delighted and encouraged him to write to me and thank me while away at the Merchant Marines school of seamanship. This ploy began our communication. He did write me back and I still have this letter today:
It said “Marthe- you dot how mug I thing a bit you. Love Tommy”
Thankfully there was a man on board Tommy’s 1st ship that told him this is not the life for you and if you have a young girl back home who love you go home and pursue that relationship. You would be happier working at a gas station and having a family that loves you. This life is no good.
Tommy took this man’s advice and left the merchant marines. Easter Sunday of my Sophomore year I ran away with him. We weren’t sure where we were going. We tried to go to New Orleans (where he had some family), but soon found out that our gas and the fact that the station wagon he had took more oil than gas would cost us too much to get there. We spent our first night together pulled over on the highway by a trash stop.
We were soon encouraged to try Shawnee Town, Ilinois because it was a known fact that anyone could get married in Shawnee Town.
Well- the judge in the Shawnee Town court house literally laughed and said “Kids go back home!” We couldn’t go back home -we’d already committed to spending the rest of our lives together. We moved to Shawnee National Forest. It rained for a week straight. Tommy’s car leaked. So we ultimately found our way into a cave under High Knob for cover and to hide from my Dad who surely had helicopters hunting for me.
We sold our spare tire for $5.oo which allowed us enough money to buy and share a bologna sandwich a day. When that ran out we knew we needed to come back to town and get Tommy a job and get myself back into high school. Ultimately these things happened. And my parents reluctantly signed for us to get married. We had our 1st son 3 years later and a second just 14 months after.
Can’t say it’s all been easy but I can say that I have no regrets! I married the kindest man in the world. And yes, real lasting love can be found at the tender age of 13! And by God’s divine grace our love has continued and grown as the years have passed by.
Happy 38th Anniversary to my best friend and the love of my life!