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The Conversation

Real Simple magazine’s, Kristin van Ogtrop asks in her editor’s note of their August issue:

“Have you ever had a conversation that changed your life?”

One immediately came to mind for me. It was a sentence said to me at the age of 15 that has haunted me all my life.

I was at my grandmother’s camp on Sebago Lake, meeting her for the first time as a teenager. Lettie, a relative on her Norwegian side, was visiting and staying in one of the small cottages on the property. I don’t even know if that’s how she spells her name and I don’t believe we had more conversations than one, but one was enough with that woman. My impression, formed from her sentence, said with a rugged finger pointed at me and with squinted eyes, created her lifelong persona for me that may or may not represent who she is entirely.

Unsolicited she said to me: “It’s just as easy to marry a rich man as a poor man.”

I was horrified and offended. She didn’t even know me. I was 15 and deeply in love with a gorgeous, kind boy. And I was an independent woman with big dreams of my own. That was like telling me the earth was flat. I thought that the most deplorable thing to say to a strong young woman.

And then all my life, it has come back to me at various odd times. I’ve softened in that her intention was probably noble. I know nothing of her life and maybe that is what she wished for herself. Perhaps she thought she was giving me sage advice. I’m certain now her intent was surely not to upset me.

That sentence didn’t change me; it just deepened my own strong convictions.

I’ve been married to that boy for 26 years. At the age of 50, what I know for sure is that Lettie was wrong.

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