12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
Illustrations by Harry Blair
Last fall, a few of O.Henry’s writers, armed with notebooks and recording devices, hit up Greensboro’s
Corner Farmers Market to gather local tales of love. The results will
melt your winter heart.
Jordan and I met in college. One of our friends was working at a haunted trail in Gibsonville and she hired us as actors. I was a zombie and he was a scarecrow. I was walking down the trail trying to get to my spot and he popped out of the bushes and scared me. It was love at first “Boo.” — Abigail Hart
While a graduate student in Princeton, I was studying in the library of a house I had rented with a few friends. One of my roommates came back with this woman he had met. We all sat around, got stoned, of course, and had fun together. I was really attracted to her and she to me, but she had met Evan. Well, as fate decided, he was leaving the next day for a four-week camping trip out West — so I made my moves, and Jane and I were together for 44 years until she died. — Ken Caneva
I was working at a wine store here in Greensboro called Wine Warehouse. I would do wine tastings on Fridays and Saturdays. Brownlee would come into the store and I didn’t notice her for, I don’t know, she says at least a year. But one Saturday afternoon, I’m in the store by myself and she comes in, and I notice her, still in her yard-working clothes. She came in to buy a bottle of wine or two for a birthday party. She leaves with a case of wine. After I close up the shop, I go by a friend’s house and he says, “I have a birthday party to go to. Why don’t you come with me?” We go through the front door and down into the basement where the party is and I round the corner, look across the room and there she is. One of the first things we both said was “Did you notice me noticing you?” And we both said yes! After that, it was just the two of us talking throughout the evening. Lo and behold, we’ve been together 17 years. — Jimmy King
Her version: We met in college. I was 20 years old. Denis was 22. I took an extra credit class in college, and Denis had to take it because he was an international student. He walked into the class and I thought, That guy looks so crabby — I hope he’s not in my group. He ended up in my group. He was from France. I invited him to my 21st birthday party and he actually came and he’s been in love with me ever since. He’s obsessed with me.
His version: It’s about the same except — no, it’s the same. Maybe not as enthusiastic. — Susel & Denis Dépinoy
My real dad died when I was 10. My mother, Janey, met Lanny when I was 18, 37 years ago. Somebody sent him over because she needed something fixed at her house. She was a big church lady and the first place he invited her? Church. They started dating, got married. Mom and Lanny were very sweet to each other. They would make everybody uncomfortable when they were in their 60s at Thanksgiving because my mother would announce that they were going to die making love. Lanny got dementia this past February and it went downhill really, really quickly. She tried to take care of him at home and could not. Now, every morning, she pulls up his picture on her phone and kisses it. But when she goes over to see him he still recognizes her. The longterm is that, at 85, one person is going to take care of the other and the end is going to be taken care of in a very loving, romantic way. That’s what true love is. — Michael Moore
Can I share a patient’s story? I was treating this lady and she and her husband have been married for over 30 years. They met in the ’90s, right, when they had those brick cell phones. They were both on a flight to Michigan State University and it got cancelled. She was sitting underneath an airport payphone and he went to go use the payphone and was really pissed off that she was right under it using her big brick cell phone. While they were fighting they realized they were headed to the same place. His work paid for him to have a rental car so they road-tripped together as strangers to Michigan State University. When she got there, she couldn’t find her group so she had nowhere to stay. He offered his hotel room. There was no funny business, she assured me. They flew back together on the same flight and when they got back, he proposed to her with a ring pop from a gumball machine. And for one of their anniversaries, he got her a mini gumball machine. — Dr. Kaitlin Herzog
We worked together and I had to have surgery. I was out for a little while and Kristin came over to my house with my paycheck and a couple other things I needed for work, oh, and a giant fruit basket that the guys in my group got for me. My mom was there. Kristin came in and stayed for dinner with us. The night was on and Kristin said, “Well, I better get back over the hill.” I said, “See you when I get back.” And as soon as she walked out the door, my mom said, “She really likes you. I think you two are going to get married.” And she was right. We’re coming up on 12 years. — Andy Zeiner
We were not looking for a dog. It had been about three years since we’d had one. Someone left her at an apartment without food or water. We were out shopping one day and her rescue foster was there with Daisy Mae following her. We just fell in love with her and asked for a sleepover. It’s been about a month. She’s all things daisy — just the light of our life and our little love story. — Kim Hilton
I was 12 years old and had a horrible horseback-riding accident. My mother took me up to Massachusetts for a couple days to get away after I’d been in the hospital for a week. We went up to this resort and there were all these horses outside. I was not allowed around horses for at least six months because of the accident. I started asking around, who owned the horses, and was told the resort owner’s daughter rode. I went knocking and met her. The next morning, there was this big knock on the door of our hotel room, which opened to the outside. There was Betsy on her horse, Cinnamon. She said, “You wanna go for a ride?” She literally grabbed me, swung me up onto her horse behind her, and, like in a movie, we went galloping off into the sunset together. I am 65 years old now and we are still the best of friends. That’s my love story. — Lisa Pritchard
Anthony and I got married in 2004 and are getting ready to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We went to college together in Raleigh and dated from my freshman year. My senior year I decided I was going to live in Australia and travel for eight months to a year. I wanted to be free. So I broke up with him and I said to my dad, “What if I get there and I realize I still love him and he moves on?” And my dad said, “Well, if he moves on then he’s not the right person for you and it wasn’t meant to be.” So that gave me the permission. I went and I dated someone else down there — my mom thought I was never going to come home. She sent me a very long and detailed letter about how she felt like I was throwing away somebody that was very important to me. That made me very angry. How dare she think she knows me so well — ha! I actually broke up with the other guy, went to meet my friends from here in Tahiti and we all decided we were done traveling and homesick. We all called our families and said, “It’s been eight months and we’re ready to come home.” I called Anthony and said, “Will you pick me up from the airport?” He picked me up and we’ve been together ever since. — Thea DeLoreto
I met my husband at A&T University in summer school. It was a humanities class and I was a student at Bennett College. A group of us were over at A&T taking a class because we’d heard it was an easy “A.” So this guy comes in, good-looking guy, and I saw his eyes. They were green. I said, “Oh my God, I’ve never seen a Black guy with green eyes.” And I’m like, “He’s special.”
As a group of us were talking about a class we had to take, science with a lab, he overheard our conversation and offered us his lab book. They said, “You go,” meaning me because I didn’t have a boyfriend. So I did. And from there we started talking and dated for 11 years. Too long for me . . . but we married and he was true to his word about what he wanted out of a relationship. His name is Bobby and he’s a good guy still. — Page Motley Mims
I love the Greensboro History Museum. It used to be the library when I was a little girl. And I used to love for my Mama to take me there. — Melinda Crawford
My love story is about me and a little rescue filly. Her mother was a very famous endurance racer. She and her baby had gone to auction with the fancy horses, but they put the baby in the kill pen. The Homestretch Thoroughbred Rescue, which rescues ex-racehorses, saw this little baby and they pulled her. She wasn’t a wild horse, but she was feral. So I spent eight hours a day just standing in her stall, letting her get near me. She didn’t trust people so she would rear, which is very dangerous. So we had two things to train her with from the beginning: one, boundaries. And two, trust. Eventually we added other skills. I was thinking, What am I going to name this little Arabian horse? And my girlfriend, who is a musician, suggested Scheherazade after the Tales of 1,001 Nights princess. Scheherazade was called to the evil prince, who would stay with the women for one night, then kill them. But she told him a story and he spared her life and asked her to come back to finish the story. So Scheherazade is the Arabian princess whose life was spared because she had so many stories left to tell, just like my little horse. — Megan Blake
Delta’s Sky magazine wanted to do an issue celebrating their 75th anniversary of air travel and they wanted people to write in about their stories. I did and they ended up printing the story in that edition. The short version is that we met on an airplane. Actually twice. The first time he didn’t call me. But we sort of reconnected and then the second time, he did call me. We’ve been together ever since, 22 years. — Kim Littrell
We met at a party dancing — a year before we ever started dating. I was 28 and I thought she was 18, way too young for me. And then I realized that we’re only 11 months apart. We began dating and were long distance for a year before she moved here to North Carolina. She was leaving a career in the legal field to follow her dream to be an interior designer and I was leaving a career in accounting to follow my dream to be a potter. We moved to Durham together having no idea what we were going to do or how we were going to make money. A decade later, we’ve really established ourselves and fallen in love with our family — there’s a little one right here! — Chris Pence
So I rescued my little sweet baby Papillon from a crackhead who was selling her on the street for a dollar. She’s the sweetest dog in the whole wide world. Precious little angel. She really saved me. She’s so patient, loyal. She has little butterfly ears but her name’s Bat Baby — she looks like a little bat. — Kim McHone
I’ve been married 46 years, I think. I’d have to do the math. Still married to my high school sweetheart. We met doing a local theater production in Stuart, Florida, where we grew up. I was playing the Conjure Man in Dark of the Moon. She was an usher and she came and sprayed the back of my hair silver for me. Now it’s silver all the time, but at the time it had to be silver for the show. And we’ve been together ever since. — John Vettel
We’re staying in a rental while our house is being worked on and there’s a really adorable groundhog that lives in the backyard.
I just love watching him — he is totally chill.
We’re kind of sharing this space, but I just enjoy him doing his thing. I’m not trying to make it out that he’s something like a pet. If I tried to pet him, he would bite me. That’s something that people forget about because they’re so cute. It’s kind of an interesting love story in that I love him and he definitely does not love me. — Ashley Duez
I’ve been married to my husband, Roch, for 61 years. We met as teenagers on Hollywood Beach, Florida, and he went his way and I went my way. What attracted us? We were in our bathing suits on the beach in Florida! We got engaged in 1960, got married and had three sons. We knew the importance of education so Roch went back to school to get his Ph.D. at Emory, where we lived in student housing with our three sons. Then we came back here after our children graduated from college and I got my B.A. and M.A. at UNCG. So we’ve been residents here in Greensboro for 53 years, connected to UNCG. — Elaine Smith
You know how you think you know someone and then you meet them all over again and you fall in love all over again? It was my son. Yes, I gave birth to him, I loved him all his life. And then I met him anew as an adult and fell in love again. — Sandy Reiser
A long time ago — because we’ve now been married for 53 years — I had my eye on this guy in my graduate program.
My roommate and I were disgusted with having to spend the whole summer in Chapel Hill taking courses, and we decided things would be better if we fell in love . . . So we each picked out a target and went to work. It was like a competition between the two of us. It meant that I had to spend the whole summer going to the university library because this guy was quite dedicated to his studies, and so I was throwing myself in front of him so he would notice me and decide I was wonderful and he wanted to marry me.
It worked, ultimately, but along the way I had to say to my roommate, “I’m out of the game. This is it; this is serious. This is the one I want.”
— Virginia Haskett
So we first saw each other at Panda Express and then we ran into each other at Breakers. We met at the bar. Brittany happened to lose her cell phone. I found it, returned it to her, and then we went on our first date. We’ve been married six years. — Felipe Tejeda
I went to Grimsley High School and a guy had been calling me all summer to go out . . . This was in the day when your parents had a phone line and you had a children’s line. He always called the children’s line about the same time of day and I would say, “Mom, please answer it; I don’t want to go out with this guy.” And so finally, she answered it and said, “Yes, she’s right here.” And I was like, “Mom!”
He said, “We’re going to see the movie Purple Rain and we’re going on a double date with my friend, Ronnie Majors, and the girl he’s dating.”
And I said, “OK, that’ll be great.” So, we got to the Janus Theater, and we sat [together] — my date, me, Ronnie, and his date. And Ronnie, who’s my husband now, we sat beside each other and talked the whole time.
So fast forward to the next day.
I used to work at Carolina Circle Mall at the Peanut Shack out by the ice-skating rink, and he came out to see me. And we get home and walk into the back door — also, we had known Ronnie’s mom for years, because she worked at our orthodontist — and I said to Mom, “Look who I picked up at the mall!”
A couple of years later, my husband said, “I felt like the biggest mall loser when you said you picked me up at the mall!” We started dating, and the rest is history!
It will be 30 years in June. — Jenny Majors OH
Well, 40 is a good year! When I was turning 40, my friends threw me a birthday party. The party took place in Atlanta. And, unbeknownst to me, a mutual friend who had moved to Charlotte came and talked a friend of his into coming with him. Long story short, when my now husband walked into the party, he saw my picture. And he told me later that he knew. So, we met at my 40th birthday party and, a year and a half later, we were married. And neither of us had ever been married before! No kids. But God is good. And our marriage is great . . . 26 years now. — Barbara Banks