let your heart speak
In my last post, I wrote about believing in love and keeping the excitement of meeting the right person. And as I promised on Monday, this will also be a mushy gushy post; however, upon completion of that last post, I didn’t yet know what I would write about for today. Isn’t it funny how inspiration comes from the most unexpected places when you need it the most?
That quote at the top was from my grandmother’s - my Mom Mom’s - diary. She mentioned before that quote that she’d been out with a fellow named Stan, yet Johnny was still on her mind. My whole life I’ve been told by various family members how much I remind them of my Mom Mom, but as she passed away 14 years ago, I was only 13 at the time. I have many fond memories of her and so many life lessons and poignant sayings I can tie directly to her influence. It was difficult to lose her and to see my mom lose her mother, especially at such a vulnerable age; however, I am just so thankful I got to have 13 years with my Mom Mom and that I’ve gotten a glimpse into her life via her diary.
My Mom Mom, Rosemary, was beautiful - even up until the day she passed, she had the most beautifully perfect white hair I’ve ever seen. She never went gray, just white. I’ve seen pictures of her when she was a young woman, and she was a stunner, but what I admired most about her all through my childhood was how strong she was and how giving and loving she was to her family members. I’ll never forget the time she told me in front of my mom that of course I could have coffee because her “grandbaby can have whatever she wants at Mom Mom’s house.” I later begged my mom to buy Mom Mom a special mug I’d found at an antique store that said “My Irish Cup of Coffee.” Apparently I was beaming when Mom Mom told me she loved it. Based on her diary from 1943, Mom Mom was beating away men with a stick. I think I counted three different marriage proposals she turned down from young men just in the first few months of 1943. I can only imagine the countless dates and marriage proposals she turned down in years prior.
She went on dates with plenty of “swell” guys - yes, the use of the word “swell” is everywhere, as well as the word “neat.” At times I felt like I was being transported to that movie Pleasantville. She went out on dates with Stan, Don, Frank, Ron, and Bill. At one dance she had 12 different dances with Frank, and she even noted about Bill: “This feeling could be love, but Johnny is always present for me. (Feb. 6, 1943)”
Other things I’ve learned about my Mom Mom since reading her diary: she complains about the Philadelphia weather a lot (just like me), she worked a lot and worked hard (just like me), she respected her parents even if she didn’t always agree with them (just like me), and she valued herself above anyone else’s judgments (just like me). There are so many things in her diary that have stuck out to me that I know I have to go back and reread it. I feel like there’s been not just a part of my Mom Mom’s past that’s been unlocked but also a part of mine.
Growing up, I’ve always gone by Johny, but it’s my middle name. My first name is Rosemary after my mother, my Mom Mom, and my great grandmother. I always assumed that Johny came from my father’s side as it is my Dad’s name and was my Pop Pop and great grandfather’s name, as well. I didn’t realize that it was also the name of my Mom Mom’s great love - a love that survived World War II.
The path to my Mom Mom’s marriage to Johnny was not an easy one. There was a lot of uncertainty because of WWII, which surely is why my Mom Mom kept her options open and continued to date and keep her life going separate of her love being away. She even felt as though she might have gotten close to love, but she still couldn’t quite shake her feelings from being with Johnny.
That someone had such a profound effect on my Mom Mom and that she had such a profound effect on him that they kept in touch via letters and the occasional phone call is something truly beautiful. Those loves do not come around often in life. Most people are lucky they get to experience it at all - those feelings you just can’t shake about another person and how they pop into your head at some of the most inconvenient times.
My Mom Mom was wise. On March 10, 1943 she wrote, “Don’t know what Johnny and I are going to do but time is the only thing that will solve that problem.” She realized that timing is everything in life and that you can’t worry about the things you can’t control (something I’ve really come to believe more and more). She had received a phone call from Johnny that day where they “gabbed for ages,” but she just enjoyed the experience and let herself enjoy it without the need to control the outcome. The very next day she wrote “Don’t know what’s going to happen yet, but I can dream, can’t I.”
And that’s really what it’s all about, right? The dream? We all do it. We all meet that person we can’t stop thinking about and we find ourselves letting ourselves dream about what a future might look like with that person. We don’t act right away, we try to fight it by dating other people, keeping up our social lives, working hard, but at the end of the day, we can’t and shouldn’t let go of the people who excite us. There are so many boring people in the world. We should hold onto the ones who excite us and make us feel alive.
My Mom Mom knew it. She couldn’t control WWII and all the surrounding factors to her relationship with Johnny, but he was always at the back of her mind. And based on the few love letters I’ve read that he wrote to her during the war, she was always on his mind, too.
We often fight against the things we want the most only to wind up with them in the end. Some say why fight? And I agree. Some say the fight makes it more worth it. And I agree with that, too. The most important thing I think, though, is that at the end of the day you end up with someone who loves you for you and who is willing to let themselves be happy with you.
April 12, 1943 - “I just finished telling him how much I love him but he knows it anyway so what can I say. He loves me just as much and I’m so happy.
April 13, 1943 - Johnny wrote in my Mom Mom’s diary - “Like I’ve said as many times before and I’m sure you know it’s true now—I love you more than anything in the world. It’s been something more than wonderful being with you the past few days and it’s really, believe me darling, my fondest hope that we belong to each other for the rest of our lives.”
Johnny and Rosemary were married May 17, 1943 in Topeka, Kansas. My Mom Mom’s wedding band had three words inscribed in it - “Love, Honor, Cherish.” She ended her writing on May 18th with the phrase “We are so very happy.”
Not every passage up until their marriage was happy. There was a lot of doubt and uncertainty, a lot of hard work, and a lot of dating other people and worrying about parental approval. But when two people really love each other and can’t seem to get the other person out of their heads, time has a nice way of working things out. Timing is everything, and if two people are meant to be together, isn’t it beautiful to think that they will be?
There was so much dating and courting and so many marriage proposals in my Mom Mom’s diary and life, but there was only one real love: her Johnny. And although they didn’t get as much time together on Earth as they had hoped, the time they had together was absolutely filled with love. Johnny passed away in July of 1952, which meant that Rosemary only got 9 years of marriage with her love, but if I know anything about my Mom Mom, those 9 years were full of enough love and happiness and devotion to last several lifetimes.
Good things take time, commitment, and a strong foundation. This applies to relationships of any sort (romantic or platonic) and also to any big dream in life. Don’t ever give up on anything or anyone that you can’t stop thinking about - there’s a very specific reason you can’t get that person or idea out of your head. And please, don’t ever give up on anything or anyone that makes you feel alive - if your face lights up when you’re talking, follow that. That’s your heart speaking through your body.
(Also, one last thing that was really cool and jumped out at me: my Mom Mom met George Bush in March of 1943. I kid you not. She even wrote about it - "Met George Bush - a plebe from West Point this month. He is one swell person." You never know who you're going to meet in life and who they might become. Be kind to everyone.)
Thank you so much for reading, and, as always, if you have any pressing questions or if you want to discuss something further with me, feel free to subscribe below or reach out to me on the “contact” page. I’m so grateful you're here and that I’ve been getting a lot of really challenging questions and even better feedback from a community all over the world. I couldn’t do this without you! So THANK YOU! I’m here for you, and I love hearing from you, too! You’re the best, and you have everything you need inside of you! Please believe it! Starve your ego, feed your soul - and follow your heart!
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