My only unhappy memory of Japan involved my first fiancé Baxter Waynerite IV.
Baxter was one year ahead of me in art school and a dreamboat – handsome, tall, sapphire-eyed, his wavy blonde hair falling charmingly over one side of his face. Not only that but he was rich, flamboyant and a talented potter. He especially loved raku, an ancient Japanese technique.
The first time I saw him I fell deeply and completely in love but was too shy to talk to him. In my junior year when we were in a class together, he finally noticed me.
One day he came over and asked, “Would you like see a film with me?”
When Baxter graduated, he asked me to ride with him out of town to show me something. What could it be? A romantic inn? An engagement ring? Might he ask me to be Mrs. Baxter Waynerite IV?
“Yes!” I said, hoping the answer hadn’t tumbled out too fast.
He invited me out again and again and again. We were dating. I had a boyfriend!
I was so besotted by Baxter, I hardly noticed the quiet, earnest student in my sculpture class who was more involved in his studies than in making friends. He asked me to attend a concert once but I turned him down, too dazzled by my Baxter.
When Baxter graduated, he asked me to ride with him out of town to show me something. What could it be? A romantic inn? An engagement ring? Might he ask me to be Mrs. Baxter Waynerite IV? I was dizzy with speculation.
In his snappy red convertible we drove to a rural area far from the school.
Ooooooooooo! I thought, what now???
Getting out of the car and taking my hand, his smile showing all his perfect teeth, he said, “Come with me.”
We climbed a hill covered with chamomile flowers, the earthy fragrance making me heady with delight. When we came to the crest of the hill, Baxter made a sweeping gesture, “This, dear Syl, is my graduation present from my parents.”
We looked down onto a dilapidated farmhouse, a barn that leaned sideways and a few fallen down outbuildings.
Wow! I thought. His parents had millions and they’re giving him THIS?
“When I get back from Japan …..” he said.
“Japan? You never said anything about Japan.”
“….the crew of workmen will have converted the barn into a studio where I will install raku kilns. I plan to have you as my assistant!”
Kicking one foot back and forth through the chamomile, I asked, “So, I would be a worker?”
“Syl! You would help me with the firing! You know how complicated raku is. You and I would take turns staying up all night feeding the kilns with wood.” He hugged me close. “You would assist me, as my wife, the helper with my pottery, ”
“Oh, Baxter!” I sighed, putting my arms around his neck. I was deaf to ‘all night work’ and ‘assistant’ and heard only ‘my wife.’
“You’ll help me become famous!” he continued.
I pushed away from him. “What about my watercolors?”
“You could do them at night while you sit up watching the kilns!”
The smell of chamomile was beginning to choke me.
“I’ll have to think about this Baxter.”
“You’ll have a whole year to decide. For now, we’re engaged.”
“You said you’re going to Japan. Can I go with you?”
“That doesn’t fit my plan. I won’t have time for you. You don’t know how rigorous pottery studies are. Take some pottery courses, you’ll see! Until then —- sayonara!”
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