For months, the attractive young man who now stood across the library circulation desk from me had made cautious conversational forays toward me, and I had responded in kind. We were both shy people, and our attempts were hampered further because I was working, checking out his books to him.
He wasn’t a stranger. I’d seen him around for years. He worked at a local farm, and I first encountered him at the Bend Farmers’ Market. I bought vegetables at his farm’s booth. My first impression of him was, “He’s cute, but he’s way too young for me!” So I made no attempt to get to know him at that time.
Now, some three years later, the young man across the counter had grown a beard, and his features had matured. Though he was reserved and it wasn’t easy to guess at his feelings, I thought he might be interested in me, and I wanted to know more about him. From his patron record, I knew his name, Brian MacNaughton, and I could see that he was an avid reader. I liked his calm and gentle temperament.
As I looked at him on this winter day nearly twelve years ago, I felt like a puzzle piece in my head slipped into place and locked. I asked him, “Can I have your phone number?”
At first he didn’t understand my intent, because I’d just asked the patron in front of him to verify their address and phone number; the computer had prompted me that it was time for the yearly update of their records. So he said, “Don’t you have it there?”
“Yes,” I said, “but I’m not allowed to access patron records for personal reasons.”
“Oh!” He seemed happy, maybe even delighted, and gave me his phone number. We talked about going for a hike.
For our first date, Brian picked me up in his 1966 Chevy pickup, and we drove out to Grey Butte, a hill with a hiking trail. It was early February, cold and grey, which meant we had the trail to ourselves. I remember we talked about plants, and I was impressed by the depth of his knowledge. I could see at once that he was a deep thinker, a good listener, and very kind and thoughtful. I liked him.
During our early courtship, Brian played his cards close to the vest, and I couldn’t tell if he only liked me as a friend, or as a potential girlfriend. He told me a little about his family, including that his mother was a preschool teacher and that she hated reptiles. Soon after that, at the library, a petite, attractive woman brought a stack of children’s books about reptiles up to the desk. I scanned her library card and saw that her name was Judith MacNaughton.
“Yes,” she said. “I’m a teacher. I’m doing a unit on reptiles. I’m afraid of them, and I’m trying not to pass that fear on to my students.”
I took a chance. “Do you have a son named Brian?” Immediately I wondered if I’d overstepped. Maybe Brian didn’t want her to know yet that he had a nascent love interest–or maybe he hadn’t told her about me because I was just a casual friend and not important enough to mention.
At once, her face lit up into a friendly smile. “Yes! He told me about you, that you’ve been spending some time together.”
I felt instantly encouraged. This must be a good sign. Perhaps it was partly this that emboldened me to ask him if he wanted to get together for Valentine’s Day. I’d been invited to a Valentine’s Day dance, and asked if he wanted to go. He said he didn’t like dances, but would like to do something else. I went to the dance by myself and danced with friends, and later, Brian and I took a walk by the Deschutes River under the stars and danced together on the bank. Just like Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, he didn’t like dancing at parties, “performing for strangers.”
During one of my earliest visits to the small cabin Brian lived in on the farm where he worked, I noticed C.S. Lewis’s book The Four Loves sitting on his table. I had recently listened to Lewis’s original lecture on the four types of love: familial love, friendship, romantic love, and Christian love, and had been greatly impressed by his insights. I mentioned the book, and Brian said, “I’ve read it before, but I thought it was a good time to re-read it now.” I cannot describe how pleased and reassured I was that he took our relationship seriously enough to read a book that outlined love and commitment in ways I agreed with.
That fall, I gave up my job at the library to try to start a farm of our own with Brian in Hillsboro. That didn’t work out, but while we were there, we got engaged, and about six months after that, after moving back to Central Oregon, we were married.
A few postscripts remain. It turned out Brian is only three years younger than I am, so now I can laugh at my first impression of him (though, to be fair to myself, he was a teenager when I first saw him). I later learned that Jim, the farmer Brian worked for, teased him that winter about his frequent visits to the library, saying, “It looks like you’ve been checking out more than books at the library!” Judy, my mother-in-law, has remained a source of encouragement and a steadfast friend to me, and we frequently swap books and book recommendations. I was never able to get my job at the library back, but maybe that was because it had already played its part in the great adventure of my life.
Bookseller Amanda MacNaughton and her farmer husband, Brian, have now been married for over ten years. They live near Tumalo, Oregon and have a small market garden and CSA. Amanda sells books and manages author events at Paulina Springs Books in Sisters and Redmond.