I was an adventurous 22-year-old girl back in 1981, working a few jobs in Boston and going to school on and off, when one day I decided to join my older sister on a European backpacking adventure. And so off we went, set to travel for two months. When we got to Italy (five weeks in) we decided to head to the Greek Islands.
We began to follow a wise American guy traveling alone. He was knowledgeable, and knew where to go, whether by boat or train. His name was Stearns Charles Pluff (Chuck), a 27-year-old from Biloxi, Mississippi and he had already been traveling the world for a year and a half.
One day, on a train in Greece, I found myself sitting beside an aggressive older Greek suitor that I had no interest in. He was intruding into my space. Chuck called out to the guy who was harassing me and told him to leave me alone, as I was his wife. Quickly, I ran to sit beside Chuck and hug and kiss him as he was now my husband :). He was a handsome and dashing guy. Well, it happened to be a very nice kiss and hug that led to a lot more.
All of us then traveled to Santorini, Greece and then back to Athens. My sister then wanted to cut the trip short (I always felt a bit guilty about the romance) and go back to the U.S. but I wanted to travel more, so she left for the airport and I went with Chuck to Istanbul, Turkey. We had an amazing time together. We traveled for a total of three-and-a-half weeks together. I cared for him, and we were immensely happy and comfortable with each other. But I knew I needed to go back to the U.S. to finish school. We said our goodbyes and agreed to write. I sent him a Christmas card but never heard back.
Fast forward 32 years to 2013, and I was packing up my house for a move. My oldest son came by for a visit and I said "Hey, look at my Europe file" -- as my son had completed a semester overseas. I emptied the accordion ribboned folder and let everything fall out. This included my Eurail map, ticket stubs, photos and lots of little pieces of paper.
He randomly pulled out one of the pieces of paper and said "What are these?" I said, "Before the Internet, when you met people, you wrote their name, address and phone number on a piece of paper and shared it." He said, "Who is this ... Stearns Charles Pluff?" I know, funny name. I said, "Oh well, there is a story behind that one." Of course I filter the story for my son. Knowing that I am divorced and alone, he told me that I needed to find this guy. I said, "Oh no no no, we are both Catholic and I am most certain he is married, I do not want to bother him."
My son grabs his laptop and after 30 seconds, he said, "Is this him?" WELL ... I tilt my head (because this photo of the guy is not the 27-year-old I knew, but someone 32 years older). I knew from the smile and the unique name and city, though, that it was him. It scared me but clearly made me smile. There he was. My son insists on me emailing him. I really had hesitations but then decided that, since my son never insists on anything, I ought to follow up. So I emailed Chuck the following:
Title: Greece and Turkey 1981
On 5/20/13 11:13 PM, Cathy Farmer wrote:
I was going through my old Europe file and I found your name with a Biloxi MI, address on a small paper.
I figured I would look you up online, just for kicks. :)
I was traveling with my sister when we met in Greece. You and I then traveled to Istanbul which included a crazy crowded train ride with a knife being pulled but then we enjoyed a most amazing turkish bath. I bought a rug that still is in my home today.
I hope the 30+ years have been good for you, as they have been for me.
Sending a fond memory smile your way,
Luckily, Chuck replied quickly to my email. He, too, was divorced and also unsuccessful in finding that forever love. So emails and texts soon turned into phone calls and finally Chuck came to the California Bay Area, whereupon old feelings were rekindled!
We are happily in love and living in Berkeley, California, doing work we enjoy and looking forward to traveling together a lot more as retirement nears.