The Story of Benjamin and Megan (We both have to write statements for Bens' Australian residency application - kind of like 'Greencard'!!)
On Sunday February 21st 1999, my close friend Josephine and I were relaxing in the library of LOGOS II, the ship we had travelled to Argentina to live and work on. We were chatting, wondering what kind of menfolk we would meet. A friendly chap popped his head in the door, introduced himself, and showed us around the library. He was wearing an oily boiler suit, and had a fabulous smile. He told us his name was Benjamin Ady, showed us how to check books out and was most welcoming. After he left, Josephine and I smiled at each other and decided we thought LOGOS II menfolk were OK!
Somehow I was convinced to do a team intensive training program, which amongst other things involved working out on the quayside at five in the morning, then going for a run together, every day for six weeks. Not being a morning person, I was wishing I’d never signed up. Benjamin sent me an email mocking our early exercising, which amused me so much I stuck it up on my office wall on board the ship. He seemed quite pleased about this!
As ship’s journalist, I interviewed and photographed Benjamin for one of my earliest LOGOS II stories. I found him fascinating to talk with. His way of seeing the world intrigued me. His sense of humour made me laugh upoariously. We began sending each other emails often, and playing chess regularly in the ship’s kiosk.
In Tema, Ghana, November 1999, walking home after a lovely meal out with a group of friends, Benjamin retold a favourite Tolkien story, in which Galadriel offered Gimli anything he wanted, and he asked for three strands of her hair. I pulled out three of my hairs and gave them to him. Unbeknownst to me, he kept them, and still has them! Lying on a magical stage on the quayside, I felt perfectly happy, and knew with all my being that Benjamin was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
He didn’t talk to me much after that, and this quenching of my hope was awful. On February 8th, 2000, at sea off the coast of Gabon, Benjamin asked me to meet him on the funnel deck at the top of the ship. I was surprised, and willingly obliged. It was a starless night, and I groped carefully along in the precarious darkness, wondering if he was there. I was right next to him before I saw him! He said he wanted our relationship to move in a romantic direction, and asked me if I wanted that too. I felt happiness pouring out of my heart, in the ensuing silence. At last I said, “just in case you can’t see me (which he couldn’t!), I have a smile a mile wide right now!”
In Benin he sang me a song he told me he’d written about us before we’d ever met. “When my eyes are old, I know you’ll still be in them. There will be years of memories, of loving you in them. I’ll never have to wonder, where you are, You’ll be here in my heart, and in my love filled eyes.” I remember thinking “This guy is really serious about me!” and feeling terrified.
Genova Jazz club, Italy, became our sacred haunt. We would listen to fabulous elderly Italians playing mellifluous music, then walk for hours through Genova’s narrow, cobbled streets, stopping for pizza or gelato, (or both!) then racing to get back to the ship by curfew at midnight. It was springtime, and everywhere blossoms and birdsongs celebrated our newfound love with us.
We flew to Benjamin’s home on the Skykomish River in Washington, USA. His parents and sister Kat welcomed me warmly, and took me on a fantastic camping holiday to Conconully in the Cascade Mountains, one of their favourite spots in all the world. We were delayed returning, and when we arrived back in Italy, our ship had sailed for Albania. We had a lovely, romantic sojourn in Venice, and then caught a ferry to LOGOS II in Albania.
Early the next morning, we were called to a meeting with the ship’s leadership - five stern, austere gentlemen who informed us that disciplinary action was being taken against us, and we were to be sent home. They never really explained why, which was rather confusing, but after sailing through the Greek Islands and exploring Izmir and Istanbul, we were to board a plane bound for Sydney, where Benjamin would meet my family.
Under a sky with more stars in it than I have ever seen, sailing off the coast of Turkey, on the funnel deck, Benjamin seemed to be poking my finger. “What is it?!” I wondered. “Megan Ann Jones, will you marry me?” Bens asked. “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes,” I declared, as he slipped an elegant golden ring onto my finger, embedded with seven pink rubies.
Our wedding was a marvellous affair. My father and I, with a bevy of bridesmaids, walked barefoot along a soft, sandy Australian beach, the surf creaming in rhythmically. My father lifted me and carried me over a little creek trickling into the ocean. Benjamin was waiting for me on a grassy knoll at Lighthouse Beach, along with all our childhood familes, and many others dear to us. We declared our vows beneath the huge Australian sky, parrots skawking jubilantly in the background.
We had our first married argument on board a yacht, sailing around the Whitsunday Islands (a wonderful honeymoon treat from my brother Tom!) Neither of us had ever sailed before, and both were sure the other person should “Grab that rope! You’re going to make us capsize!”
Marriage to Bens is an excellent adventure. Our first home was on the Skykomish River, for winter 2001, and we named it the ‘Caravan of Love’. Our next abode was a mansion overlooking the Cascade Ranges which we house-minded for the summer, and named ‘Cerin Amroth’ from J. R. R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’. Our Woodland Park Avenue home was particularly significant, for there our lovely daughters Eowyn Megan and Cosette Josephine were born. Eowyn’s name is Tolkienesque, and Cosette’s is from Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserables’, which Benjamin read aloud to me. In 2005 we lived at ‘Glenmerle’, named after the magical haven in Sheldon Vanauken’s ‘A Severe Mercy’, and in 2006 we moved to our present hobbit hole, ‘Bag End’. Family life is very rich, creative, intense and wonderful. Our family holidays have included a hotsprings crawl in British Columbia, a two month road trip around the USA, visiting 33 states, journeys to England for my brother Tom’s marriage to Anita and my brother Sam’s marriage to Becca, and many delightful camping trips in beautiful Washington State.
2008 has been a difficult year. Benjamin’s mother slowly deteroriated in health, and died from ovarian cancer on June 27th. The intense grief and sadness we all feel lingers on. She was very proud of her son Benjamin, graduating Magna Cum Laude from the University of Washington just before she died.
The next chapter in our story, we hope, is to move to Australia, and be near my dear parents and sisters, Seren and Rachel, brother-in-law Victor, and soon, my fifth nephew! I look forward to them all getting to know my husband and children in that live-near-by way, and happy reunions with old friends. It will be sad to leave our dear friends and Benjamin’s family here in the USA, but we plan to have a guest room so they all can visit us! I wonder whether Eowyn and Cosette will keep their cute American accents?
Initially on moving to Australia, Mum and Dad are very generously opening their home to us, giving us time to settle in, and find a home and jobs. Benjamin intends to utilise his excellent arguing skills by studying law, and I’ll find a stimulating job which fits my degrees in journalism, midwifery and nursing. My kindly Mum has kept my Australian nursing and midwifery registration current - the Australian Government’s ‘Bringing Nurses Back into the Workforce’ initiative gives me plenty of job options.
I’m looking forward to introducing Eowyn, Cosette and Benjamin to everyday life in my homeland, the brilliant sunsets at our family farm ‘Aberystwyth’, the enormous blue skies, the thrill of riding an ocean wave, the sweet smell of dry grass in summer, the laughing of kookaburras and the fun of knowing Australians galore!!