Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oxford Adventures: The Boy I left Behind

During my Junior Year of College, I studied abroad at Oxford for a Semester. It has by far been one of the best experiences of my life. You can see above some of the adventures I had.

Picture #1: This is me and a friend from my program in the stocks at Warwick Castle.

Picture #2: This is me and another friend at Shakespeare's House in Stratford on Avon. I'm the one in the grey sweater.

Picture #3: My twin sister Carolyn (La Therapista) and I went to Bath together. I'm the one with the red hat.

I had many adventures in Oxford...but the one I will tell you about today has to do with the boy I left behind in America.

Anthony and I had met in the December of 2002, the winter of my Sophomore year. You can read that story here at the post, "Can Stripping in Your Car Lead to True Love."

Although I knew that I cared for Anthony deeply, I still had mixed feelings about making any sort of commitment to him, especially knowing that I would be gone for 3 months in the fall of 2003. So all Winter, Spring, and Summer of 2003, we dated...but we weren't in any kind of formal relationship. We both wanted to take things slow, and I enjoyed the freedom of seeing Anthony when I wanted to and having time to myself when I wanted to. I would see him about once or twice a week during the summer and once or twice a month when I was away at college.

When I left for England, it was with the understanding that we were both free to see other people. I was curious to meet boys from Oxford. Some of you long-time readers will recall that I have sort of a freaky obsession with England and all things from the UK, so I didn't want to miss any opportunities to fraternize with with my fellow students, if I met one who I liked.

I mean, seriously, the whole of Oxford University...full of 20-something well-to-do young men who spoke with British accents...was a drool-worthy contemplation for me at the time.

So I left Anthony, got on a plane, and went off on my grand adventure.

Before I left, he handed me an envelope and instructed me not to open it until I was in the air. Inside, was $300 and a note saying that it was a gift to help me and that there were no strings attached. It ended up being an incredible help. I had very little spending money and what little I did have, I spent on traveling to Ireland, Scotland, Paris, etc., so there was not always enough for food.

Once I arrived in Oxford I got settled in to my new living quarters provided by my study abroad program and began my classes. The first Monday I checked my mailbox, and there was a letter from Anthony. Tuesday, I checked my box, and there was another letter from Anthony. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday...same thing. The post doesn't come on Sundays, so there was no letter then, but there were two on Monday to make up for it.

Anthony wrote to me every day while I was England. I made plenty of British friends, both girls and boys, and I did get a few date offers here and there...but none that I was even remotely interested in taking. I dropped all pretense that Anthony wasn't my boyfriend, and whenever I did get date offers, I would just say, "Oh, I have a boyfriend in America."

For my birthday, he sent me a bouquet of 24 roses. On the one year anniversary of the day we met, he sent me more flowers. Once every two weeks or so, he would send me a care package with plenty of food in it and phone cards so that I could call him long distance.

It was as if he were saying, "You don't have to commit to me...but I'm still going to take care of you, and you're sure not going to forget about me."

By the time the Michaelmas Semester was over...so were any reservations I still had about Anthony. I hated leaving England, you understand. In a way, it was like coming home...every book I'd ever read and loved...being there was like living it. But there was nothing there for me...I was still a stranger in a strange land. The British young people were very funny and polite and friendly...but I never lost the feeling that I was an outsider.

So when I left England, it was with a heavy heart...but I knew I was coming back for someone who loved me and that I could finally say without any reservations that I was in love with, too. For weeks before it was time to leave, I had obsessed over the moment when I would see Anthony again. Would he still love me? Did he still remember me? Would it be awkward between us? I wanted to see him again as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, there was a mix-up with my plane flight. It ended up coming in two hours earlier than my parents or Anthony knew, and I thought they would be there when I got off the plane.

...I didn't see them anywhere...I was even a little afraid I wouldn't recognize Anthony. I looked at every dark-haired young man I could find, and none of them were him.

I found an uncomfortable airport chair and broke down and cried. It didn't help that I was horribly sick (poor nutrition, remember?) and brought home a terrible cough that would plague me for the next six months. I called Anthony's cell-phone, wretchedly hoping he would pick up. He didn't. I left a message and waited. And coughed a lot.

"Sandy!" I heard my name...and there he was...coming towards me, this man whose letters had followed me half-way around the world. We hugged and kissed and I cried, and I promised I would never leave him again like that. And I haven't.


  1. That is just lovely, and I can really appreciate what you went through, being an English woman myself.

  2. I remember how you covered the walls of your room with his letters- I don't think your roomate liked that so much!!!

  3. Carole Ann- you live in a lovely country. I am glad I got to spend time there. I hope to go back again someday WITH Anthony again.

    Carolyn- I do not think I did a good job of thinking about my roommate's feelings at that time. Perhaps wallpapering my side of the room with his letters was inconsiderate? I was just SO excited about all of them. I hope I did not increase her loneliness.

  4. such a cute story :) combine the beautiful story with pregnancy hormones and you had me crying during my prep period!

  5. Jennifer- glad i could bring some happy tears into your day.