Brian really got to know Lynn around 1991 when they worked together part-time at the Little Norway outdoor museum. Their similar tastes quickly made them "cultural buddies," able to communicate by dropping a few artistic words or a brief description of some folk object. During stormy work sessions Brian ably withstood Lynn's emotional tirades over the appropriateness of certain photos or wording in the booklet they co-edited; she kept him in check as well.
Lynn has had a way of interceding in our lives. Weeks after I met Brian I moved to Poland for three years. I invited him to be spontaneous and visit me. Suddenly finding himself invited to a place he'd never imagined visiting by a guy he liked but barely knew, Brian turned to Lynn for advice. Having just decided at last to divorce, her two daughters grown, and herself planning a stint working at a mountain lodge in Montana, what was Lynn to implore but, "Are you kidding?!? GO for it!" Brian did, and we're still together today.
After Montana, Lynn moved to her native Minneapolis. We kept in close touch as she bought a house, returned to college, and got a degree in architecture. She developed a circle of friends, mostly lesbians, who all joked that they'd make her an honorary member.
I was instantly taken by Lynn as well, observing her and Brian practically compete to outdo each other with creative gifts—a funky dinner setting, a carefully chosen assortment of flowers with special relevance to the other—all the time nonchalantly bragging that their creation had been no trouble at all. Certain that she would understand exactly what Brian envisioned, we asked Lynn to arrange the flowers for our union ceremony in 1995. Knowing Lynn's appreciation for folk arts, we invited her to join our fall 2000 trip to Europe, especially Ukraine. She got her passport but had to back out very reluctantly near the trip because of some other goings-on. We learned in January that the other things she had going on had been doctor appointments. May 1, 2001 we attended her funeral in Minneapolis. It doesn't seem that long ago. We still miss her a lot.
"What would Lynn have thought of this house or that neighborhood," we've continually wondered during our own frustrating, five-year search for an older home.
Quite embittered by a market where houses with the older character we're interested in sell before they're advertised, for several weeks we'd been working with a skeptical landowner to convince him to sell for our unusual purpose. We had already agreed with the Lutheran church, which had advertised for bids to remove the home, to let us transport their 1890 house which was otherwise slated for destruction. We'd lined up a house mover. We'd checked a hundred permit and construction details. The remaining rub was that the owner of the only lot available in the village limits—which were also our budget limits for moving the home—was deeply concerned about whether the neighborhood would appreciate a new "old house."We hoped for weeks to convince the cautious seller that we were serious, had the means to do it right, were interested in a high-quality restoration, and so on.
At last he told us to hire an architect to draw a rendering of the house on the new lot, refering us to no less than the firm which had directed the restoration of the State Capitol! Feeling, frankly, insulted and pressured at first to spend money on an uncertainty, we called them anyway. First Charlie, one of the firm's three co-founders, came out, walked through the home and lot, and declared it feasible.
Not good enough for our cautious seller.
Enter Laura, another co-founder whom I befriended on the phone before we even met. Early on she confided that she and her girlfriend had just split up, amicably but painfully. On our first meeting, with her small dog Booker T, we walked through, photographed the house and site, and had ice cream. She lamented that she hadn't brought her measuring tools, when I remembered the rope, stakes, tape measure and level which we had prepared but left unused in our trunk. We rigged some survey tools and trudged through the high weeds of the lot with Laura, roughly measuring gradients. Her attitude, robust laugh, hairstyle, all remeniscent of Lynn.
Laura invited us home, where her own remodeling work earned our instant approval, as did the sketch she drew for us. She also showed us her own debut on the front of the local In Business magazine, one of four local business leaders seated on their Harleys!
Friday, June 27, this time at the architect's office. We suspected that this meeting would also fail to impress him and we'd probably have to leave the 1890 house to the wrecking ball. Laura unveiled the drawings, but we mostly chit-chatted. At the end of this meeting, the landowner abruptly invited us to make the same offer again, which he'd accept—provided that Laura remained involved in the project.
A couple weeks earlier, in his volunteer role for the historical society, Brian was sorting through boxes of a local professional photographer's negatives, which his family had donated after he died. One of the first boxes he opened had just one sample positive print lying loose on top—Lynn's family portrait.
"Don't tell me Lynn's not up there pulling some strings for us," Brian told me, as we wandered away from Friday's meeting in shock of our success. From that day on we've worked on putting all the verbal OKs we'd received into writing, readying ourselves to enter a mammoth project which is going to determine the next chapter of our lives.
And Laura's been a joy! Her drawings (and all the modifications!) have proved much more important all along in the project than we'd ever imagined. When my barber tells me his greatest mistake in building his new home was not having a site plan, I quietly thank the landowner and Lynn for finding us Laura.