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Allan and Deloris by Allan Ament: Mint juleps bring two people together

(Note: I have been asking for stories for this project, and Allan Ament, a long-time friend, wrote this and submitted it to me.  Thank you, Allan!)

Deloris and I married when she was 53 and I was 47. It was the second marriage for me and the fifth for her, but we both knew this one was for keeps.

We met at a party thrown by Ben and Fredericka, mutual friends. It was the first Saturday in May, the opening day of yachting season in Seattle, and in my birth home of Louisville, Kentucky, the running of the Kentucky Derby. Opening Day is celebrated by a parade of decorated boats, which passed by my friends’ waterfront home. It was an opportunity for friends to gather, enjoy food, drink, and each other’s company.

It is also a day when displaced Louisvillians, even those with no interest in horses or horse racing, celebrate their heritage by drinking mint juleps, the traditional drink of the Derby, and watching the horserace on TV.

I arrived at Ben and Fredericka’s carrying the fixings for mint juleps with me. After greeting the hosts and several friends, I went upstairs to the TV room, where I knew I would find people preparing to watch the horse race. “Anybody want a mint julep?” I asked. Heads swiveled in my direction and hands began to be raised. I took a count and headed downstairs to prepare the drinks. When I had finished, I returned upstairs and distributed the drinks to everyone in the room, except one woman who seemed surprised by my return and my actions.

“You were serious?” she said, surprise mixed with disappointment in her words. “What do I have to do now to get a julep?”

I looked at this woman, whose reddish-blond hair, falling in page-boy bangs, framed an attractive face with clear, intelligent eyes. I didn’t know her, but felt an immediate desire to do so. “You have to be very, very nice to me,” I replied.

“OK,” she said, and followed me downstairs. I mixed another julep, handed it to her and said. “Enjoy. By the way, my name is Allan,” using the beverage exchange as an excuse to introduce myself.

“Thanks. I’m Deloris. I’m an old friend of Fredericka’s,” she said.

“Me, too,” I replied. “Nice to meet you.”  That exchange completed, we returned upstairs to watch the race and continue our separate ways.

Our next meeting was a chance encounter a month later in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. This was the oldest section of the city, recently renovated and the home of a number of restaurants, art galleries, and professional offices. Deloris and Fredericka, a professional artist, were headed to a gallery opening. I had just left my law office a block away and was en route to meet some friends when I encountered them going the other direction.

 “Why don’t you ever return phone calls?” Deloris asked with an edge to her voice.

“I always do,” I replied. “Especially when they are from women I don’t know very well.”

“I left several messages and never got a return call,” she accused.

“I don’t know what happened. You probably need to try again.” 

As there seemed little more to say after my flippant response, we said goodbye and went off in opposite directions. Much to my surprise about a week later, Deloris called and invited me to meet her for a drink after work. This time we both felt a mutual attraction, and within a matter of months had become inseparable. Eighteen months later, we married. Both of us considered our earlier relationships as practice for this main event.

I have always said I do not remember who won the Kentucky Derby the year Deloris and I met; I just know I won the race.

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