Although her professional life right now is as a high school math teacher, my wife is a very talented actress and singer. She had the forethought to get both a Vocal Performance and a Math degree from Connecticut College, knowing that someday, she may need something to fall back on if she didn’t make it really big. I caught her right at the crossroads of these careers.
She had been a professional actress for 14 years, performing in paid regional theaters all across the country since she graduated college. And for 8 of those years, previous to our meeting, she had been a singer and social hostess on cruise ships, traveling the world and seeing the sights, while perfecting her one-woman show. During one of her rare stints “off the boat,” she had the leading role, playing Laurie, in Oklahoma! at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT. Now, I had been drumming in that very same orchestra since the age of 12, having performed for more than 30 Main Stage musicals.
I remember the first time Sybil caught my eye. We were in a rehearsal room…I was late, of course…setting up my drum set as the rest of the orchestra had already begun practicing. As I set up, I noticed a wall flower on the other side of the room, watching her script carefully and mouthing the words to some of the tunes we were playing, not yet having been asked by the musical director to come front and center and officially join in. My first thought, actually, was that this was a very attractive mother. I wonder who she was and who she was with. Having been around the theater for years, she was certainly new to me. At any rate, the rehearsal went on, the show went on, and I watched in admiration from the orchestra pit as she sing her ballads and put her head on Curly’s shoulder every night. I had wished I could have provided that shoulder every time, but I never even had occasion to bump into her. Until closing night.
After the show closed, the orchestra and I went next door to the local theater bar and were having some drinks and apps. That’s when I saw Sybil walk in. Knowing she was in the room, I became especially bored just sitting with the orchestra that night, and so the only logical choice was to walk over and introduce myself. It would be my only chance. My friends with her were eager to introduce me and I couldn’t be more grateful. She was refreshing and intelligent and even more beautiful up close…even if she was in overalls and pigs tails from the show. We talked about our musical interests and our desire to start a band and we exchanged business cards. She’ll even recall my introduction as the first time she repeated “Sybil Chamberlin” in her head, and immediately liked the sound of that. Coming from the name “Haggard,” it was an easy upgrade! But we went our separate ways and I anxiously awaited her call, just so sure that she was going to want to start that band we talked about like right away!
After a few short exchanges on Facebook, I had learned that she was living with a friend in Danbury…a place I had no business frequenting. But, I thought I could spin it into a quick detour on my way to my brother’s house in Stamford…a stretch for those of you that know the geography of Connecticut. So, that’s exactly what I did. I texted her to see if I could take her to dinner on my way to Joel’s house. Her immediate response was, “Who is this?” since I failed to identify myself. After squaring that away, she enthusiastically suggested that I just come to her house and she’d cook me dinner. Well, that was easy.
I arrived in Danbury and she had chicken fajitas on the stove and I believe was in those same overalls from Oklahoma! We had tons of wine and great conversation and the rest is history. I guess I should point out that she also played some Norah Jones on her guitar that night, which was the impetus I needed to land a well placed kiss. That, I suppose, is what really started it all. Who would’ve thought that someday, our name would be up in lights, on the marquee of that same theater, on our wedding day:
This first date was in November and for that same Christmas, I encouraged her to come to Florida to meet my parents. I was so elated to call her my girlfriend and I can remember the pride I felt when I went to the airport with my mother to pick her up and watching her come down the escalator to greet us. I already felt like I was introducing my mother to my future wife and it felt amazing. We had a great weekend, which included a trip to the beach at Anna Maria Island and the Sand Bar restaurant. We took a walk together and when we were about to turn around and head back, Sybil looked at me and took my hands and asked me to remember this very moment. There are so many moments in life that we remember – good and bad – and often they don’t need a verbal direction to remember. But I’m so grateful for the request that Sybil made, specifically in that moment, to remember the sand and the sun and the breeze and the company, that there’s no way I could ever forget that moment, just by the sheer fact that she had asked me not to. And this photo was taken within minutes of that moment, captured forever:
So, fast forward a few more months and we finally had the opportunity to go to North Carolina together to meet her parents. By this time, I was sure that I had found my soulmate and while I wasn’t necessarily nervous about meeting her parents, I was certainly nervous about finding the right time, with the right amount of privacy, to ask her father for her hand in marriage. Now, unless you know Frank, you can’t imagine how many different ways this could have gone. He hears what he wants to hear and on top of that, I had just met him and wasn’t aware of this yet. But, Sybil and her mother were going out to get their nails or hair done and it was my only shot to have a few minutes with Frank alone, so I had to jump on the chance.
I chased him into the backyard, where he was watering the lawn or feeding the birds or something and I went right into it. “Frank, I know it hasn’t been very long, but I want you to know how much I love your daughter and I’d like to ask her to marry me. I was hoping for your blessing.” His reply: “You’re not in a hurry, are you?” “Well, no Frank, I’m not in an immediate hurry, but I think I may do something soon and I don’t get to see you very often, so I wanted to have this quick chat.” “Well,” he said, “I’d be happy to marry you if you’d like.” “That’s great,” I said, “but I really haven’t got that far yet, I just wanted you to know.” And that’s about how it ended at that point. I think he thought I was going to do it that weekend, because come to find out, he never said a word to Dora (my mother-in-law), who was later rather upset when she found out that he knew of the impending engagement long before she did. I think he thought it was off after I didn’t do it right there and then in North Carolina that very weekend.
Anyway, fast forward a few months later when I was good and ready. At the time, I was very active in my community as a business owner. Past President of the Rotary Club, active Chamber of Commerce member, Young Professional, etc. So, there was an evening that I told Sybil that I’d love to have her join me for a Chamber of Commerce event one night after work…those were always great excuses for mini-dates. As she traveled to Torrington from Danbury, I informed her that the Chamber event had been cancelled, but that we could have dinner together at the restaurant next door to the theater…the same restaurant where we had met. I had arranged for my friend from the theater to give me a call toward the end of our meal. “Tyson, your musical score for the upcoming show is here at the theater, ready for you to pickup.” “Great,” I said, “I’m right next door eating, I’ll stop by in a few and grab it.” Of course, Sybil subsequently runs into some theater friends at the exact same time, who she wants to catch up with and encourages me to go get my score and meet me back at the bar. “Uhhhh…can’t do that, Babe, you need to come with me, I’ll wait. Let’s have a quick chat and then walk over together!” So, finally, we walk next door to the theater and enter the main lobby doors. The theater is dark and there’s nobody around. I open the doors to the main stage and the place is beautifully, dimly lit. The curtains are pulled back and a song begins to play. It’s our song.
God Bless The Broken Road. “Is that you, Tyson?” I hear called out from backstage. “Yup, it’s me.” “Come on down to the stage, I’ve got your score here.” I take Sybil’s hand and we start the long walk down through the 2700 seat theater to the main stage. All the while, Sybil has no idea what is going on. She thinks they’re testing some sound cues. I point out that this is our song and I motion to the simple table on stage holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Still clueless, she assumes there was some sort of presentation on stage that day and the theater’s just in a state of residual beauty. I take her hand again as I walk up the stairs to the stage and say, “This is our song, let’s dance. These flowers are for you.” As she finally puts it all together, she starts to cry and has that magically astonished look on her face that I will never forget. I got down on one knee on the stage in the empty theater and began my speech…
“For twenty years, I gave myself to this theater and it has finally given me something back that I can hardly put into words. But I believe that it was more than just this theater. I believe that it was the Faith we both had that one day true love would present itself and that once it did, it wouldn’t take us very long to realize it was there. Sybil, I found true love in you and I want to spend the rest of my life sharing every joy with you and showing you what a match made in Heaven is meant to feel like. Would you do me the great honor of being my wife?” Can you guess what she said?
Try this post for a great way to keep your love alive! – MQDs