The picture showed up in my Facebook feed, a dozen roses and a card with pictures of the two of them from over the years. The caption was of course in Hungarian, “Szerelem, boldogság 10 év után is” followed by a heart, which Google Translate renders as “Love, happiness, even after 10 years”.
Ten years? Ten years ago in May? Ten years ago this coming August she arrived in the US from Hungary, our third foreign exchange student, sixteen about to turn seventeen. I sat with her while she unpacked and watched her pin a picture of her and a young man to the oversized bulletin board we kept for just such mementoes. “Who is that?” I asked.
“My boyfriend.” He looked a little old for a high school student, but I remembered high school well enough to know how differently the young men in it had matured. Still, I had to ask, “How old is he?”
“Twenty-six.” Anna laughed at the expression on my face. “My parents were worried when I first met him, but once they got to know him, they said it was okay for us to date.”
“And then they sent her to the U.S. for a year,” my husband pointed out to me later that night. Not quite a year, but still. The handsome young man in the picture would have no trouble meeting interested women closer to home, and closer to his age.
Anna quickly talked my husband into buying a microphone and some software for his aging computer and used it to talk with J, the boyfriend, every afternoon. She also talked to her parents, her brothers, and several friends. American Field Service guidelines suggested discouraging much contact with home, maybe a letter a week and one phone call a month, but Anna had bonded to us like Superglue within days of meeting us, and easily made friends at school. She found young men to escort her to the Winter Formal and the Junior-Senior Prom, and even held a party at our house to entertain her friends at the end of the school year. It would have been petty of us to interfere with her communication to those back home.
The year after she left, we visited her in Hungary, and met J. We could see why her parents were impressed. He wasn’t immature, he treated her with affection and respect, and they just seemed right for each other. I was amused by one story Anna told us. She and J had gone to Croatia for vacation the summer before, after she returned from the US, and while there she got a henna tattoo. When she returned home, she convinced her parents it was a permanent tattoo, and they were furious with her.
“So let me see if I get this,” I told my husband later. “Her parents don’t mind her spending her vacation alone with an older man, but they have a hissy fit over her getting a tattoo.” I reminded myself again that I’m not her real mom.
Anna moved to another city to go to college and J got a job there and moved with her. They lived together in an apartment. We visited Anna again a few years ago while spending a long visit with my son in Paris, and then two years ago they came to spend time with us while we were on another visit with my son, this time in London. By this time Anna had graduated and was working. I asked if there were any wedding plans and she said that J was worried about getting married because he had friends who broke up soon after marrying, but that he knew it was important to her and was saving up for a ring. Last fall they announced their engagement. They bought a house this year, they are coming to visit us for a few weeks this fall, and the wedding is next year*.
Ten years. Ten years between them. Ten years together. Ten years since she last was here with us.
*This August, and we're going.