The Ballad of Ken and Emily: 34 Years Later

Thirty-four years ago today I met Emily. The next day she met my family at the Passover Seder. We’ve been together ever since. Thirty-four is my lucky number. Long story, perhaps for another time. For now, the number merely needs to be celebrated along with the joy that has filled my life because of Emily’s constant presence all these years. We’ve both grown, matured, evolved, celebrated and mourned milestones, confronted near death, nurtured our shared experiences, and maintained our individual identities.

I told her as soon as I realized that our bond was serious (which was about a day after we met) that in any healthy relationship there was a Me and a You and an Us. I said that out of fear that our rapidly escalating closeness was going to drown out the time and space I needed to be the Me who first captured her love, and who I needed to keep my own sanity (always a challenge for me). Fortunately, Emily embraced the concept. She had her own Me that she didn’t want to lose, and that I didn’t want her to lose.

That formula worked: Me + You + Us = Long, happy life together. As a former math major, I can attest to its accuracy.

How did it all begin? I thought you’d never ask. It all began with a “Once upon a time.”


“The Ballad of Ken and Emily”

Once upon a time in the little town of Lansing

While others were making love or together gaily dancing

A young man sat at home so no one else would notice

Contemplating loneliness while sitting in the lotus


Why am I alone again he asked the mystic candle

This solitary feeling is more than I can handle

I think sometimes that loneliness is how my life is fated

He closed his eyes, said “Om,” then sadly meditated


A ring disturbed his vacuously comfortable feeling

He gathered up his body parts; his mind fell from the feeling

To bring his brain in focus he gently massaged his head

He lifted the receiver and this is what he said


“Hello”; nothing too heavy, then again he had no knowledge

 Of who or what was calling, had it ever gone to college

Could it grasp elusive concepts, could it deal in abstracts

Was it grounded in simplicity or could it handle facts


Could it tear apart an engine without getting its hands dirty

Was its age preadolescent or was it over thirty

Was it male, female, or neuter, had it ever read Thoreau

As yet he had no answers so that’s why he said hello


“Is Mary there?” it asked him, and he knew it was a she

The voice pitch was the clincher, there was no discrepancy

But regardless of the gender the answer was the same

“She isn’t home,” he answered. “By the way, what is your name?”


“I thought you’d never ask,” she said. “I’m Emily. You’re Ken?”

Her accuracy stunned him. “Will you run that by again?”

“It’s not so complicated; I’m a friend of Mary, too

We work in the same agency, she told me about you


“And if you aren’t busy will you listen to my plight

I want to talk to anyone; it’s been a crazy night

I know that I can trust you and I needn’t feel wary

Because Mary is a friend of mine and you’re a friend of Mary.”


He listened to her story, this is what she had to say:

“My lights went out, my TV blew, the old man left today

Not that I mind his absence, he was getting in my hair

He offered little substance, his demands were most unfair


“And I don’t mind the lack of lights although I have no matches

I feel secure, the doors are sealed with padlocks, chains, and latches

But without my TV I feel nauseous in my stomach

From missing General Hospital, and, worse, the Unknown Comic


“And now that I’ve informed you of my tale of despair

I feel a whole lot better, not superb, mind you, but fair

You’ve allowed me to release the thoughts that cluttered up my mind

I hardly even know you but your ear has been most kind


“I never could have hoped for such a thorough mind unclogging

I’d merely called my friend to ask if she would join me jogging

But now I’ll let you go because my tale of woe is through

I’m sure you’re very busy and you’ve other things to do”


It’s moment such as these that often change the course of history

The reason is so obvious it needn’t be a mystery

For though she was correct, he had no time for acts extraneous

He also knew reality is that which is spontaneous


“Pray tell,” he said, “don’t go. Where do you live and is it far?

I’d like to know you better but, alas, I have no car

And although I’m normally a pretty hyperactive fellow

I don’t feel quite like jogging for my yoga’s left me mellow”


“I live,” she said, “on Elvin Court, a residential street

That leads to a dead end by where the Army Reserves meet

And I know where you live, with my friend Mary on Jerome

I’ve visited her often in the comfort of her home


“The walk is most refreshing; it will not leave you exhausted

And it isn’t far enough for you to fear being accosted

I’d love for you to join me so to lighten up my mood.”

“I’ll be right there,” he said. “I’ll bring the weed and you the food.”


And that’s the way it started, that was how it all began

With a brief phone conversation ‘tween a woman and a man

And a TV that malfunctioned and a bulb that wouldn’t light

And a three-block walk to Elvin on a cool and starry night


And a bottle of Chablis and some good homegrown Lansing Green

And a love-at-first-sight evening like the world has never seen

And no one would believe it for they had no way of knowing

That thirty-four years could transpire and their love would still be growing

8 Responses

  1. Nice. Congratz to both of you.

  2. Thanks, Geoff. Kind words from a good friend.

  3. Very Cool. 🙂

  4. very cool!! 🙂

  5. Beautiful! Here’s to many more wonderful years together!

  6. […] about chai during preparation for our wedding, whose 34th anniversary we will celebrate next week. I had written a poem that told the story of how we met and Emily had written a song expressing her love for me. We told our rabbi that we wanted to […]

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