It’s the classic love story.
Boy’s mother meets girl’s sister. Boy’s mother arranges meeting of boy and girl. Boy takes girl on a breakfast date with boy’s mother.
Well, maybe it’s not that typical.
English professor Richard Erable and French professor Kristin Wasielewski’s relationship had unusual beginnings.
“We were set up, basically,” Erable said.
“Yeah, like it’s the 21st century, right?” Wasielewski said.
Erable’s mother was on the same flight to Milwaukee as Wasielewski’s sister. The two began talking and realized their kin had something in common.
“They said, ‘Oh yeah, my sister knows some French. Oh, my son speaks French. Oh, maybe they can get together,’” Erable said.
Wasielewski laughed heartily as Erable told the story of their meeting, adding details and making comments.
“Tell her your impression as you were walking up at the airport,” she said.
“I see my mom waiting for me surrounded by five women, all different ages,” Erable said. “I’m like, ‘Who’d she bring with her? Does she think I’m desperate?’ My mom was not a social butterfly.”
“No, she was very reserved and very French in that you don’t really talk to strangers,” Wasielewski said.
When he got to Mitchell Airport, Erable was introduced to not only Wasielewski, but also her mother, aunt and two sisters.
“I’m like, ‘OK. Wow. Yeah. Hi. Nice to meet you,’” Erable said.
The two talked for a few moments as they walked out of the airport, then parted ways. The next day, Erable’s mother urged him to call Wasielewski.
“I said, ‘All right, but if I call her, you’re going to come with me. I’m sure she’s more interested in talking to you than to me,’” Erable said.
Sure enough, the next day the trio went to breakfast, where they ate and spoke French together.
“Technically, our first date was with my mom,” Erable said.
Four days later, after his mom had left Milwaukee, Erable called Wasielewski and gave her three options for a “normal date,” or as Wasielewski called it, an “un-chaperoned date:” going to see an experimental play in Milwaukee, attending a Monet exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago or going apple picking
“She picked apple picking,” Erable said.
“Of course,” she added.
The couple’s first official date consisted of a champagne lunch under apple trees in the orchard. Later, they went back to Erable’s apartment and baked apple pies.
All of this happened in 1995. Seven years later, the two married.
“I needed to make sure it would work,” Erable said, as Wasielewski laughed and shook her head.
One year after they married, Wasielewski joined Erable at Franklin College where he had been working for two years.
Now, Wasielewski said, their funniest stories and best memories come from the trips they take students on.
This past Winter Term, the pair took a group of 18 women to France. On this trip, Wasielewski had a wild goose chase with one student’s missing bag.
She tells the story actively, with passion. Her eyes get big as she explains her late night train trip to the north side of Paris, and her arms gesture enthusiastically as she describes how happy she was to finally get her hands on the bag after a five-hour excursion.
As she talks, Erable nods along fairly quietly, adding comments here and there, correcting mistaken details and finishing Wasielewski’s sentences.
After almost 15 years of marriage and 22 years of being together, the couple falls in an easy rhythm of speaking, almost as if they share the same thoughts.
Although they do share the same workplace, they rarely see each other during the day.
But they admit that they do take their work home with them.
“When we get home, most of what we talk about is Franklin College,” Erable said. “One of the really nice things is that we really like our work, so talking about it is not complaining about it all the time.”
Wasielewski said they always have positive things to share with each other every day.
“We love working together, talking about these courses and these trips,” she said. “I will take talking about the same subject a lot if that subject is something you’re really passionate about.”