Editor’s note: The following is the third in a three-part series. Part one appeared in the May 19-25, 2010, issue, and part two appeared in the June 2-8, 2010, issue.
By Marjorie Stradinger
Andrea Jean Laemmel left her Minnesota small town for college, then followed her dream to go to Germany, where she met Thomas. Moving back to the States, a brief time back at home, she and Thomas married, and moved to Connecticut. Andi’s still following her dreams, maxing out her comfort zone.
Andi Laemmel continued her story at our Whistle Stop lunch in Windsor, Conn.
“I was ready to go home, tired of German mentality—cold, rude, every stereotype you imagine,” she said. “The first year’s new, exciting. Second year, I thought, ‘I don’t really like it here.’”
Thomas didn’t believe in marriage, was angry she was leaving.
“I don’t know what you want from me,” Andi responded. “I believe in marriage. I want to get married some day.”
“June, Thomas’ birthday, his friends bought him a plane ticket to Chicago to try it for a month,” she said.
Thomas stayed the month, then said goodbye.
“I didn’t know if he was coming back,” she said. “I was a basket case, living with this basket case of a sister, pregnant out of wedlock…the strongest woman ever. I couldn’t do it.”
Andi believed if it should, it would work out.
“Normally, I have all of my s— together…don’t cry a lot, figure it out logically,” she said. “If things don’t work out, there’s a reason. I learn from that and move forward. That’s my normal mentality.”
Thomas called daily, wanted to come back. With no money, and no job and depleted savings, when a job offer in a forensics lab in Minneapolis came, Andi accepted.
“Brooke?” I asked.
“She cried, but understood,” she said.
More changes. Andi took over her aunt’s restaurant business in rural Minnesota, Thief River Falls, still researching green card rules for Thomas, who still didn’t want marriage. But when Andi took a three-month leave for Brooke’s delivery, Thomas returned to Chicago, where they helped Brooke, but had a lot of time on their hands.
They went ring shopping, but Andi wouldn’t wear it until he proposed.
“I’m not going to pretend I’m marrying someone who hasn’t asked me,” she said.
Returning to Minnesota, they lived with her aunt and uncle while Andi learned the restaurant business. The green card would expire soon.
“Working in the bar one day, he came in with flowers; the ring was on a flower,” she said. “He got down on one knee, did the whole thing. It was really romantic. We giggled.”
They married March 31 in a chapel where her uncle was priest.
“A perfect wedding,” I said.
The restaurant wasn’t working out. Misunderstandings. Andi bought a house, put Thomas to work remodeling, and he helped her uncle, a beekeeper. Green card approved, Thomas took a warehouse job so Andi could quit and they’d still afford the house.
“Thomas’ mom came for Christmas; lots of German friends visited,” she said. “My younger sister got married.”
Christmas, 2008, they went to Germany, Thomas complaining how much he hated his job, Thief River. Over beers, Horstein, living in Massachusetts, related he knew a German company expanding in Connecticut—promised to put in a good word for Thomas.
“People say (stuff) but usually don’t follow through,” she said. “Three weeks after returning to Thief River, the phone call, then Thomas was getting flown to Connecticut.”
“Not a huge fan, but if you don’t take this, we got nothing, stuck here until we figure it out,” she said. “It could be a long time.”
Thomas, now a quality assurance specialist for the German manufacturer, makes more money in one week than a whole month in Germany. In their loft apartment, Andi’s artistic talents make the large space eclectic, beautiful—wine bottles glued to a painted board—a coat rack, an old door as a bed headboard. Greenery’s everywhere, welcoming guests to a garden atmosphere.
“Andi? Finding her way?” I asked.
“I’ve done it (all) on my own,” she said. “I don’t show my feelings to anybody, but I had to. I wasn’t alone, nowhere to hide. We’re each other’s best friends. He’s feeling in the right place. I’ve been struggling, relying on Thomas for income. I’m proud. It’s not like Thomas restricts me from doing what I want. I feel I owe it to myself to have a career, at least a stable job. I worked (hard) for this. I have lots of moments where I break down—because of what I expect from myself. At first, I was angry, crying all the time. He’d come home, and I was just sobbing—in a ball on the floor. He didn’t know what else to do but wrap himself around me on the floor and cry with me.”
“He gets it,” she said. “He understands. I’m searching. Sometimes I think I’m growing too fast, don’t feel like I fit in or relate to people my age who, if they’re not married, are going to bars every night, being crazy like when I was 21. If they’re married, it’s probably their high school sweetheart. I don’t relate to that, either. I’ve experienced the world.”
She sums up her philosophy: “With growth comes maxing out comfort levels. Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart.”
Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the June 9-15, 2010 issue