By Dale Buchanan
My name is Ann-English Dillon Weaver. I am married to the love of my life. I am the mother of Caroline and Clara whom I love with all my heart. I have a close and loving relationship with my mom. I grew up surrounded by loving family, and today I love my church family and the people I work with. I guess you might say that I am stepping out from the pews to tell my love story.
The summer after my junior year in high school, I traveled with my cousin Jerryann to Colorado State University for a Church of the Brethren youth conference where youth from across the nation gathered.
Jerryann was keen on moving to California, while I had no ambition to leave Virginia—ever! Shortly after our arrival at the conference we met a group of boys from California. Mind you, I did not go to Colorado looking for love, but it was there that I first laid eyes on this long, lanky boy with amazing teeth. He had just had his braces removed and he had a huge smile. His name was Russell Weaver. I experienced that phenomenon that happens when your common sense leaves home. My friend Dale calls it love 😊
All of us at the conference were wearing name tags and after introductions I hid mine and approached Russell. ‘Hey, Russell, how are ya?’ He did not remember my name! We went our separate ways. Jerryann and I headed to the volleyball courts, and those California boys followed us. Not long after our arrival it began to rain. For the second time that day I approached Russell. I took his hand and said, ‘Let’s go for a walk.’ I have no idea what happened to the rest of the group. The whole world revolved around Ann and Russell for the next three hours as we walked in the rain. When Russell dropped me off at my dorm, I was fifteen and in love. I called and broke up with my boyfriend back home. That week with Russell was like heaven.
When I got home, I announced to my mother, ‘I am in love and I am going to marry him.’ My mother being a practical person replied, ‘No you are not!’ And she explained that my common sense had left home. I was not listening! I was prone to tantrums and adverse to listening to advice. I did well in public but often melted down at home. So, when Russell sent me an I-love-you letter, I experienced simultaneously a mountain top experience and a big meltdown. Finally, Mom made a call to Madera, and it was established that Russell was from a good family and the impasse was broken. I was allowed to fly to Fresno, California, for Christmas vacation. It was a fairytale week. Russell’s folks took us to Disneyland and then drove us up the coast to Morro Bay.
Russell and I made several trips across the continent, but I lived on the morning side of the mountain and he lived on the twilight side of the hill. Life happened. College loomed in our future and common sense prevailed. I loved Virginia and he loved California. We broke up, but the connection was never completely severed. For most of our college years, AOL was our preferred means of communication with messages like, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ And then complaints about the people we were dating.
And the fairytale romance continued with a little help from my friends. Russell and I found ourselves face to face again at Spring break in San Diego when I was a junior in college and he was a sophomore. We fell in love again on that beautiful drive from San Diego to Morro Bay. My grandmother remarked to mom, ‘That girl has a boyfriend on both coasts!’
After graduation I moved to Fresno and found work so I could be close to Russell who was still in school at Fresno State University. In 2005 we celebrated Christmas in Virginia. Russell asked me to take a walk in the rain before going to church. I said, ‘No, it’s too wet.’ He dropped on his knee and after fumbling a bit produced a ring and proposed. I said, “Yes!’ In 2007 we were married in my grandmother’s backyard in Virginia.
We struggled for a while getting established and on our career paths. Both of us went back to school. Russell suffered a torn ligament that wrecked his chances at pole vaulting in the Olympics. Today he is a special education teacher and pole-vaulting coach at Clovis West High School. I am an occupational therapist working mostly with autistic children.
I was born in Franklin County in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. My mom and dad attended the same high school and were married for 18 years. Dad has a doctorate in philosophy and is brilliant. My mother is known for her musical talent and was recognized as a wonderful teacher.
Mom had two sister and between the three of them, there were seven cousins. We seven cousins were always together. Six of the cousins were tall, dark, and handsome, and I was the short, fat, blond kid. Strangers on the street would greet whichever sister was in charge of us and say, “You have six lovely children and then look at me and remark, ‘How sweet of you to bring the neighbor’s kid along too.’
So, do you think I found love at first sight?”