Our Story is a Romance.
Our story is also a more personal view of who we are, the founding couple behind Edna Manor. People tell us that it is better than “You've Got Mail” or any other similar movies. There is an interesting story behind Nancy Ostling Starkman and Edward Starkman. Occasionally we share it with others, and of course, our close friends know the whole story. Bear with me while I give you the background.
Time for a Change …
I was a single mom for fifteen years before I met Ed. I did well on my own, but it was a struggle. Saving money to get back into a house of my own was a daunting task. But, I knew that I had to find a way, as I lived in California then, and real estate in the San Francisco Bay Area was skyrocketing. My solution was unique, and required discipline.
My two children were young and both required full time babysitters when I was at work. Child support was infrequent, despite the fact that my ex-husband lived on a golf course, and drove both a new Mercedes and a Cadillac. Eventually, I had it all collected by the county. Note: Sadly, he passed away several years ago.
I realized when my son was old enough to be home alone after school, that I would have additional money every month. My solution to saving for a house was to write the checks out to “cash”, and deposit them into a savings account. Later, my daughter went to school too, and only needed after school childcare. After a few years, neither needed babysitters. All the money that I would have paid for childcare, went into savings. By the end of four plus years, I saved $10,000 which was my down payment on the first house that I would own as a single person. This ties into our story.
The New House
It was a small house, but it was brand new and all mine! Three bedrooms, two baths, zero lot lines, and the streets were weirdly narrow. The kids were in a good neighborhood with good schools nearby. We lived there for seven years. Two kids and myself in an 1,100 square feet house without anymore than a 16 foot by 26 foot backyard. The small spaces were closing in on me. I also had a situation at work where there was some funny business going on that I did not want to be a part of. We'll leave it there. Anyway, I knew things needed to change.
The Move, and the Bigger House
I started looking at other places to go to work, given my education and experience. I realized that to make the kind of money that I wanted to make, that I would need to commute to San Francisco. Since the kids saw their dad every other weekend, a daily commute of more than an hour each way was just not practical to spend time with my kids. The housing in San Francisco was too high for me to afford, or the neighborhoods and schools were not as nice as where we were living.
I'd been going to Bellevue, Washington on vacation for several years. I went to grade school and junior high in Seattle and Bellevue, and always missed living on the Eastside. I realized at that time in 1991, that I could get more for my money in Bellevue than where I was living. But, it took me 18 months to get my house sold in California, all while paying mortgage … and rent … and on a reduced salary.
The color house that hired me for sales, at a very good salary, closed down the Seattle office a few months after I started work there. A color house was where color separations were made and film was composed. This was before computers proliferated the print production market. I was finally able to buy a 2500 square foot house on close to a quarter acre, in a top residential neighborhood in one of the best school districts in the country.
For me, this was a dream come true. I felt for the first time in years that I could breathe … But, my kids had different ideas. My son quit college and joined the Marines. My high school aged daughter decided to go live with her father in Kansas. Her boyfriend followed. I was devastated. But, all of this lays the groundwork for our story.
Our Story in the Making … around April 1995
The brutal facts. I worked for years to get myself and my kids in a better place in life, and set my son and daughter up for success as best as I could. The reality was that I was left alone in my five bedroom house that I worked and sacrificed so long to afford. Plenty of room, and no one to share it with.
I wasn't taking care of myself either; eating too much junk food, and just plain sad and depressed. I decided that I must change. I made myself a nice, homemade dinner — you know, with all the food groups — and turned on the TV to keep me company. Little did I know that our story was starting to come together.
I'm a news junkie. Until the mid-nineties, I'd been reading at least one newspaper every day, and watching news and business programs on TV. One evening, around April in 1995, I turned on a pre-recorded special about the opening of the Denver International Airport.
We are all used to seeing the talking heads on TV. Some of them we remember by name, and others are just faces we remember as they appear on different news shows. One of these faces was being interviewed throughout this show. I was running back and forth between a pot of spaghetti boiling on the stove, and the TV. Then, I see one of these familiar faces and he is saying something that I do not understand at all.
Looking right at him, I said out loud as if he could really hear me, “Now why don't you say that in layman terms that we can all understand?” Surprisingly, he paused, and did just that!
Around August 24, 1995:
Nancy is on AOL, America Online, about to begin Our Story …
Let's move up to about August 24-26, 1995. The kids are still gone, but I have Meggie My Wonder Dog to keep me company. I also have a new Macintosh computer with a powerful 14.4 baud modem, lightning fast for the time. It was my new toy. I decided to sign on to AOL to see what this new internet was all about.
Ed is on America Online too, about to begin Our Story …
Ed had been reading about the internet and hearing about it from a business associate. He cranked up his computer with his measly 9 point something baud modem, and signed into AOL. I can still hear the screech of the sign on sounds!
Are the Mountains out?
The Seattle Chat Room …
I like to refer to this new period of the internet as the time before 14 year old boys invaded. The internet and even AOL were very young. You first had to be able to afford a computer. Anyway, I found that most people were very nice, and just like me, trying to figure out what this was all about are where is was going.
I had zero interest of meeting anyone online, let alone in something as flaky as a chat room. I would watch the chat. While in the Seattle chat room, I got a message. I checked the profile and saw that the person lived in Manhattan. Not Seattle, but the message he sent was, “Are the mountains out?” Well, that is something that a person from Seattle would say. I asked him if he was from Seattle. He said no, but he was out a year or so before to climb Mt. Rainier. This is how our story begins.
Then, Good Bye … but Wait a Minute
I told Ed to go find a nice girl, settle down in the ‘burbs, and buy that station wagon and house with the picket fence. It just made more sense. But, he would have none of it. Whatever it was between us, it was real, and we both thought a relationship might work. He wanted me. Wow, me? Hum, this must be explored further.
September 1 -2:
Phone calls … expensive phone calls.
It turns out that he was a very interesting person, and he thought I was an interesting person too. But, who was I really talking to? I could readily see how this internet anonymity could lead to great deceptions. But, we really hit it off, and found that we had a lot in common. We were chatting frequently and consistently signing on at the same times. It was ridiculous to chat so frequently, and since AOL was charging by the minute, we really did need to talk on the phone instead.
I also “sent him packing” even when we both thought that this might become romantic. He was six years younger than me, had never been married, and had no children, and we were of different faiths. I was divorced, and had two teenage children. There was also the little matter of living on opposite ends on the country. So, how could this work? Our story continues.
We started talking on the phone. It was September 1st or 2nd when we had our first phone conversation, depending on our different time zones. Our first call was 11 hours. Our second phone call was 5 hours. We talked about our lives, our values, religion, family, friends, politics, and how we felt about the world. We really saw the world through the same eyes. It wasn't exactly the same, but it would be boring if we both thought alike about everything. I contend that it's wise to have a spouse who has faults that you can live with. We all have faults and that is part of our story too, as well as for everyone else.
The Proof …
Ed and I talked about how this was a really flaky way to meet. Aware of how cautious I was, he sent me proof of who he was. It came in the form of a video tape. Ed was on all sorts of news shows as an airline analyst working on Wall Street. There was the MacNeil Lehrer Report on the PBS NewsHour, CNN, NBC, CBS, Neil Cavuto interviewed him, Louis Rukeyser, Tracy Keenan, and more. But, most special, was that he was the guy on the Denver International special, to whom I said, “Now why don't you say that in layman terms that we can all understand?” That was bizarre!
On the tape, I could see his name, job titles, and where he worked which included a dozen plus years with Wall Street firms.
Ed booked a flight to Seattle for September 28 …
Ed was just doing consulting when we met … Yes, I know, a possible red flag … well noted. I had to work, although I detested my job. But, I was in a car most days, and had a phone in the car too. The phone bills were really racking up. Not good. What to do?
September 10: The Mark Air Sale
We were on the phone, of course. I was browsing through The Seattle Times and saw a special for Mark Air, Seattle to New York. It was only $222. That was a lot cheaper than the ever mounting phone bills for both of us. I could go to New York, and maybe, just maybe, we could find out if this relationship could really work. A friend took care of the Wonder Dog for me.
I must point out to anyone in their teens or even twenties who is reading this, that we were both a little older, and had more experience in life. It was flaky enough that we were doing this, but at least we had more “wisdom” years under our belts. My friends were quite skeptical, and I would be too if one them was going to fly off to New York to meet a stranger. I would not advise anyone else to do it.
September 11: Next day Arrival in New York
I took vacation and sick days so that I could have 10 days with Ed. I also kept my return ticket handy, so if I got bad vibes, even when I first met him, I could jump back on a plane to Seattle. Yes, September 11, 1995 is a very special day for us. Even after 911, we still go out to dinner to celebrate. In 2002 and 2003, telling our story for the waiters seemed to brighten their day. We aren't giving up our special day, even in the face of such horror. For us, September 11 is the celebration of the first day we met in person, in 1995.
The photo with our story, is of Ed and myself, sometime in the first few days after my September 11th flight to New York. Ironically, it is on top of one of the World Trade Center buildings, with the other tower in the background.
Around September 20
I called work and asked if I could take a leave of absence. Our two lives were about to merge, and this truly was our story. They refused, so I quit on the spot. Great. Now neither Ed nor I have jobs, and he is only doing consulting. Ed and I both flew back to Seattle on September 28. We've hardly had a day apart since we met in person on September 11, 1995.
We flew around the country to visit friends and family. Ed proposed and we bought our wedding bands in Manhattan on October 25. We asked the soon-to-be matron of honor if she or her husband knew of a judge to marry us. Ed and I chose a civil ceremony, and to be married in my big house which would soon become our home together. She knew a magistrate that lived in their condos!
We must have been crazy. But, we knew it would work, and it has.
December 31, 1995 in Our Story. We married on New Years Eve
I am writing our story not long before our wedding anniversary. We were married on New Years' Eve, 1995, in my big house where I first saw Ed on TV, and where we met on our computers.
Several years later, we bought another house together, just a mile from our old house. We wanted to get married again on New Years' Eve in our new home, and married by the same magistrate. He and his wife came over to discuss the ceremony, and on this occasion the talk was more casual. We discovered that not only did he and I live on the same block in Seattle when we were kids, but he was also our paper boy! He was a few years older than me, so we weren't friends. But, on dozens and dozens of days, the doorbell would ring. I would answer it.
He: “Collecting for The Times.‘”
Me: “Mom … newspaper boy is here.”
For Ed and myself, our story continues …