The Vision on the Stairway

by James Scott Bell

Forty years ago—today—I went to a birthday party for one of my best friends from high school. It was held in his second-story apartment in North Hollywood, and the place was packed.

At one point in the festivities I went downstairs to the courtyard to chat with a couple of buddies. We sat there chewing the proverbial fat, the subject of which I have long since forgotten. Then it happened. A glance that changed my life.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone bounding up the stairs toward the party. I turned. And saw a vision. If I may purloin Raymond Chandler’s line from Farewell, My Lovely: It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.

The Vision on the Stairway

To my courtyard companions I said, “I’ll see you later.” Up the stairs I went and into the apartment as my friend Daryl was hugging the vision, who had her back to me. Daryl saw me and silently pointed to her as if to say, This is the one I’ve been telling you about.

For several years Daryl had told me about a beautiful, funny, talented singer/actress he knew from a restaurant where they had both waited tables. Somehow I was never in the right place to meet her. Indeed, at the time of the party, I was living in New York, pounding the pavement as an actor. A strike by Actors’ Equity had dried up auditions, so I’d flown out to L.A. to see if I could drum up some work.

Daryl finished the hug and turned the vision around to meet me. I looked into her eyes for the first time and was a goner. Cupid used me for target practice.

Cindy—for that was, and is, her name—and I talked for a couple of hours, much of it over a bowl of peanut M&Ms in Daryl’s kitchen. We talked about Broadway and Sondheim and growing up in the San Fernando Valley. We shared funny anecdotes from our waitering stints. We even discovered we were on a similar spiritual journey. When Cindy mentioned she was thinking of attending church the next day, I adroitly suggested we go together and have brunch afterward.

Which is what we did.

Two and a half weeks later I asked her to marry me. Cindy wisely suggested we pump the brakes a bit. I cared not for brakes. I was doing 150 on the Ardor Motor Speedway. So I cajoled and coaxed. I even inveigled. And she finally said Yes.

Eight months later we were wed. It is still the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Astonishing, too, when I think of all the pieces that had to fall into place: Actors’ strike in New York, which is why I happened to be in L.A. Cindy told me later she almost didn’t make it to the party. She’d put in a hard day’s work performing with a song-and-dance troupe at Magic Mountain. She was just going to go home, but somehow missed her turn off the freeway and decided, what the heck, she was close to Daryl’s. She almost didn’t stay because there weren’t any parking spots on the street. But just before she drove off, one opened up. And then, of course, I happened to glance at the vision on the stairway at just the right time.

Life imitating art, wouldn’t you say? Our fiction is a series of moments that lead to other moments, a connecting of dots to form a pattern of our choosing. Forty years ago, a pattern chose Cindy and me. We’ve been working on that tapestry ever since, weaving in two children and three grandchildren.

This evening I will take my wife to a lovely, outdoor restaurant overlooking a lake. We will not talk of lockdowns or viruses or politics. We will talk—with gratitude—of forty years together. At one point I will mention, as I have many times in the past, that Cindy is a saint for being such a loyal life partner for one such as I.

And still a vision.

82 thoughts on “The Vision on the Stairway

  1. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful vision.
    Congratulations on your 40th anniversary!
    I loved the last line of your second to last paragraph – “Cindy is a saint for being such a loyal life partner for one such as I.”
    My wife is also named Cindy. I tell her often that I am the luckiest man in all the world, because she is the only one who can put up with me.
    Have a wonderful day!

  2. Happy Anniversary, Jim. What a wonderful story.
    Sometimes the stars line up for us. Hubster and I will celebrate our 51st next month.

  3. Awwww. You two are lucky to have each other. Luck, it seems, played a big part. But after that, it was all you. And that’s what makes it so wonderful.

  4. Happy anniversary! The stars were indeed in alignment that day for you both. I love romances like that. May you both have many, many years of happiness ahead of you.

  5. JSB, this took my breath away! What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing it.

    I met my beau on November 7, 1987, in the 7-11 where I worked the counter. A single, divorced mother of three. Long story…sorta boring.

    He gave me his phone number…his handwriting was so bad it took me a week to decipher it. And what the hay, I gave him a call. Our first date was lunch at Wendy’s. About four weeks later, he popped the question…sort of. It was more like, “Hey, I’m going to marry you.” I don’t think I really answered him.

    And about four weeks after that, on January 23, 1988, we were married in my parents’ living room with all seven of our children in attendance.

    I often wonder what would’ve happened if he hadn’t needed gas and a cold drink that day while he was out on his job. 🙂

    (Pre-ordered your new craft book…can’t wait to get it.)

  6. Congratulations, Mr. Bell.

    For myself, I find the true stories of romance and love are a sigh and the wisp or memories far more wonderful than those constructed for the finest of stories.

    I wish you and Mrs. Bell decades and decades more of happiness together.

  7. Good morning, Jim

    Happy Anniversary! Congratulations! This is such a wonderful story. Serendipity indeed struck that day.

    I’m also the beneficiary of incredible good fortune. I met my future wife when we were both in high school. A month after starting an after school job, which only happened because I’d refused to continue working at a job I hated from the summer, the manager at my new job brought in a new coworker, a beautiful young lady. I was smitten at once. Three weeks later I asked her out. She’s been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. We’ve now been married thirty-eight years.

    Here’s to many more years of happiness for you and your wife!

  8. Way to build character. I want to read more about Cindy and about how the whole thing wove together. What a beautiful story. What a charming opening hook.

    And the moral of the story comes through the writer’s strike and the missed exit: you never really know at the time if an event is bad or good—only that it was meant to be.

    Have a lovely dinner.

  9. What a wonderful tribute to a love for the ages. Congratulations on 40 years. May the years ahead be many and filled with joy, happiness, and many blessings.

  10. Heartfelt congratulations to you and Cindy, Jim! Beautiful story of synchronicity.

    Our 48th anniversary was this past January. As you say, being married to a writer = saint.

  11. Jim, What a lovely story. Congratulations to you and your wife on your anniversary! I’ve heard it said there is nothing closer to heaven than a good marriage. I believe that — my husband and I celebrated our 50th anniversary this year.

    (Frank and I met at a barn where I boarded my horse. We say that’s why we have such a stable marriage. ? )

      • You are a newlywed compared to us!

        We had to cancel our 50th-anniversary party because of Covid, and I have boxes of party favors sitting on the floor of my office waiting for things to open up. It may be a 51st- or 52nd-anniversary party! Whenever it happens, I’m sure it will be wonderful. I’ll invite you all.

  12. Thank you, Jim. At a time when there’s so much nasty swirling around us, you gave us a breath of sweet, calming air. And reminded me of why I do what I do, to celebrate exactly what you portrayed here. Treasure it (as I know you do) every day, but especially today. My very best wishes to you both. As you said, “Weave on.”

  13. What a beautiful woman, inside and out. You’re a blessed man, but it’s not all luck and circumstances. Just think, how many guys have had a similar vision and decided, nah she’d never go for me, let me keep talking to my buddies?

  14. “Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger, you may see a stranger across a crowded room, and somehow you know, you know even then that somewhere you’ll see her again and again.” Rodgers and Hammerstein, SOUTH PACIFIC.

    True love at first sight that leads to forever is very, very rare, and those who keep it alive are very, very lucky. Happy Anniversary to you both.

    • Thank you, Marilynn. You reminded me of my mom’s favorite knock knock joke:

      Knock knock.
      Who’s there?
      Sam and Janet.
      Sam and Janet who?
      [Singing] Sam and Janet evening….

  15. Congratulations, Jim! May God bless you with many more anniversaries!! The couple across the street recently celebrated their 71 wedding anniversary…

  16. Pastor Jim, I believe you and Cindy are a blessing to each other. Both of you
    are just beautiful people. I have one of those Cindy’s in my life; 56 years and

  17. That was beautiful, James. It made my heart sing while reading it. Many congrats on 40 years.

    We’re coming up on 38 years this October, but I had a wait of Biblical proportions.
    We met at Zurich airport in Switzerland. He was the guide on a holiday I took – not long after getting engaged to another guy. I fell for him, but went home to my fiance taking only the number of the holiday company with me.
    The engagement fell through, and I went in search of “the one that got away”. I felt a great deal of relief to discover that he was still single, we met and I dated my holiday guide for five years.
    When a proposal was not forthcoming, I told him it was over. To go and not come back until he was prepared to marry me. It was a risk and a gamble, and it paid off – though only after a nail-biting month’s wait. (He called me, at work in England, when he was in Singapore, and the office just about exploded at the news.)
    He wasn’t a vision, nor a hunk, but his name is Richard and he will always be my coeur de lion, my lionheart.

  18. Mr. Bell, your message this morning is the first which moved me. I have familiar situations I’ve nicknamed Brain Farts; unfortunately now concerning love interest, but little thunder claps of flashing light. I’ve grown to listen as long as the echo lasts. My last was a fog of street signs at several residences where I lived as a youngster growing up. I thought to myself these addresses might by the titles of different houses, and all I remembered was the back steps on the first house I remembered sitting on the back steps with my Grandmother’s yard and who refused me a sip of his coffee. His reason was a short tale of his Grandfather refusing him a sip of coffee with the excuse that drinking coffee would make you black. According to my young Mother I replied to Marvin, Marvin, I’ve always wanted to be black.
    At my age I’m not sure several works of mine have survived many seasons and may not make the harvest. Who knows how much time we have left, so I encourage if you believe in brain farts, listen.

  19. Well I love the story and I love you both. Happy happy anniversary and many more.

  20. Jim,

    What a great story. Like others have said, it really touched my heart. Congratulations to you and Cindy! Wishing you both many, many more happy years together.

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