My First SCA Event–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–March 1995, Part 12

On Friday, March 24, Cugan drove me far away to a place about an hour away from Stevens Point, where March Haire Affaire was held.  This may have been Wisconsin Rapids or Marshfield.

We stayed, or “crashed,” at a house with a friendly couple, at least ten or twenty years older than us, with a dog or two, three or four cats that loved me, and pet hair all over the house, even on the towels.  I decided to never have that many pets, because of all the hair.

On the morning of the 25th, I parted my hair in the middle because that seemed more medieval.  I hadn’t done this for several years, and liked doing it again so well that I began to part it in the middle for months afterward.

Middle parts, which seemed to vanish in the 80s in the backlash against all things 70s and hippie, came back into fashion in the late 80s or early 90s.  Nowadays, nobody cares where you part your hair.

But when I had “hippie hair” in high school, one day I looked around and wondered why nobody else had a middle part.  I felt terribly out of fashion, so I tried parting it differently.

I didn’t have my own garb, so Cugan let me borrow some of his.  I wore a white shirt and huge, green “horde” pants.  Cugan tied the legs up with leather thongs, but I felt like I was drowning in the clothes, which were much too big for me and very hot.  I may have worn my own black dress shoes.

I laughed at the absurdity of this costume on me.  Cugan gave me his cape to wear outside, since it was only March and still cold.  We drove about an hour to the event, which was held in a school.

We went into one large room full of merchants’ goods: veils, headdresses, clothing, jewelry, everything a person might need at a non-camping event.  This spoiled me, because for a while I thought every event was like this, and that if I couldn’t afford something this time, I could get it the next.

I found a green, embroidered dress which went over an off-white undertunic.   Cugan said the color looked wonderful on me, and the woman selling the clothes said she could alter them if necessary.

But the size was medium, and when I went into a bathroom and tried them on, they fit me perfectly.  Some of the undertunic showed, but one of the women there told me it was supposed to, unlike a modern slip.

This dress was much cooler and more comfortable.  I went back into the merchant room and showed Cugan, who was amazed.  He even told his fellow shire-mate Donato how amazing it was.

I had no idea at the time that finding perfectly-fitting garb at your first event, and for only about $25, was highly unusual.  Most events don’t have merchants selling full sets of garb.

We then found a metal link chain that looked like gold, and this became my belt.  (I tried wearing it as a necklace, but somebody told me only knights did that.)  I think Cugan also lent me one of his leather pouches.

Ayesha and her husband Donato were both there–and surprised to see me with Cugan.  I don’t think Catherine came.  Cevante also saw me, and hugged me with glee.  I hoped she noticed I was there with Cugan.

As a shy person surrounded by strangers, these familiar faces were welcome.

I think Donato even offered us Coke in cans.  He was selling yarn slipcovers for pop cans, which he made himself and (as I later discovered) he usually sold at events.  They made your pop can look “period,” or like you belonged to the time period the SCA covered: about 600 to 1600 AD (the dates are subject to debate).

(When Cugan and I got married both in real life and then in an informal SCA wedding, Donato gave me a cover with the letter “N” for Nyssa, and Cugan a cover with the letter “C” for Cugan.)

Some of Cugan’s friends from outside the shire, such as from Appleton’s Windhaven, showed up.  Cugan introduced me to them as his lady, and one of them, probably Clyde, said “Oh!” and kissed my hand.

I must have smiled all day.  I was never bored, and had lots of fun.  At one point, Cugan and I went into the foyer and played pente at the tables set up there.

I always thought this was a medieval game, but Wikipedia says it was invented in 1977.  It’s sort of like checkers, except any number of people can play.  Each player has a set of glass beads in a particular color; you move them around and capture other beads, on a cloth mat with a grid.

Cugan and I played against another couple for a while.  Cugan was red, and I think I was blue or green.  I think we were all beginners.

I won the most games, and was finally matched up against three guys from the other tables who also won most of their games.

One of these was Clyde, who cracked lots of jokes as we played.  One in particular I wish I could remember, because it became a catch phrase; I think it was a line from a song.  One of the guys there seemed cocky, so I hoped he wouldn’t win.

I came in second place at this game, making me nearly the pente champion.

Because of this–coming in as a “newbie,” finding the perfect garb right off, nearly winning at pente, and stealing away Cugan’s heart–I told Brad in a letter that I felt like a cheekish, charmed upstart.

(By the way, it was so sad to have to tell Brad I chose another guy.  Why couldn’t all these guys have shown up sooner?  I could have had a chance to date each one of them.  Maybe I would have had better experiences in college than I had with Peter, Shawn and Phil.  Or maybe I would have had guys to fill up my long “love droughts.”)

I also met Master John Wagner, Cugan’s mentor when he was a newbie.  John was a remarkable man: tall, handsome, 30ish, but no eyes or hands due to being stupid with dynamite when he was about 11 or 12–

–yet able to get around and weave beautiful patterns through touch.

The skin of his forearms was clipped so that he could use the bones as two-fingered hands.  If he greatly honored you by asking you to hold onto the edge of his huge staff and lead him, you could also meet all sorts of people who knew and loved him.  He was so well-liked and respected that if he didn’t like someone, that was quite an indictment.  (He met our shire’s sociopath, described here, and found him “slimy.”)

When Cugan and I crashed at his apartment once, John led me through the hallways.  He was immensely capable.

Unfortunately, he died young, in 2012.  His obituary is up permanently, here.

We sat at a table in the merchant room for a while, with Master John and a man dressed as an Arab.  Once, Cugan turned his head down while talking, and John asked him why.

Cugan, shocked, wondered how the heck John could have known he was looking down.  It didn’t shock me, because I noticed in childhood how the sound of a person’s voice changes depending on how he turns his head and the proximity of a table.

To Cugan, however, John seemed to see without eyes.

Fighting–a bunch of guys and even a young woman in makeshift armor beating on each other with rattan sticks covered in duct tape–was in the gym, but I didn’t want to watch.

That evening, we sat feast in the same room the merchants had used, which may have been a cafeteria.  Along one side was a cardboard? castle for the kids to play in.

There were several different “removes,” or courses, and the meat remove alone included at least two different kinds of already cold chicken.

Cugan’s feast gear had strange-looking three-pronged forks.  I loved eating off wooden plates and bowls and drinking from a wooden or pewter? goblet.  I wasn’t too crazy about most of the food, except for the bread and the custard, which Master John loved.

There was also a naming contest for the mascot, a winged-rabbit puppet.  There were several winged stuffed animals, including cats, at one of the merchant tables; Cugan bought a few.

Cugan won the contest with “Arfur of the Round Tail.”  I think the “Round Tail” idea came from me.  I thought it terribly corny, but he won, and got to keep the puppet, which he later dressed in its own garb.

He also won or bought a stuffed rabbit, which I think he called Lancelot, and also dressed in its own garb.  Winning Arfur made him very happy.  A guy who liked stuffed animals?  What a find!

Outside at his car, I told Cugan he looked good in garb, which he did.  He wore a brown pirate shirt with huge, black “horde” pants, a black tunic-like vest tied with a belt, and black leather boots, which kept him from tripping in the pants.

No one else was at the crash spot when we got back there, so we started to watch Dragonslayer in the living room.  But Cugan was too tired.  As long as we did watch, however, we still wore our garb.  I didn’t want to change because my dress was comfortable, and it was fun to dress like I’d stepped out of the Middle Ages.  In fact, years before I watched Dragonslayer and longed to wear those dresses.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

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Meeting Cugan (Hubby)–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–February 1995, Part 2

My last semester was comparatively light: two classes and my senior honors thesis.  But that thesis needed a lot of work: reading the massive book Middlemarch at my teacher’s request and writing reaction papers, research, drafts and rewrites.

Todd, my Irish Writers teacher, was now my Brit Lit teacher.  Most of the students were female, and often amused by him.  He loved Jane Austen, and was quiet and shy.  One day, forced to mention women’s periods because they related to something we’d read, seemed very nervous about it.  I didn’t notice it, but others did, and giggled about it later.  He was a favorite teacher.

On Wednesday, February first, I spoke to Dr. Nelson about my senior honors thesis.  I’d dreaded it since freshman year; junior year I almost took a regular junior studies class instead of junior honors so I wouldn’t have to do the thesis.  But I finally decided to go ahead and see the honors CORE classes through.  As I was about to find out, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared.

I began to write my thesis based on Victorian women writers, how they perceived society’s restrictions on women, and how they treated the subject in their writings.  Nelson was to be my adviser.  Sometimes his wife, who shared his office, was there as we discussed the paper; she made her own comments on such things as Middlemarch and Victorian society.  She noted that some women long for the Victorian days so they wouldn’t have to have a job and write.

Middlemarch is by George Eliot, the penname of a woman who wrote in Victorian days.  This book was huge: The recent Penguin edition is 880 pages.  I was supposed to read it as quickly as possible.  I read as much as I could each day, but I did have two other classes, and, despite my comprehension skills, had always been a slower reader than everyone else I knew seemed to be.

I also had to read Chaucer in Middle English.  Catherine and Anna were in Chaucer class with me, so it became a common topic of conversation.  I already liked The Canterbury Tales; Catherine grew to love his works.  She hadn’t realized how clever, fun and, especially, bawdy they could get.

We read not just The Canterbury Tales, but many of Chaucer’s other stories, poems and translations, such as Romance of the Rose, a tale of Antony and Cleopatra, and Troilus and Criseyde.

The most fun part: We were required to learn the first 12 lines of the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales in Middle English, and recite them to a teacher other than our own (Christina) by a certain date.  On about that date, several of the students in Brit Lit cornered Todd after class and recited it to him.

Until that time, Anna and Catherine and I loved to recite lines of it to each other.  It was fun, and the lines were musical.  This is also when I posted lines from the Prologue in my TCB tagline.

Others still complained that Middle English was difficult to understand, but within a short time I got the hang of it.  The theory was, you were supposed to read it in its original pronunciation to understand it better.

But I discovered that just looking at the words without sounding them out made them easier to understand.  Many times Modern English has the same word in the same spelling, just pronounced differently.  Still, it took quite a while to read my assignments each night.

****

On Sunday, February 5, Catherine took me to my first SCA meeting.  It was for the S–/M– shire.

I was already interested in checking out this group of people who wear medieval clothes.  But she enticed me into going by saying, “There are lots of hot guys there, and they love to flirt with you.”

The meeting was at 2pm, though Catherine told me we didn’t have to get there on time.  I think we got there up to an hour late, which she said was normal for the SCA.  She said they wouldn’t have started until then, anyway, because most everyone else wouldn’t be there until then, either.  Unfortunately, this one started close to the proper time.

Steve the Head of the Psychos used to be part of this group as well, until he graduated with most of the Octagon in 1994 and (I believe) moved back home to Chicago.

The meeting was held at the home of people with the SCA names Ragnar and DiAnne.  Ragnar was a big, burly, blond-haired Viking with glasses and a beard.  He loved to hug, and to take smaller people, like me, and bounce them on his knee.

DiAnne had a pleasant face, glasses, and long, brown hair.  They had a newborn baby girl.  I don’t know how old they were, but I’d say 20s.

Catherine took me to this place, a duplex, and led me in the door and up a high entryway staircase.  She went in and the shire members cried out in happy surprise, not having seen her for some time.

“I brought somebody new,” she said.

They cried out in happy surprise again.  For the rest of the afternoon, I felt like the star of the show.

We set our coats down, probably on the floor, and found seats.  I quickly scanned the room for the hot guys Catherine had told me about, but most of the ones I saw looked too old or too married or too plain.  (Apparently she meant the SCA in general, not just this group.)

One, however, stood out: Cugan, who had been in the SCA for a few years, and joined the shire after Catherine stopped going.  (Well, actually, two were cute, but the other one had a girlfriend.)

I sat down in a chair near him and opposite the couch.  Catherine sat in a nearby corner.  These were the only places we could find to sit, and the chairs had been so arranged that I felt like my chair was out in the open, while Catherine’s huddled into the corner.  I felt self-conscious.

The meeting ended up being very dull.  It was long and all business, since they changed the format recently to make it more efficient.  (No more late starts, tangents or turning on Star Trek: TNG.)  Though it was very boring and I didn’t understand it, I did learn some things about the group, including Cugan.

He wore a black hat with a dragon pin, a Celtic knotwork medallion, and a large cross on a pendant.  In time, I discovered he made the medallion himself in Ireland, when he was about seventeen.  A Dungeons and Dragons book sat on a table near him.  (I later asked Catherine if that was his, and she said it probably was.)

As a person with NVLD, I couldn’t tell how old he was just by looking at him.  I feared he was much older than I, and would consider me too young.  I feared he was married or had a girlfriend.  I hoped he was a Christian, but wondered if the universe could really be so much in my favor.

He just couldn’t keep still during the meeting: His hat kept traveling from his head to his hand to his knee.  Sometimes, it even ended up on the head of a girl named Nadine.

I thought he kept looking at me during the meeting.  I hoped so.

At one point, somebody asked Cugan, the Chronicler (writer of the newsletter), “What about this note in the newsletter about the pitter-patter of little feet?”

Cugan said, “What?”

Cevante, the Seneschal (chairperson), who sat next to him, answered the question.  I thought at first that Cugan and Cevante were married and the baby was theirs, but soon discovered this wasn’t the case–to my great relief.  The baby in question probably belonged to our hosts.

I soon discovered that SCA people usually referred to each other by SCA names, rather than real names, though some people were called by their real names more often.

(For the most part, I’ve kept real SCA names and online handles here because they reflect personalities and can be hard to duplicate with fake names.  Not only that, but they’re much harder to trace than real names.  But not all the names I use for SCA people are SCA names, because some people were better known to me by their real names.  And not all the SCA names and Internet handles I use are real, especially if their misdeeds are recounted.  So you won’t know which is which.  🙂  )

Nadine was the best friend of, same age as, and possibly roommate of Cevante’s daughter, Tatiana.

When the business portion of the meeting finally ended and the members broke up into smaller groups, a tall blond, Marcus, got up and pulled up the hood of his red robe.  Unlike the others, he wore SCA garb.  Catherine poked me and said his persona was a druid.

Cugan said to me, “I’m Cu’gan-mhatthair MacMuircheartaigh.  That means in Gaelic, ‘b**tard son of a bi*** and a passing sailor.'”  Actually, literally it means, “Dog without mother, son of a passing sailor”; the rest was his embellishment.

This was the only time he cussed during the entire meeting.  He then grabbed a clipboard with some papers on it, jumped over and knelt down before me with a big smile on his face, and asked for my name and address.  I smiled and wrote down my name and college address.

At one point, someone announced a homemade brew or wine was available.  Cugan, after proclaiming his enthusiasm, got up and went with the others who sampled it.

Cevante spoke with me as well.  I said I just took a Celtic class at college.  She said, “Good girl!”

The meeting went on for probably two hours or more after Catherine and I arrived.  We mostly stayed in the living room.  At one point, she sat with Nadine on the couch, while I got cornered by the Herald, Donato.

I would have preferred to find Cugan and start a conversation, or listen to Nadine and Catherine’s conversation.  But to be polite, I sat and listened to Donato explain the structure of the SCA, its offices and ranks, and some of the rules: play the game by wearing garb at events, etc.

(You can find this same information here.  A few years later, I heard him give the same talk to a girl with the online handle Malika; she seemed fascinated.)  I caught parts of Nadine and Catherine’s conversation:

Nadine: “You’re married now?  Wow.”

Catherine: “You’re nineteen now?  I feel old!”

Cugan eventually returned; Catherine asked him about a music group he put together to practice period music.  She mentioned it to me before, and the possibility of my joining in with my tin whistle.  (This never happened, and the group didn’t last long.)  I wanted so much to break away from Donato and chat with Cugan.

Finally, Donato finished talking, and I was free! free!

In late afternoon or early evening, people began to go home.  Cugan put on a classy jean jacket, his hat and maybe a scarf, and said to me, “Do you hug?”

These SCA people were like Catherine, and loved to hug.  Now, probably like most people, I felt uncomfortable hugging people I barely knew.  But I said, “If somebody hugs me.”  In my mind I added, “Especially you.”

He hugged me, and I enjoyed it tremendously.  He said a cheerful good-bye to the rest of us, including Nadine, and left.  I hoped to soon see him again, and get to know him a lot better.

Complication: Nadine now said to the shire members near her, “It seems when I like him he hates me, and when I hate him, he likes me.”  (Much later, when I told him about this, he got upset and said, “I don’t know where she gets the idea that I hate her.”)  I wondered what was going on between them, and why she felt this way.  I didn’t think they were dating, at least.

(As it turned out, she had a huge crush on him that he didn’t know about for a while.  She wrote a letter about it to Tatiana, who showed it to him.  He got scared, because to him she sounded obsessed.  So I just walked into a little soap opera.)

Soon, Catherine and I also left the meeting.  On the way back, as Catherine played her Prince tapes as she usually did when driving me places that semester, I told her about Cugan hugging me.  I said,

“I didn’t mind being hugged, especially by Cugan.”

I had no idea that Catherine had been scheming all along for me to meet Cugan, that when she told me there were hot guys in the SCA who love to flirt, she was thinking mainly of Cugan.  I wouldn’t know this until probably a few months later.

She didn’t know him well, but figured he was the kind of guy I’d like.  He seemed better for me than Phil.  She hated Phil (and Persephone).  She must have been pleased that, with no prodding from her whatsoever, I now sat there saying how cute Cugan was and how much I wanted to get to know him better.

I had no idea that, so soon after my divorce, I met my future husband, one who would stick around; Cugan had no idea that he met the future mother of his child.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

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