Posted on December 27, 2021 Updated on December 27, 2021
This is the story of how my grandparents met and fell in love…
Jack came to Zuzu City with nothing more than a dusty pick-up truck, fifty-seven dollars, and hope in his heart. He moved on a dream – the dream of finding a woman to spend the rest of his life with, to have children and grandchildren, and to start his own business.
He was born James Owen Jackson, but everyone called him Jack. He was conventionally handsome, pale blonde hair, muscular build, soft blue eyes, and a strong jawline. But he lacked money and prospects. In his hometown, he had little luck with the ladies. He hoped life in the city would change his stars.
In Zuzu City, he could rent a room for fifty dollars a week. He had enough for the first week. Everyone had trouble finding jobs in those days. Most people struggled to put food on the table and coins in their pocket. If employment opportunities were slim, he could sell his truck and live off the proceeds for a few months.
Jack rented from a lovely young married couple. The man was on leave from the Army after injuring his left leg on the battlefield. The woman was a stay-at-home wife who cooked the best hotcakes this side of the Gem Sea. They were friendly and kind, welcoming Jack into his new place.
The room wasn’t much, but it was his own – a double bed with clean linens, a lamp, an end table, and a dresser. His rent included a hot breakfast and supper and shared use of the house bathroom. For the first time in his life, Jack felt comfortable in a place that wasn’t his home.
Jack obtained employment with a delivery service that shuttled groceries around town. His job was to collect the empty boxes once the customers were finished with them. Sometimes he would lug crates of fish to and from the docks to the market also as a way to make some extra money. It was hard work, but honest labor. He started at 7 in the morning and finished around 6 at night.
After three weeks in the City, Jack decided to open a bank account at the Jefferson Savings and Loan. He needed a place to deposit his paychecks and to save for a place of his own one day. Jack dressed his best – an old brown pinstripe suit that belonged to his father, a shirt overstarched by his landlady, a tie he borrowed from his landlord, and an old brown felt hat. He felt like a million bucks. That’s when he saw the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his entire life.
Her nameplate said her name was Joanna Jefferson and she radiated pure joy. Ms. Jefferson even did him the courtesy by laughing at his lame duck joke.
When she asked where he was from, he couldn’t tell her the truth. Fresh off the farm – country bumpkin… she would never go for it. So instead he talked about his dreams of owning his own store one day and how he was saving to purchase some land in the city.
Joanna helped him open his account, and then wished him well. Her shift was ending. He fumbled his words, wishing he had the sense to ask her to eat with him, but she was already gone by the time he turned around.
That night, he drove to the ridge just outside of town to watch the city lights. Everything twinkled beneath the soft cloudy night sky. And he knew in his heart that he would marry Joanna Jefferson.
The next day, Jack couldn’t help but sing in the shower. He hopped and skipped down the steps like a boy half his age. He was in love.
His landlady noticed as she prepared eggs and toast. She inquired as to his happy mood. He just smiled and thanked her for breakfast.
Each week, Jack tried to think of an excuse to visit the Savings and Loan. He had to see her – the beautiful bank teller – his heart’s one true desire. She smiled softly when he complimented her intelligence and laughed politely at his ridiculous attempts at jokes.
Every day, Jack would work beneath the hot sun in a smog-filled city, but it didn’t bother him. He was earning simoleons to see Joanna again.
His landlord often worked late at the Army Reserve. Jack would share his dreams of marrying Joanna with his landlady. He had to confide in someone. His heart was bursting. She listened politely, and encouraged him to ask the girl out. What was he waiting for?
Restless, Jack tried to sleep beneath the full moon. He kept working the words out in his head over and over again. How would he stop himself from sounding like a fool?
To his delight and surprise, she said yes. She wanted to meet him for a drink and was flattered that he finally inquired. Her colleagues had all been teasing her, wondering when he would finally ask her on a date. But one person was unhappy with the display of enthusiasm in the bank.
The following night, Jack met Joanna for drinks at a bar near her workplace. Joanna ordered a glass of Soft Shadow Avornalino. He ordered an EAPA, and then kicked himself, wondering if she would be offended by his beer breath. Only if he kissed her goodnight. Why was he thinking about that now? He had just asked her out. He couldn’t kiss her yet, could he? He worried about his suit… the only suit he owned, and the fact that he was always borrowing ties from his landlord.
Joanna didn’t mind. She was happy to hear him talk about anything and everything. In fact, he talked so much that Joanna had finished her wine glass and he had barely touched his beer.
The date was going great, until a well-dressed gentleman with a full beard and glasses pushed open the double doors and made an entrance. He spoke Joanna’s name harshly and said dinner was waiting at home. Joanna meekly managed a “Yes Daddy,” and then gave an embarrassed, and quick goodbye, much to Jack’s chagrin.
Instead of following his daughter, the man walked to the back of the bar, muttering something about a proper table and snapped his fingers at the bartender. He wanted a juice on the rocks and on the double. This man was John Jefferson, the President and Founder of the Savings and Loan. He was accustomed to getting what he wanted when he wanted it. Jack figured he better do what the banker asked.
Mr. Jefferson asked about Jack’s intentions. Before he could stop himself, Jack blurted out that he wanted to marry Joanna. In a flustered flurry, he attempted to regroup and asked permission to date the man’s daughter.
That’s when John Jefferson made it abundantly clear that his daughter would not go out with a two-bit gold-digger from the sticks. Jack was crushed.
While the housekeeper washed dishes, Joanna brought the tea tray into the living room, her father’s favorite, Yerba Mate. He once said the scent reminded him of her mama – strong and earthy. Once he stoked the fire, John settled into his wingback chair, proceeding to remove his shoes. Joanna asked him why he was so afraid to let her date. He argued that it wasn’t a good idea, that men had such different ideas about dating than women, and that she shouldn’t be seduced by their wicked ways.
She sighed and said she liked the funny customer at the bank. He was sweet. John told her that someone like Jackson was not a good match. She shook her head. “Oh Daddy, you married mama and she wasn’t a good match.” John cleared his throat while he stood, mumbling something about that being different. But Joanna knew… her mother was Selvadoradan and her father was not. He didn’t even speak the language when they met, and they somehow made it work. Joanna was convinced she could find love like that too one day… if her father didn’t scare off every suitor.
Her father’s warnings went unheeded. Joanna met Jackson later that week on a park bench in the center of the city. At first, they met once a week. They would sit and watch the riverboats drift by with their loads from the northern farms, and observe the blossoming of the trees in the spring.
Summer arrived. Joanna and Jack started meeting every other day at lunchtime. Sometimes she would pack a picnic lunch of sandwiches and he would bring homemade sodas. He would experiment in his boarding house basement. Some of the flavors were quite good.
Her friends and colleagues noticed a difference. Joanna seemed happier than usual. She whistled in the hallways, and hummed while she counted each night at close.
By mid-fall, Jack knew he was in love with Joanna. For real love. Not the bubbly silly infatuation he felt when he first met Joanna. They would stargaze in the evenings after work in the park. Joanna would point out constellations, and call them by their fancy Greek names. She attended university, unlike him. She knew things and read sonnets and could balance a checkbook and run figures. He was just a grunt who moved grocery boxes. How did he get so lucky?
Winter arrived and they met daily… sometimes even twice a day. They enjoyed snuggling on their favorite park bench to keep warm in the chill. He loved the feel of Joanna’s soft cheek against his own. She loved the scent of his aftershave and the tickle of his moustache against her nose.
By the following spring, Jack had saved enough to surprise Joanna with a ring. It wasn’t anything fancy. Surely nothing like the diamond rock her mother had worn. Still, it didn’t matter to Joanna on the balmy May evening as Jack bent on one knee and asked her to be his bride.
Joanna would go on a business trip to Sim City for her father. When she returned on Midsummer’s Eve, they could be married. They only had to wait five weeks.
Four weeks later, Jack’s landlord received orders to return to active duty. The war had begun. The Xek had made their first move and attacked a major SimNational city, hitting major industry. Bridgeport had been in flames for almost a month. Able-bodied men were asked to report and support their brothers to the south. The young couple had hoped to start a family, and that his leg injury would prevent him from serving again. “Haven’t they asked enough of us?” the landlady wailed.
After witnessing a tearful goodbye, Jack came to the porch to wish his landlord farewell. He laid a comforting hand on the landlady’s shoulder. Perhaps he could stay longer and help take care of things around the place. His number had yet to be called. Maybe if he stayed, it would make her feel a little better.
When Joanna returned the following week, she informed Jack of her father’s intentions to promote her from a teller to a bank officer. With her new salary, they could finally afford a place of their own. Jack should have been overjoyed, but instead he felt inadequate. He told Joanna they had to delay the marriage while he worked longer. She told him it wasn’t necessary, but she understood.
Jack took a job working nights at a local factory. The hours were challenging, but the pay was twice what he made doing grocery deliveries. It was a good way for him to feel like he was contributing. Every morning, his landlady would read the news from the front lines and cry, wishing her husband was there with her, and worrying for his safety. All Jack wanted to do was make a difference in the world, but the Army would not accept his application. It was probably for the better. His lack of education prevented him from enlisting in a higher paid position.
It was hard to hear his landlady cry. Day after day, he could hear her sobs through the floorboards. He wished there was something he could do. She was so heartbroken and lonely. He missed his own bride-to-be. Joanna was going on more and more frequent trips to other cities around the country and some in the Sim Nation also. She said her father was grooming her, but Jack worried the man suspected his daughter’s secret engagement and was attempting to keep them apart. Worse still, Joanna seemed to enjoy it. She would write about fancy parties and business meetings and how she was meeting all sorts of interesting people. Jack sighed and tossed in his bed for the umpteenth time before getting up. It had been nine months since they were engaged. Would Joanna ever come home?
A whole year passed. Jack finally made enough money to move out. He didn’t feel so bad either. His landlord was finally coming home for a short leave from the warfront. His landlady cleaned the house. She splurged and bought two game hens and some herbs at the market for a delicious supper with a side of summer squash. She put on her best summer dress. Jack was happy for her…
It was nine in the evening when she received news that her husband would not be coming home and had been recalled. It was even later when Jack learned that Joanna was delayed on the train. They commiserated on the sofa with bad jokes and brandy, and dreamed of a different life.
Joanna finally returned in the early fall. She came to see Jack immediately. He asked her if she actually wanted to be with him. “What kind of ridiculous question is that?” she exclaimed. “I’ve been missing you… I’m not sure you actually want me. I’ve been feeling neglected,” he admitted. She scratched the side of her head, looking crestfallen as she apologized.
“Of course I want to marry you. I’ve been working hard to afford a wedding dress and a wedding venue. It’s a beautiful little church up north right on the river. Oh and my dress. It’s beautiful and lacy and just the sort of dress you are going to love,” she smiled, her eyes lit up. “I hope you haven’t forgotten our plans… to move into that little apartment in the Lower District. I’ve been calculating and you’re making enough for us to live there just with your salary.” Taken aback, Jack said, “Are you sure you want to live… there? And give up your fancy home with your father? And what about your work? And the promotion?”
“Yes,” she whispered as she leaned in to kiss him. “And you know what? Let’s not wait. Let’s elope… tomorrow.” “Tomorrow?!?” he repeated, dumbfounded, pulling back from the kiss. “Yes,” she leaned in to complete the kiss. “Tomorrow after work. I want to be Mrs. James Jackson.”
Jack was the happiest man alive, but he hoped they hadn’t changed too much in their time apart.
Joanna shared her plans to run away with Jack with one of her colleagues. The other girl worriedly asked what her dad would do to her if he knew, and she tried to encourage Joanna to tell her father. But Joanna knew Daddy would disapprove. He would never let her leave the bank job even if she asked him. She was his legacy. She was destined to die an unhappy old maid if John Jefferson had his way. Joanna was ready to take fate into her own hands as she grabbed a fist full of air.
Life was difficult at first. Joanna’s father cut her off and she lost her job at the bank, though it wasn’t unexpected. Jack returned to work the delivery job with the grocery distributor. His boss knew how much he wanted to save for a family, so he offered him the night driver position also. Jack worked four twelve-hour shifts overnight with three days off, and then four day shifts, with three nights off. It was a harsh schedule, but it allowed him to make the money they needed to survive. Joanna seemed a little aimless without her banking job, and he could tell she regretted leaving it behind sometimes. However, she busied herself making the apartment pretty and learning to cook for him, and taking boxes for the refugees to the charity down the street.
Spring arrived. Jack’s boss wanted to retire and offered to leave him the business. Joanna’s business acumen kicked into gear and she drafted a plan. Within a year, they could expand and open their own storefront. Something his boss always wanted to do, but could never afford beyond a warehouse in the Lower District. Jack could finally own his own grocer… just like he always wanted. All they needed was to apply for a loan.
Because Joanna was the daughter of the founder and president of Jefferson Savings and Loan and she left on bad terms, no bank wanted to take their business. Except for one lone lending institution on the edge of Pine-Mesa City. It was a small bank with only a half-dozen branches across the country. The bank president himself agreed to meet with them. He was a kindly older gentleman from Del Sol. He shared that he had a son around Jack’s age and that had hoped his son would follow him into banking. The young man instead chose a life of service and politics in a small town. The banker smiled, and said he knew how important it was for young people to follow their dreams. Joanna cried. She wished her own father had been as supportive.
They left Salazar Credit Union a couple thousand simoleons richer and their hearts lighter. Jack and Joanna could finally afford to open their own market. A dream come true. It would take most of the year to get the contracts from local farms and fishermen, but they could buy the land.
The first three months were hard, but Jack never shied away from difficult work. He learned how to cut meats and cheeses, and mostly worked behind the butcher’s counter. They quickly built a customer base of regulars, folks from the surrounding community. Their prices were reasonable, and they often offered sales.
Joanna seemed happy in her new role as part-time cashier and part-time bookkeeper. She greeted the customers with such enthusiasm, Jack teased that she would scare them away. But everyone loved Jo. He could understand why.
By the autumn solstice, Jack surprised Joanna. They made enough money to afford a big box truck with an ice cooler, allowing them to pick up even more produce from farmers and transport fish even farther. Joanna was thrilled. Over ten months, the Jacksons worked night and day to make their business successful. By summer, they could afford three box trucks, an upgrade to their storefront, and to hire two more workers. They were slowly outgrowing their first shop.
It was the hottest summer on record in the city. The Jacksons were busy, sweating it out, getting their second shop ready to open on the first day of fall.
Joanna had a surprise of her own for Jack – they were going to be parents.
Their first child, a daughter, was born on the second of spring.
Life changed. Jack hired an accountant to replace Joanna so she could stay at home with her child. He spent many days down at the docks making friends with the local fishermen and shaking hands at the train station to promote his business and gain more contracts. The market grew and they were more than able to pay back the loan. They used the money to secure another loan for a second and third property, one in downtown and another in Uptown.
Joanna returned to work in the fall of her daughter’s fifth year. Business was booming. Joanna wanted to buy Jack a new suit. She laughed and said he would wear it until it fell off, but he said it was his lucky suit. It brought Joanna to him. She hugged him and shared she had found investors for the business. They could take the company nationwide if they wanted. It was an unbelievable dream come true. Jack cried, so grateful for his beautiful and talented wife.
Management suited Joanna. He always knew it would. She settled into her favorite bench in the outdoor section of their sixteenth supermarket. He only wished her father was here to see it. John had passed away from complications of alcoholism at the age of sixty only a few years prior. Jack sighed, wishing things had been different, but he didn’t want to ruin the day for his beloved wife. This evening they would celebrate their seventeenth wedding anniversary. For now, he wanted to just observe Joanna, in her fancy power suit, perusing the daily reports.
“Father, not another stupid joke,” his daughter giggled. “If you didn’t laugh, I wouldn’t tell them,” he replied. “Now go get changed out of your school uniform for work.”
As his child turned to leave, a young woman with messy hair and a dirty face ran to Jack, bypassing a frazzled clerk. Jack sighed. Probably another young homeless woman wanting employment. He stiffened, trying to brace himself for rejecting her pleas. He couldn’t help them all, even if he had a bleeding heart.
The young woman pleaded her case, her words mostly incoherent through the tears. She mentioned something about an auto shop. That explains the grease on her cheeks and the tattoo on her arm, he deduced. “You can get washed up in our company bathrooms, but I’m afraid I don’t have any open positions,” he offered.
“No,” she begged, waving her hands in a panic. He pinched the bridge of his nose as the customers were starting to notice. “You have to help me. You’re the only one who can…”
His wife looked up and gasped. “James…” Joanna stammered and repeated the rarely used given name of her husband. The young lady didn’t seem to notice the older woman’s shocked expression and continued frantically, “I’m your…”
Author Notes: The long-awaited prologue for Stardew Remixed is here. I’m excited to write for the first time in a long while. A belated Christmas wish to you! This was a photo heavy backstory, but I felt it necessary to set the stage. And… with my fickle mind and ever-changing ideas, I am officially setting Stardew Cove (a.k.a. Valley) in eastern Cascadia, my Simworld version of Canada. I know… I know… you’re probably rolling your eyes, but I think it fits best with the vision I have for this story and world. Whether you are brand new to my stories or a veteran reader, welcome. I hope you enjoy this series based on the delightful game created by ConcernedApe called Stardew Valley . I should also give proper credit for Pine Mesa City (a city mentioned in Stardew Valley Expanded, a mod by FlashShifter).