by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner
Vivi, you won’t be as angry at me. I actually did try to find you!
It is funny how long suppressed memories eventually come to the surface in mysterious ways. Last night I dreamed about Vivi again. The time was now. We had been married for 25 years and were visiting the Toms Brook Farm on our anniversary. Our main home was now Bob and Sara’s former residence in Alexandria, VA. We were still filled with the Holy Spirit and more in love than ever. Our seven children were there. Several grandchildren were playing in the pasture with baby goats and sheep.
Vivi has some “salt” sprinkled in her black hair, but was as “hot” as ever. I still looked like a lumber jack, only a little uglier. Vivi had devoted the last 25 years of her life to helping teenage girls from broken homes, so that they would not make the same mistakes she did. I was now someone very powerful politically. There were a group of reporters waiting under the big Sugar Maple tree tree, waiting to interview us. Vivi turned to me and smiled, “Ree-shard, aren’t you glad that you came back to find me?” But then I started weeping, “but I didn’t come back, I didn’t come back. I didn’t come back to Virginia.” The dream ended.
Then as I was waking up this morning around 6:30 AM, some very painful, suppressed memories returned to my conscious memory. In the “Overview of 1991” article on December 10, 2020, I stated that after Julie and I stayed at the farm on the night of July 15, 1996, I never saw my beloved farm again. The next day, I learned from National Park Service Director, Roger Kennedy, that Vivi had not quickly moved on to another man, but had frantically searched for me for two years. I did not drive over to Bob and Sara’s house, because I was in a serious relationship with Julie . . . and going to a their house to find a lost love would have torpedoed my ties with Julie. I hoped to marry her as soon as she finished graduate school.
Early this morning, I suddenly remembered a later trip. I will have to explain the circumstances for you to understand those times. First, you have to understand that because of her beauty and intelligence, Vivi was more than a “10.” She was a “12”. Men were constantly asking her for dates right in front of me. One time in the summer of 1992, when Vivi was living on the Toms Brook farm, a guy came up to us at a restaurant in DC and invited her to join him on his yacht as he toured the Caribbean Islands! So, of course, I assumed that she would quickly move on, if I was no longer around.
From 1993 to 1997, my estranged wife refused to pay the debts assigned to her by the separation agreement and later divorce decree in an effort to try to force me into bankruptcy. In Georgia, I was only able to find work that paid only about half what I made in Virginia as an architect, so for three years, I was constantly short of discretionary funds. This was unfortunately the era that Julie and I were dating.
However, just before Julie was to graduate, I got the contract to plan the revitalization of Downtown Smyrna, GA so I was able to buy a modest house. A lot more money was coming down the pike as the revitalization program intensified. Meanwhile, a relative had willed me an engagement ring that had been in mother’s family for over a century. I made reservations for the “Christmas In the Smokies” package at the Cherokee Casino Hotel and planned to pop the question on New Years Eve. I suggested to Julie that we spend the Christmas holidays together so we would know if we were really compatible. The holidays in the Smokies was to be a surprise. Instead she announced that she was going to Las Vegas, the City of Satan, with family members after graduation . . . and I was not invited.
When Vivi was teaching me about women, she repeatedly reminded me that if a woman wants to go to parties or on vacations without me, she didn’t really love me. It is true. Julie dumped me in March because I did not make enough money to support her dreams. She had always dreamed of having a large house with an indoor pool, overlooking a pond.
In May 1998, the new owners of my farm contacted me. My ex-wife had given all of our garden and farm tools to a boyfriend, while we were separated. When his wife found out the real source of the tools, she had returned them to our farm, expecting to dump them at his mistress’s feet, but by then the farm had new owners. Also, the new owners had found some personal items belonging to me (Pre-Columbian artifacts) hidden in the barn. I drove up there to pick the items up.
Vivi’s memory came back to me. I assumed that she was long gone, but wanted some finality to the memories. Without the address book that my ex-wife had given her lawyers, I did not know the unlisted number of Bob and Sara. I drove to Alexandria, but discovered that they had sold the big house and moved to another part of the country. I then drove to the National Park Service and discovered that Roger had resigned from the NPS and retired. I then drove to the French Embassy and learned that Ambassador Jacques Andreani had moved back to France in the autumn of 1995. However, the French love romance so an appointment was made for me the next day to get help from one of their staff members.
I stayed overnight in a modest motel in Arlington, because Jay Monahan (Katie Couric’s husband) had died of colon cancer in January 1998. I had hoped to hook up with him again, but it was too late. Their “urban” house was in Arlington.
Several of the people at the embassy remembered Vivi and her frantic search for me. She actually rented a house in Alexandria for two years and spent much of her time trying to find either me or my body. The embassy had my social security number because of the background check, but they could not find me anywhere in the United States. That’s because I lived with my parents for a year, did odd jobs for people and did not have any credit cards.
Vivi accompanied the Clintons on their tour of Normandy during the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994. However, she had walked away from her pop music career, in the spring of 1993, when I went missing. She had never recorded any tapes or appeared on television since then.
After Ambassador Andreani moved back to France in October 1995, Vivi gave up hope and moved back to France also. She soon moved away from Paris to a rural area and became a recluse. The embassy tried to find her current location, but could not. They thought perhaps she had married, but evidently not to a Frenchman, because there was no marriage license with her name and ID number on it. Thus, ended my search for Vivi and her memory quickly slid back into the deep crevices of my mind.
Now you know, Vivi!