There’s a curve in the freeway, just where the old Dutch Windmill waves its cheerful arms at passers by. It is nestled on the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s table top mountain, a gentle arc of land once populated by quaggas but now home to students from every corner of the continent. The freeway snakes away from the city, and I knew each twist: hospital bend, the little plateau as the freeway parts into two, the slight rise before the arms of the windmill break into view on the left. Even my muscle memory knew the camber of the road, knowing just when to brake, just how much to nudge the steering wheel to take the corner gradually, before flicking on the indicators to signal my exit.
It happened one day, driving home just six weeks into a fledgling relationship, that I knew I would marry this man. He was not at all my type: quiet where I’d always dated extroverts, cautious where I’d formerly been drawn to confident certainty. Our first weeks of dating had been rocky, too: an old flame was in town and was causing trouble.
And yet, as I drove home from a stolen lunch of perfectly spiraled sushi rolls and contemplated the unlikeliness of it all, it was then I remembered a prayer I had prayed some years earlier: an uncomplicated prayer, that I would find someone who loved me for who I was, who loved God, and with whom I could talk and laugh. I cheekily added a fourth request: Please God, if it wasn’t too much to ask, could he be tall, too?
I laughed out loud at the memory, just as the windmill came into sight. No, he wasn’t the life of the party or a teller of jokes, but we certainly did laugh together. He wasn’t a reciter of sonnets or the maker of grand gestures, but his quiet patience in the midst of my ex-boyfriend-tornado spoke volumes of his commitment to me. Yes, he loved God, and—Oh God, you remembered!—he stretched six feet and two inches tall. A man to look up to, in every sense of the word.
The windmill bore witness to it all. I flicked on my turning signal, grinning to myself. I’d been slow to realize it, but this was the one with whom I could be silly and cranky, and who could see my fissures and not run. This was the one with whom I could grow old. I felt the winds of change and sensed a deep shift, a milling in my own soul.
I drove home that same route the next day, and the next, smiling each time I drove past that historic landmark, noting its milestone. Six months later I passed by my windmill in the passenger seat, this time dressed in white. I rested my hand on my new husband’s knee. “Do you see that windmill?” I asked. “This was where I first knew we would get married. Driving home. One day after eating sushi with you. And I just knew.”
He smiled and flicked on the indicator as we passed under the windmill’s shade. Ever as always, it signaled home.
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“The Sign of Windmills” is by Bronwyn Lea. Bronwyn and her husband married and moved from Cape Town to California, where they now live with their three littles. Bronwyn writes about the holy and hilarious at bronlea.com, as well as other online places like SheLoves, RELEVANT, the Huffington Post and Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Occasionally, she gets back to South Africa and always makes sure to drive by the windmill (pictured above, photograph by Ian Barbour). Follow Bronwyn on Facebook and Twitter.