By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
You see all the time on TV how people “meet cute.” Their eyes meet, sparks fly and the romance is on.
Shannon Hayhurst Barkley met her husband Nathan kind of like that.
She’s from Fairmont. He’s from New South Wales, Australia.
It was July 1996. She was visiting a resort in the Colorado Rockies. He was in a YMCA exchange program, working at that same resort.
They met at the Y skating rink.
“I swear it was love at first sight,” she said. “We both just knew.”
But he said it would never work out. He had no intentions of staying in the States. Still, they exchanged addresses.
“We started talking through letters and hit it off,” she said.
Three months later he moved to Fairmont. One month after that, they were engaged. That next August, they were married.
“That was quick,” she said with a laugh.
She admits his accent was part of what attracted her to him.
He moved in with her parents and stayed in the play room.
“We got to know each other better,” she said. “We already knew we were in love at this point.”
Now, 15 years later, they are parents to Makayla, 11, and Kyle, 9.
“They’re both good kids,” she said, “although Makayla, being a tween, is very emotional. But all their teachers comment on their good personalities. They’re polite and good in school.”
Both attend East Dale, Makayla in sixth grade and Kyle in fourth.
Kyle is all boy, rambunctious and energetic, she said. He can’t wait for sixth grade to be in cross country.
His sister is more thoughtful and quiet. She likes to stay in her room for hours at a time, Shannon said. She’s artistic and musical, and is in the ukulele band.
There may be “only” two children, but it still takes a lot of planning to keep the family going. And Shannon Barkley is just the woman to do it.
“I’m very organized,” she said. “The kids know what the schedule is. We get up at a certain time and I take them to school at a certain time. I’m a stay-at-home mom and spend my days either volunteering at the school or cleaning house. And then I pick them up. I get to the school early to get a good parking spot. And then it’s home for homework and dinner.”
After dinner, the family kicks back and relaxes together. This is the time she likes best.
“This is our time together. We might play Wii or watch TV or a movie. That is how we spend our evenings.
“Spending time with family is the most important thing. We’re a close-knit family. We do everything together.
“I want to teach my children what goals they should have. I want them to think they’re important to me. That’s a very important guideline for them as to how a family should be to them in the future.
“I grew up with family time in the evening. We’d spend a lot of time, even just watching TV. And Mom also made sure we ate dinner together. There were a lot of good memories.”
She is the oldest of three siblings; Nathan is the youngest of four.
The family is planning a trip to Australia for Christmas, she said. Tickets are bought, plans are made and all that’s left is the packing.
She’s been there twice before. Makayla was there when she was only 13 months old and this will be Kyle’s first visit to the Land Down Under.
“It’s really nice there this time of year,” Shannon said. “Even though it’s our winter, it’s warm. It reminds me of California.”
As her children near teenager status, she knows they will be faced with situations and temptations she can only warn them about.
“They need to learn to be their individual selves and not worry about fitting into the crowd. Makayla is hard-headed and is not concerned about what everybody is wearing or doing.
“We’re setting guidelines that she doesn’t have to do what everybody else is doing. She sees that in us and follows our example.”
Nathan’s been in the States for almost 16 years, so he’s probably lost some of that Australian accent, which is what appealed to her in the first place.
“It’s funny,” she said. “Most of his family doesn’t think he has an accent. They think he sounds like a Yank. To them, he’s lost some of his accent.
“But most people here definitely can tell he has an accent.”
Email Debra Minor Wilson at email@example.com.