By Cathy Dyson
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — When Sharon Zornes pulled a brown paper insert out of a furry stocking — and found Chinese writing on the front and back — something told her to check it out.
It took the Stafford County woman a few weeks to get a translation, but she eventually learned that the writer is asking for a second chance at love.
The plea, to announce his or her love to the world, if given the opportunity, has made it from one side of the globe to another, by means of a Christmas stocking.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get the message to whom it was meant to go?” Zornes asked.
As you can tell, Zornes, 47, is a bit of a romantic — but with good reason. She and her husband, Jeff, have known each other for more than two-thirds of their lives. They grew up across the street from each other in Washington state and never dated anyone else.
“I think everybody should have the chance to find the person he was intended to be with,” she said. Zornes, who teaches preschool, is also a family genealogist and the daughter of a policeman. There’s a part of her that seeks “just the facts, ma’am,” and she knows “if it’s not right, it’s not relevant.”
Zornes set out to find what she could about the sock-shaped piece of paper, stuffed into a red stocking with white trim that she bought after Christmas 2009, when seasonal items went on sale.
The only other clue was the tag that read, “Made in China.” However, that didn’t exactly limit the scope.
Zornes showed the insert to parents of her students, and one of them, Phil Dombek, offered to send it to some Asian associates.
His e-mails produced two translations, and Elizabeth Larus, an associate professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington, provided a third, at the request of The Free Lance-Star.
The three translations differ. But each tells the story of two people who fell in love, but weren’t able to stay together.
One version sounds more forlorn and asks why the two were allowed to even meet, if they couldn’t be together.
In all three versions, the writer declares that, if given the chance, he or she would announce his or her lover forevermore. But the exact timing of said love loses something in the translation.
Two versions give the length of love as a million years, but the third isn’t quite as committed.
In that one, the writer’s feelings will last a mere 10,000 years.
It’s not clear why a lovesick person would stuff feelings into a stocking instead of sharing them with his or her beloved.
Tanya Chen-Herman, one of the people who translated the writing, has a theory. At first, she thought the writer was male because of the handwriting and the tone.
“Maybe because men beg more often than women — call me biased if you want,” wrote Chen-Herman, a Chinese American who lives in Midlothian.
Then, she thought the writer might be a female because after the declaration of love comes the hint at circumstances and the offer to remain friends.
Not just regular friends, but “true” friends.
Chen-Herman calls that “the consolation prize” and believes it’s a typical female move. Plus, most Chinese textile workers are women.
One other aspect of the note caught Chen-Herman’s eye: the writing instrument. At first, she thought a pen brush was used, but then she dismissed that. Younger generations typically don’t use brushes, and it doesn’t look like the writer had any experience with calligraphy.
Chen-Herman figured a thick pen or marker was used because it was handy.
So, after marking boxes that were ready to be shipped overseas, the writer took a moment to send a factory worker’s version of a message in a bottle.
The note ends in English, with the words, “I love you.”
Zornes isn’t sure what she’ll do with the Chinese letter. If this story isn’t widely circulated among the 1.3 billion people in China, Zornes might make a YouTube video. She’d be thrilled to find the person the note was meant for, preferably by the next major holiday.
“It would make a great Valentine’s Day story,” she said. ♦