First and Ten
On June 6, 1998, Chris and I were married at 5:00 pm in my sleepy hometown of Marion, which means that we indeed celebrated our ten-year wedding anniversary yesterday! For our first married Valentine’s Day, I wrote him the story of our first date as part of his gift. I have decided to post that story tonight in celebration of how God has blessed us with ten wonderific years of marriage. I am inclined to make two observations at this juncture…
- After rereading this story, we were not the picture of a super healthy relationship from the start. It may have been more like one idiot deserving another (at least initially). You’ll see…
- We are now old as dirt!!
During January and February of 1996, I was probably healthier and happier than I had been in a long spell. I was enjoying my first year of teaching; I was completely free and unencumbered. I had my own place; I had shed a good bit of weight for my best friend’s wedding. Her nuptials were the catalyst for a few needed changes in my life because I anticipated that Page and Julian’s wedding celebration would be the social event of my life that year (and, of course, she did not disappoint me). The dating opportunities in Anderson had proven to be limited which then resulted in a few unsavory Saturday night experiences.
As the festivities ensued, I did meet a promising Citadel graduate (even though I kinda sorta had a date to the rehearsal party and wedding). Chris Cawthon, the Citadel chap, and I had hit it off quite well. I remember coming back and furiously cleaning the apartment, listening to the whines of Willie and Shania (Nelson and Twain, no doubt). I was hopeful that a suitor would come calling one weekend soon. And he did. Chris called and requested a Saturday evening date for February 10.
I was so elated, and the timing couldn’t have been better. I figured that if things went well enough I might even snag a Valentine’s gift that year. Once again I cleaned and obsessed over every inch of my living space. Everything had to be perfect to ensure a positive impression. That day I lounged and leisurely prepared for my first real (enjoyable) date in Anderson. I took my time spiffing up to present myself as the quintessential modern woman, every hair in place and every fake nail flawlessly polished. I was feeling stylish and sassy.
I think he was due to arrive between 5:30 and 6:00 because it was still light outside. Anyway, whatever time his e.t.a. had been, it came and passed. He phoned to announce that he was lost, so I reviewed the directions and set him on his way again. Thirty to forty-five minutes elapsed after his call, and he’d only been a couple of blocks away when he was lost.
The phone rang.
It was a girlfriend calling to chat. Of course, I had assumed it would be my disoriented date. At this point, I started to question the character and/or common sense of this gentleman. I related the sequence of events to Holly, and we pondered the possibilities; however, in the midst of our ruminations, the doorbell sounded. I abruptly terminated the call and opened the door to find my date, looking a little disheveled but still quite handsome. “Hey! Come on in. What in the world took so long?”
“Look outside,” he responded. I half expected to see a tornado or similar natural disaster flashing by my window, for surely there must be some good reason he was an hour and fifteen minutes late. I opened the blinds and saw nothing but a fine February dusk. My reservations regarding his mettle were resurfacing.
“Do you see my car?”
“I just totaled it a few yards away. I walked here; see, there’s all my stuff out of my car.”
“Oh,” I said, not knowing what else to say.
He recounted his misfortune and assured me that we’d still be going on our date, if I drove, of course. I felt sorry for what had happened to him and made every effort to be sensitive. He would have none of that; he appeared nonchalant and impervious to the near total destruction of the car he had purchased only months before.
The first stop on our date was a dark, trashy garage in the armpit of Anderson. While waiting for the not-so-sanitary owner of the dark, trashy garage, my hand accidentally brushed his on the emergency brake.
“Please don’t try to hold my hand,” he quipped.
“Jerk,” I thought, liking the challenge.
We then ventured to our dinner destination where he inquired about my plans for the following weekend. I’m sure that I wanted him to know that I was available, without seeming too available.
“I’m not sure; I might have a friend coming into town, but I don’t know. What are your plans?”
“My cousin’s getting married in Savannah, and I’m in the wedding. Weddings are usually a lot of fun, like Page and Julian’s. They’re also a great place to meet people; that’s why my friends and I decided that you never take a date to a wedding. Those occasions are swamped with single bridesmaids.”
“Jerk,” I thought, realizing there was no chance for a date the next weekend. I was really beginning to wonder what I had done to incur the punishment I was receiving from this virtual stranger. I was usually very good at dating, so how had this date gone so awry?
We took in a movie, The Juror, where I watched the film alone while he abandoned me to call and discuss the details and consequences of the wreck with his parents.
“Jerk,” I thought, mystified that he could be so unaffected by my charm and wit.
As it turns out though, he had played his game well. Through mutual friends, he had researched my dating habits and knew that I needed a challenge to keep my interest. Through lengthy conversations that transpired after the events detailed above, we were able to unearth common goals, interests, and beliefs, and a mutual appreciation and attraction between us. On a date that seemed to have gone so badly, I found someone with whom to share my life.