It was about a month and a half before I graduated high school, and this tall and thin, spunky, dark-skinned guy with glasses started a conversation with me as soon as church service was over.
Smiling from ear to ear, “So, you still have that white car?”
“Yep. Sure do.”
“I love those…,” he went on.
He wasn’t trying to flirt either, he was only being friendly and noticed that I was sitting there alone. Listen up, guys – that’s how you get a girl. Be their friend first!
Mind you, I was wearing army-green cargo pants, a white t-shirt I made with an iron-on, styling a very short-bob haircut right below my ears, and highly unlikely to be wearing makeup. Absent from my memory, we exchanged AOL messenger info so we could “chat.”
Y’all remember AOL Messenger???
About two weeks later, he was calling my grandparents house where we were staying, “Hey! This is Ernie from church,” all excited, “do you wanna go on a picnic?”
“Sure.” Well, that’s different, I thought.
I had my last real boyfriend (if you want to call it that) back when I was a freshman. After that breakup, I realized I was just another girl in his playbook and didn’t want anything else to do with boys. I played sports year round, and was very involved in high-school – no time for boys, thank you very much.
Being at the top of my high-school class, plans for college, and a stack of athletic awards to mention – and NO BOYS – I probably had my parents really relieved for a moment…
Ernie picked me up for our little “picnic date,” plans changed to a restaurant date, and then he brought me to the park to throw a softball. Unbeknown to me, he did some research to find out my interests and foods I may like for our picnic. He was getting details from my older cousin at church, and even went to her house to get some info on me! How sweet.
He was cute and all with his little rosy cheeks, but I didn’t think he was my “type.” Even though I wasn’t physically attracted to him during our first meeting at church, I began to like him. But you know us girls, we don’t act like it.
We “officially” started dating a few weeks later when he called my house asking me to “be his girl,” as he read me some scriptures about love.
Two weeks after that, no kidding, he leaned over in my car at a redlight, looked straight at me, and boldly said, “I’m marrying you, girl.”
I looked at him like he done lost his mind, “Whatttt?!”
Okay, whatever, I thought.
Marriage of any sort had never crossed my mind my entire life.
And not that I didn’t believe in marriage, I just wasn’t thinking about it. I wasn’t the little girl dreaming of a Cinderella wedding, a house with a white-picket fence, and 2.6 kids with their names already picked out.
I think God knew what he was doing when he dropped that spunky young man into my life. He truly loved me for me, and wanted to see me succeed. He was faithful to God and church, and I followed in that same path. It was because of him sharing my voice recording with the worship leader that I was asked to be on worship team! I am very shy when it comes to that!
We were steady for about a year and a half when I decided that I didn’t want to feel controlled by a boy. I broke his heart pretty badly, and he still says that it was such a hard time for him. Only a few months had passed, and I had to go get something from his house that I left there. Needless to say, that was the day we were back together.
Fast forward, and we’d been dating for about two and a half years total, including the breakup. Pizza was on the way, and I was sitting on Ernie’s bedroom floor working on an assignment for one of my classes. His mom and dad were sitting in the living room as the doorbell rang, and Ernie went grab the pizza. My mouth was watering for my Domino’s cinnamon pizza bites with icing (told you I have a sweet tooth).
He hands me the box of cinnamon bites, and when I opened it, all this hungry girl saw was a tiny black ring box. I looked up and saw this joker smiling, while I was freaking out!
“What is that?!” I screamed, as he got down on one knee.
To this day, I don’t even remember what he said, except that I know he was asking me to marry him. I do remember asking over and over, “Is that real?! Is this real?! Is that real?!”
Poor guy was kneeling there waiting for an answer, “Yes, it’s real! And…?”
Then, the tears and my answer came, “Well yes, of course!”
The wedding planning began.
Friends and co-workers told Ernie that we wouldn’t make it that young, and it wouldn’t last. I don’t think my dad wanted to believe what was about to happen to his daughter, and my poor mom tried talking to me about the responsibilities of marriage. I saw it as her not wanting me to get married, but I know now that it was only a concern for my well-being. All of that is still such a blur, but if I could give any advice to the engaged – talk about these things: kids, in-laws, religion, and money. What are your goals and plans in those areas? Make sure those things are agreed upon before getting started, and it just might save you a little bit of heartache in the process.
Fast forward 14 years, and we reminisce about those early days at least once a year around this time. It always brings back those mushy feelings, and I finally got an answer out of him!!!
“Why were you attracted to me?”
I finally got an answer, y’all!
As a jokester, he could never give me a straight answer about that, and his answer was always silly! Looking back, I didn’t see anything physically attractive about myself! I was so very Tom Boy, and didn’t give too much care about how I looked or matched clothing. What in the world did he see in me at first sight?
“You were nice to me. There were a lot of girls who were pretty, but they were ugly on the inside. You were friendly and talked to me,” he said calmly. Finally.
“Wow.” To my surprise and confusion, I had no clue that people even acted like that, and plus I went through life sort of obliviously. It never occurred to me to not talk to someone just because I may not have been attracted to them or liked the way they looked. That’s just rude.
That worked out in my favor because I discovered a loyal, hard-working, comical, loving husband and dad, and gained great in-laws, too.
We got married at 20 and 21, and although we were so young and unprepared, we had lots of ups and downs and lots of growing up to do. More importantly, instead of dwelling on the bad, we embraced the opportunity to grow up together, grow in God together, and encouraged one another to be better people, even if it hurt our feelings. Let me just emphasize again – there were some really tough years.
Not long ago, Ernie’s mom made a comment I’ll never forget. We were serving at a soup kitchen for Thanksgiving, and she was introducing Ernie to one of the attendees, as they wanted to know who this young man was.
“This is my son and his wife.”
“What a fine young man,” they said.
She proudly responded, “She did a good job didn’t she?! (Talking about me) All I can say is that I started raising him, and she finished.”
Moms, we can only take credit for so much. We try our best to raise our kids, but pay attention to who they marry. Our spouses can ultimately influence us to be better or could even make us worse off.
I’m glad she realized that the man he is today isn’t solely because of how he was raised. Obviously, they raised him to be a person of integrity, because that’s what attracted me to him!
We truly grew up together, and I’m a better person in many ways because of him also. Being total opposites (as we should be), we gleaned off of one another through the years. We ALL have good traits and bad traits, but picking up some of those good traits from one another is what can help us to be better people.
Sticking through the tough times was worth every minute, as we stand here today more in love than ever.
More than anything, being faithful to God and one another is what carried us through.
You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.
~ C.S. Lewis
I’ve always loved that quote.
I’m not so sure what a pizza box proposal foretells for one’s future, but I’m here to say that the not-so-glamorous beginning doesn’t mean that the ending won’t be! Here’s to many more years to come!