Gump-a-bump-a-rump-a! (Repeat – repeat)
No driver wants to hear this coming from under her car hood, even if it is my aging Infiniti. When I reported these scary noises to my husband Cliff, he immediately went into Investigator Mode. His problem-solving scenario proceeded like this: visiting a neighbor who restores antique cars, checking with an auto shop we’ve used before, and then contacting the dealership, the most expensive option. He wrote down notes for each, notes with names, dates, schematics, and most importantly, dollar signs.
He handles plumbing problems at home or HVAC hang-ups the same thorough way. Whether buying a new lawnmower, computer equipment or making travel plans, my husband Cliff is a comparison shopper supreme.
Once upon a time, Cliff used this same methodical system to find suitable dates. During college he had a little black book in which he entered names of girls to date. After they passed the sensational-physical-attributes test, their names and interests were entered into this book. Some girls’ names were crossed off the list because they were too giggly, walked like a duck, or were unable to sing on key.
Cliff went into serious search mode to find a mate after an unofficial engagement fell apart. Then his college roommate suggested he meet his next-door neighbor, a teacher and a Mennonite, during Christmas vacation. We met on a blind date In December 1965. I say blind because the normal-looking Mennonites he had known from the West were very unlike the girl standing in front of him, plain with hair coiled up under a prayer cap – me.
Maybe because of the mystique of our differences or because we had similar interests, ours was a whirlwind romance sustained by letters for months after Cliff returned to post-graduate work and me to teaching. Then his letters dwindled, probably because of his hesitation about dating a girl like me from such a strange background.
He went into comparison shopping mode again as he began his first year teaching, dating a nurse from a fine family. Later, he said after he had come to his senses, “I couldn’t get you out of my mind. I thought I would miss something if I said goodbye to you forever.”
According to Cliff, two things I did sealed the deal for him.
- I made him a monogrammed bath robe for Valentine’s which kept him from freezing on off-campus housing his last few months in college
- I called various hospitals to try to figure out in which hospital he was a patient when he had pneumonia and was too sick to contact me.
Fortunately our friendship was rekindled when we both attended the August 1966 wedding of the couple who introduced us. Now it was Christmas 1966, and Cliff drove from Jacksonville Florida to pick me up in Charlotte, North Carolina where I was teaching. From there we headed to my hometown, in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania in his white Plymouth Savoy.
There one snowy evening before Christmas Cliff said, “Let’s take a drive.” So we bundled up and headed out, crunching footprints in the new fallen snow. Fat flakes were falling from the sky even thicker as we slid into the car, the plastic seats crackling from the cold. Memories of the evening have become a movie in my mind.
“Where are we going?” I quizzed.
“Oh, I don’t know. We’ll just take a drive in this beautiful snow,” Cliff replied rather lamely.
As he tried hard to urge the heater to warm us up, we reminisced about our first dates the Christmas before. “Do you remember how deep the snow was when we went to see the Sound of Music?”
“Of course I do!” The car’s windshield wipers were swishing away mini-cotton balls of snow now.
In the back of his mind, Cliff wondered, “What will she say if I ask her to marry me?”
As we approached the archway between Rheems and Mount Joy, I exclaimed, “The road hasn’t been plowed any farther. We’re at a standstill!” We had come to a crossroads.
Then he said, “If you thought it was God’s will, would you marry me?”
Quickly I responded, “Of course I would.” But in an instant I recognized this as a marriage proposal encased in a tricky question, a snowy fleece.
“Well, then, will you marry me?”
With a “Yes,” the camera dissolved into hugs and kisses.
And yes, the little black book has been destroyed long ago.
Is there a comparison shopper in your family? Are you such a shopper?
You are invited to share your marriage proposal story here too.
Coming next: My Day of Change @ a Middle School