It is in one of the rooms of this mansion that the Christian Counseling class takes place. The young girl of 19 takes a seat near a window. The room is crowded with those who want to learn to apply biblical principles to help those whose lives have been torn apart by drugs, alcohol and abuse. In 1977 this was new concept and halfway houses sprung up all over the place with little regulation and lots of hope. But this story is not about the halfway house or the counseling class. It is about the girl sitting in the sunlight, looking around the room at new faces and old. She is only 19 years old, in her second semester of community college, trying to find her place in the world.
As she looks across the room, she sees a young man about 4 ½ years older than her. She has known him for about a year and formally treated him like a big older brother. Now she looks at him in a new way as she sees him holding her friend’s daughter. He is laughing merrily, his blue eyes sparkling and for the first time a new thought crosses her brain. “Wouldn’t he make a good father?” The thought is so foreign to her and so sudden that she is sure an angel has whispered it into her ear, and perhaps one did, for later on that afternoon the young man calls her up and invites her out for coffee and pie that very night!
Now the girl is nervous and jittery. What should she do? What should she wear? How should she behave? What does this mean? Darkness falls early in New England at this time of year and with it the evening temperatures. The night feels like black crystal ice, the air is hard to breathe. A knock at the door and she is ready, she follows the man to the waiting car, a old station wagon owned by the Mansion he works at as a volunteer counselor and now, co-director. But what is this? There is another woman in the car! Her name is Kathie also and the young girl knows her. This Kathie is older than her and also works as a counselor at the Mansion. Could it be that the young girl has misinterpreted this as a date?
Cautiously she climbs into the car on the passenger side with the other woman in the middle and the young man driving. They drive the short distance to Burris’s Restaurant and walk briskly inside to escape the cold. The warmth of the establishment brushes her face. The young man leads the way to a booth where he sits with the other woman. The young girl sits across from them feeling puzzled and bewildered. Perhaps it wasn’t an angel whispering in her ear after all. As they order their coffee and pie, the young man starts to explain the situation.
Apparently as he drove north in the cold winter’s night he stopped at the local gas station to fill up with gasoline. Back in those days many gas stations also repaired cars. As he was filling the car with gas, he noticed his co-worker standing there shivering and waiting for repairs to be finished on her car. With temperatures falling below zero he couldn’t see having her wait in the cold, so good-hearted man that he was, he invited her along.
The tension in the room relaxed. She hadn’t misunderstood. Now the three friends talked and laughed as they drank their coffee and ate their pie. When they were finished and the bill was paid, they drove the other Kathie back to the garage where her car was ready and waiting for her. Then Gus drove me back to my apartment where we said good-bye at the door. Yes, this is the story of our first date on February 1, 1977.
In the course of the next three weeks, we went out on a few more dates. I turned 20 years old on February 22nd and on February 26th Gus asked me to marry him. We were married on June 4th of 1977 that same year on the grounds of that old mansion. Over 200 people attended. My birding mentor was there. Our wedding cake was 3 tiers high held up by angel pillars with morning glory vines cascading down the sides. And since my love of birds and nature goes back beyond this date in time, I chose a pair of white doves to sit on the top tier nestled in a bed of moring glory blossoms, instead of the traditional plastic bride and groom. 34 years ago today was the day it all started. Perhaps an angel really did whisper in my ear.
Happy Anniversary of our first date honey! I’m glad you asked me out.
Note: Big January wrap-up to follow!