A Love Story: The Beginning

[Hope you enjoy this Valentine’s Day classic. It’s one of my favorites–for obvious reasons, as you will see. And I should point out that today, February 12, is our first date anniversary.]

The place: Furman University dining hall

The time: February 1, 1965, sophomore year; registration day for second semester classes

The scene: a group of friends sharing a long table at lunch. I’m facing the wall of glass that looks out onto the lake and its iconic swans.

My friend and future roommate has just come rushing to the table, practically dragging a guy we’d never seen before along with her. Jan wants to introduce us to this fellow she’s just discovered walking across campus. They are old childhood buddies. She’s bursting with excitement to have found him here, he having just transferred from the University of South Carolina. She’s eager for him to make fast friends and happily settle in to his new life as a Furman student.

* * *

Yes, this was the first time I laid eyes on The Gnome. His eyes twinkled and even then his lips curved into that amiably mischievous smile he’s so well known for. For the next year, our paths crossed in classroom building hallways or in the student center, where we usually stopped for a lighthearted chat. Sometimes we visited in the dining hall when he spotted our little group at a table. How did he approach us? Patty was the key. Whenever he saw Patty, he made his way over to give her a pat on the head saying something like, “Pat, pat, Patty.” She always smiled, but, oh, that little joke must have worn thin.

We’d known each other just over a year when he finally asked me out. As soon as word leaked that we we had a date, Jan and Martha (another of his childhood friends), both so protective of his feelings, started in on me.

“Don’t you hurt him.”

“He’s a sensitive soul.”

“You’d better not break his heart.”

Or words to that effect.

And here I thought it was just a date, a mere basketball game. They had me freaked—I nearly called it off. But I stuck it out. Besides, what was with them? He didn’t strike me as being particularly delicate, and, as far as I knew, I’d never done any heart breaking.

Even though it was a nail-biter of a game and Furman lost to the Citadel by a mere two points, we had a fine time and everything went just great—until evening’s end. Sitting in his car in the circular drive in front of the women’s dorm, we were saying all those nice, if awkward, things two people say when a first date is nearing its end. Then he told me he had a gift for me. Warning bells went off. They turned into ear-piercing alarm bells when he pulled out a little blue velvet box.

My heart leapt into my throat. Oh my gosh! What have I gotten myself into? I should have canceled, I should have canceled, I should have canceled!

But I’d forgotten the mischief that was always dancing at the edge of those green eyes. He opened the box to show me a gaudy adjustable ring featuring a huge—and I do mean huge—chunk of glass. There was a little card inside that read, “Hope Diamond.”

I was so relieved that it didn’t occur to me to be insulted at the implication.

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The Hope Diamond 51 years later

It was never stated, but we were a steady couple after that. My dorm sign-out sheet (now, there’s a story!) shows that I only went out with two other people following that February 12th basketball game, and both of those occasions were within the next five days. Chances are those dates had been made well in advance of my first date with the Gnome.

By early in our senior year, a future together seemed like a fait accompli. Without any formal declarations, we’d begun talking about where we’d live, children, things like that. So, when December 2nd rolled around and he took me to Ye Olde Fireplace, the swanky steak restaurant where all Furman couples went for special occasions … well, yes, this time I was thinking about a ring. Even more so when, after dinner, we headed to the top of Paris Mountain, that popular, romantic peak that overlooked the city and its night lights. Surely this was the moment.

Then came the bombshell. With a serious look on his face and an ominously somber tone in his voice, he said, “Carole, I have a confession.” Uh-oh.

“I haven’t been completely honest with you about our relationship, and I have to confess something.” This time my heart thudded into the pit of my stomach.

“Remember our first date?” he asked. “That ring I gave you—it wasn’t a real diamond.”

(Pause)

“But this one is.”

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Yes, of course I still have the ring box!

Well, you can’t say I didn’t know what I was getting into.

25 thoughts on “A Love Story: The Beginning

  1. So fun to read! Makes me smile. My husband & I have a fun little first meeting story- he said he saw me across the room (college church get-together), noticed the tag was sticking up on the back of my dress (I can still picture THAT dress) & he thought: “There is a girl who needs someone to take care of her”!

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s been 57 years since that first meeting, 56 years since that first date, and in August it will be 55 years since we married. I’m so very glad you risked that first date and everything else we’ve shared since then. Of course, the love story continues every day. Thank you for being the person you are and for sharing your life with me!
    Ron, the Gnome

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Carole, What a fun story – especially since I know Jan and Martha. Plus, I was at the wedding!

    I did not remember that Ronny started at USC. Interesting.

    I hope you are both doing well. I haven’t heard from Ronny in a while. Cooper had mentioned that they were hoping to get together with you and Ronny, Jan and her husband. We told them that we’d love to join the group if Covid ever allows such a gathering. There is an open invitation to our front porch. Well, the house too, but the porch is our favorite space. We live for “porch season.”

    Please tell Ronny hello. He had shared some of his health journey. I hope he’s much improved and enjoying life on your mountain. We love looking up at the mountains from our town and our occasional visits. Like everything else, Covid has slowed down our day trips.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Linda

    Linda McCrary 2086 Warrior Fork Trail Morganton, NC 28655 lindamccrary@charter.net 828-437-7710 home 828-443-6435 mobile

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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