What on earth was I doing here? I was just a teenager dreaming about being a grown up and I was suddenly feeling very small. I had encouraged every conversation about commitment, welcomed every notion of a future with this man and now that the moment I had dreamed about was here, I didn’t even know what to say. Any response was a risk – a “yes” was plunging headlong into the unknown while a “no” was an admission that I was really just a naive 18-year-old after all who really had no clue… and would he think I had just been playing him? Even a “can I think about this?” seemed the wrong response to this man who had just laid it all on the line. For me.
I did the only thing I could think to do. I threw my arms around his neck. I had dreamed about this moment and imagined myself squealing with delight and exclaiming, “Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!” And now that it was happening, I couldn’t get a single word to come out of my mouth.
Flyboy was understandably somewhat puzzled by this response and said, “Well, I’m hoping this is a good sign…that even though you’re not saying anything it still means yes.”
I nodded and squeaked out the most confident “yes” I could muster.
We walked back to the trailer, gazing at the stars, a little giddy, a little serious all at the same time. Our relationship had just taken a major turn. It had become permanent. A simply asked question and a single word response sealed the deal and we were committed to one another forever. Even though I was scared to death, there was something amazing about having someone say to me, “YOU are the one for me. YOU are the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. YOU are the one I love.” There was a safeness, a settledness, a security that felt like maybe, just maybe, everything might be all right.
I returned to the dorm the next night with the story of my moonlight proposal. We had all crowded into one room as I recounted the story and they responded with screams and sighs. It was all so romantic…the California girl with no tan follows her Flyboy to Texas and within a matter of weeks he proposes under the big Texas sky. Ahhhh…..
That next week back at school, I laid wide awake in bed every night pondering this turn of events and looking at it from every angle. I weighed out the pros and cons and tried to imagine what it would be like to be married, or what it would be like to forget the whole thing and just focus on being 18 and in college. But mostly, I prayed like crazy. I begged and pleaded with God to give me a sign if I had just made the biggest mistake of my life by agreeing to marry this man.
The heavens were silent.
And the preparations were taking shape. The next weekend we went shopping and bought rings, the grand finale of the “what will she do next?” saga. We set a date, we started making plans, and my mother got to work. As I was in Texas and our wedding was to be in California in June, there was much to be done, and since I wasn’t there to do it, my mother (the mother of all planners) took the bull by the horns and made most of the arrangements.
In hindsight, we were so very unprepared. Not for the wedding (my mother did a fine job), but for marriage. We came from completely opposite family upbringings and we had never considered the impact it might have on our lives. Flyboy’s parents were divorced when he was 12. He lived with his alcoholic father and put him to bed most weekend nights. My parents were Ward and June Cleaver and my two brothers were Wally and the Beav. My mother had cookies and milk on the dining room table on a plate with a folded napkin next to it every day when we came home from school. Flyboy watched his parents’ marriage disintegrate before his eyes and I had never even seen my parents fight. They had some serious discussions behind closed doors, but never gave us any reason to feel insecure or to doubt their love for one another.
Flyboy was a black and white thinker and I was a people pleaser. We had no idea how the other felt about spending and saving money. He thought I was a “jock” because I had participated in my high school’s fledgling gymnastics team and he was utterly disappointed when he realized I’d rather sit on the sidelines and talk than participate in a group sport. I had come to learn that even though he had a guitar that did not make him a musician, which had been right up there on my top-ten-wish-list for a husband. We were both learning right up front how much we didn’t know about the other and how soon we would both have to rethink what was really non-negotiable and what was just a matter of preference.
But even though we didn’t know what we didn’t know, we were filled with high hopes and as the time drew closer, I had come to appreciate beyond measure my good fortune in falling in with this man. He was educated, he was driven, he was an officer and a gentleman, he was a man of integrity, and I knew that he would do whatever it took to make this marriage work. And most importantly, he was a man of faith and we shared the same values, including waiting until we were married. Really now, what more could a girl ask for?
When school was out, I headed back to California, stopping first in Oklahoma to pick up my wedding dress, lovingly sewn by a longtime family friend who also happened to be a professional seamstress. And every day for the next three weeks until the wedding, my mom and I spent an hour or two soaking up the rays on the beach. I may have gone to Texas without a tan, but by the time I went to the altar, against the white satin and organza, my skin was golden brown.