My family headed to the FCM convention in Iowa, July 1994, arriving midweek. I was not happy to have missed half of the convention, especially since this was my last year of high school. I didn’t know how many more conventions I’d be able to attend once I started college. I viewed this week as a last hurrah of sorts. I’d grumbled and complained, and most likely made my parents miserable. But prior commitments kept us away for half the week. In the end, I was glad we were making it at all.
We arrived at the convention, and I scoped out the sales area looking for my friends and their parents and trying to catch up on what I’d missed so far….and a glimpse of Ked. I went into the week with my mind steeled. I was not going to fall for him. I’d determined we could only be friends. I had a lot of decisions to make that coming year regarding college and my future, and I could not have things complicated by falling for a guy who lived so far away. Besides, I had absolutely no idea that he had any feelings for me other than friendship. The last thing I wanted was a ruined friendship over some silly, unfounded romantic feelings on my part.
We finally connected and no matter my intentions, he turned up the charm factor that week. We attended the youth activities together, and juggling lectures together, and he suffered through a bowling night as the only guy on the lane surrounded by my chatty girlfriends. I remember complaining to my mom after that activity, “He’s so quiet, so shy! I can’t get him to talk!” Poor guy.
During one evening program, he stole my shoe laces. The details are a bit fuzzy, as I’m not sure how he managed to get my shoe laces entirely off my shoes. He’s always been a sneaky one. My shoes flopped around my feet the remainder of the night. I’m sure I looked like quite the fool, and he enjoyed every minute of it. At one point, he convinced me he’d stuck my shoelaces in the Kentucky Fried Chicken offering bucket when it went by. I nearly ran to the back of the auditorium to beg an usher for my shoelaces back, but then realized I would probably run out of my shoes, trip and fall flat on my face. I chose to stay put and fake being completely disgusted with the perpetrator. He was in his most charming element. I tried to resist.
On the last evening of the convention we attended a teen activity that involved blowing up a balloon for a game. Balloons were a constant with this group of people. Balloon animals adorned the heads of many a conference attendee, and even the youngest attenders knew how to twist a balloon dog. But blowing up balloons? I could never manage it, no matter how much hot air my family claimed I had. I huffed and puffed on my balloon as the game started. I finally gave up and handed my balloon to Ked with a plea,“Please? You owe me. You took my shoelaces!”
Without hesitation and a charming smirk, he took my balloon and blew it up in a nanosecond. With a quick knot, he handed it back to me, flipping his thick dark hair out of his eyes. I think I managed a thank you before turning my attention back to the game. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how big a deal it was for him to blow up my balloon. He was a bit of a germ freak, and to blow up a balloon that another person had spit all over? A definite no. Except in my case.
I headed up to my hotel room at the close of the events and realized in my flustered state, I had left my camera in the activity room. I told my parents of my blunder and then headed back downstairs hoping it was still there. I walked into the activity room and found it on the chair where I’d left it.
“Hey, I thought you’d headed up to bed.” I looked up and saw him staring me down.
“Oh, I was, but then I realized I forgot my camera,” I said.
He smiled as he said, “I’ll walk you back up to your room. It’s getting late. You shouldn’t go by yourself.”
My heart jumped into my throat. Handsome, AND a complete gentleman. We rode the elevator up to my floor and stood outside my parents door talking for awhile. It seemed neither of us wanted to say goodnight. His parents had left the convention earlier that day for their next ministry obligation. Ked didn’t want to leave a day early, so our parents had arranged for him to stay with another friend the last night and for my parents to drop him off at his aunt and uncle’s house on our way back to Ohio the next day. We stood there talking and eventually sat down in the hallway opposite each other, right outside my family’s hotel door.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized the security guard who passed by smirking at us half a dozen times was walking by each hour. Kedron told stories of his small town and all the animals he’d run over while mowing his parents’ four acres. I relished the telling of every raccoon and squirrel. We talked about our senior years of high school and what we were thinking about for college the next year. In the span of those late night hours, I think we covered the remainder of our life history that hadn’t come up in a letter yet.
His thick dark hair hung just long enough to cover his eyes. He’d occasionally tip his head and brush it out of his eyes with his hands. I sat on my heads knowing if I didn’t, I’d most likely act out of turn and brush it out of his eyes for him. I wanted nothing more than to run my fingers through that dark hair. I kept instructing myself to breathe, sit on the hands, focus on what he is saying. It was not an easy task.
At some point, one of us checked the time and realized we’d better at least get a couple hours sleep. I quietly slipped into our room. Later, I asked my parents why in the world they didn’t come hunting me down. They said they heard us sitting outside talking and knew we were good kids. It felt good, and a bit scary to be trusted so much. I wasn’t so sure I trusted myself. I was trying so hard not to fall into the unknown of being head over heels for this boy. But I feared it was already too late.
I’m not sure I slept any that night. The next day we were headed home. 200 miles away from him home. And I still had no idea that he liked me as anything other than a friend. It was pure turmoil.