The next morning, our families awoke for one last day of visiting. We were planning to head back to Ohio in the afternoon. Our parents coerced us into taking our brothers putt-putt golfing. Ked and I groaned and looked at each other helplessly. Really? A first date of sorts, and we had to bring along three younger brothers?
We arrived at the putt-putt place and let his 12-year-old twin brothers and my 14-year-old brother run loose. The three of them were like the 3 musketeers. One year they all had shaved heads and people though they were triplets at that summer’s convention. When someone asked me if they were all my brothers I laughed, “Oh, no! I only claim one!” The brothers three grabbed their golf clubs, anxious to leave us behind. We were boring. And acting weird.
Kedron sat across from me in the concession area, his elbows propped up on the table, supporting his wide shoulders as he gazed at me with a lazy smile.
“I have something for you.” He pulled out his class ring with his glimmering ruby birthstone in the center.
“Oh! I…oh!” How was it that he was continually catching me off guard? I felt I was a normally articulate and verbose girl, but around him I couldn’t seem to string together an intelligent thought, let alone utter a coherent sentence.
I continued to stammer, “I’m…um…I’m going to have to ask my parents if it’s ok before I give you my ring. I mean, I want to, but I’d better get their permission first.”
That meant telling my parents that we were dating. It’s not that I was afraid of what they’d think. I was afraid of the teasing. And the four hour ride home cooped up in a car with them. And my little brother, and his merciless teasing. I glanced at the silver ring with the blue stone on my right hand. I’d opted to get a ring with my mom’s September sapphire instead of my January birthstone because I’d never been fond of the dark brown-ish garnet. His July ruby, however, was perfectly stunning, just like him.
“That’s ok, I understand! Go ahead and take my ring though. My parents won’t mind. I bought it myself.” He slid the ring across the table.
I slipped his ring onto my thumb and watched it slide around.
“Oh! I’m going to have to wrap this! Look how big it is on my thumb even,” I marveled. He snatched up my hand.
“That’s because you have such tiny hands.” I’d never thought of my hands as tiny, until they were nestled inside his. He stretched out his hand and put my palm up to his palm. Darn those chills running down my spine. “See how small they are?” he asked.
I chuckled. “Well, compared to yours, they do look small!” I voiced my fears about being responsible for his ring. “I just hope I don’t lose your ring. I’m good at that kind of thing. Losing stuff.”
He leaned back in his chair and threw me that grin that melted my insides. “It’s just a ring,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders.
We sipped our cokes and I tried to pay attention to the conversation while we waited for our brothers to finish their round of putt-putt. In my head, I was playing over the conversation with my Dad a dozen different ways. I had no idea how I was going to pull him aside without making a scene in front of our families.
We eventually piled back into the car, Ked driving, me in the passenger seat, the brothers three in the backseat.
When we pulled into the U-shaped gravel driveway, I made it my priority to seek out my Dad and settle the issue of our class rings. I hoped I’d find him alone. No such luck. I tried to pull him aside unnoticed by the others.
“Uhh…Dad….can I give my class ring to Ked? He, um, asked me to be his girlfriend, and I…uh….we…wanted to trade rings.” It took a minute for my request to register. No wonder, as I was having such trouble stringing together sentences this weekend. Finally the light went on in his eyes and my dear Dad gave me a big grin.
“It’s fine by me. It’s your ring,” he said. I smiled my sheepish thanks and tried to escape as quickly as possible. Lunch was going to be awkward. Let alone the ride home. I could tell by the look on Ked’s Mom’s face that she had caught wind of the conversation. She looked pleased. I gulped and made my escape, thanking God once again for the clean, country air.
The time came for our goodbyes, and I thought my heart might break. My ring sat on the knuckle of his pinky finger. I clutched his giant ring with my thumb. We hugged. I held back tears. I had no idea when I’d see him again.
I pretended to be asleep as much as I could during the four-hour drive home. In reality, I was re-playing every moment of the weekend over in my head, trying not to cry. What in the world had I just done? I had a boyfriend who lived 200 miles away. Everyone else would be headed out on Friday nights to Taco Bell or Kewpee or the local ball games, and I’d be…well I had no idea. Was this a mistake? How did you “date” someone so far away? He might as well have been in China. We had no cars of our own, and I didn’t even have a job to pay for long-distance phone calls. It was going to be an interesting year. I was about to learn that dating isn’t about what you do and where you go and who sees you together. The really good dating is about getting to know this person authentically inside and out. Nothing does that better than hundreds of letters and phone calls.
We arrived home, and that evening I was standing in the bathroom with the door wide open. No doubt I was leaning into the mirror staring myself down. I had a habit of that. Whenever I was deep in thought or perplexed or worried, I’d stare at myself in the mirror as if waiting for my reflection to offer a solution. Seriously, if my reflection had started to talk and give me advice, I probably would have taken it. Instead, my Dad showed up to do the honors.
When I looked up, he was leaning in the doorframe. He said, “You know, you’ve always made really wise decisions about your friends. But this decision, to date Kedron, it’s an incredibly wise decision. He is an excellent young man and has an excellent family. I’m proud of you.”
My heart did a thousand flips. Of all the wonderful conversations I’d had with my Dad over the years, this one meant the most. I had been confused, wondering if I’d done the right thing and if things would work out between us. And then my Dad spoke the voice of God in His approval. I gushed my thanks and then left the staring contest with my reflection behind. My Dad approved. Really approved. Everything was going to be ok.