One of the first official dates with my wife took place at her parents’ house. That night, her extremely nosy parents promised not to spy on us, nor eavesdrop, nor bother us, nor hide behind the sofa and wait for us to kiss. They agreed to let us have the entire downstairs to ourselves.
I was very nervous. What would we talk about? What would we do?
Well, since my story takes place in an era when VHS cassettes still roamed the earth, we decided to rent a VHS movie. Although as it turned out, we were so timid we couldn’t actually decide on a movie. So our bashful conversation in the video-rental store went like this:
HER: Which movie do you want?
ME: Oh, anything you want.
HER: I don’t care, I’ll watch anything you wanna watch.
ME: Makes no difference. What do you wanna see?
HER: Whatever you wanna see.
And so it went. Because all young lovers are afraid to come right out and say something like, “Darling, I do believe I’d prefer to watch something produced by the genius that is Monty Python.”
We had the same hem-hawing conversation about which restaurant to choose for dinner. But we went hungry because we never settled on a place. Instead we ended up driving in circles for two hours constantly saying, “Where do you wanna eat?” “I don’t care, where do YOU wanna eat?”
Eventually we returned to her parents’ house and spent the rest of the evening trying not to demonstrate symptoms of dangerously low blood-sugar.
When we entered her family’s living room, her mother and father immediately evacuated to give us privacy. Though, later that night I swear I saw their heads peeking around a corner.
As it happened, our date night got worse. Because the movie we rented turned out to be the foulest, most inappropriate skin-flick Hollywood ever released. It was so bad we could not watch it. Five minutes into the film we were assaulted with non-family-friendly scenes that would have given your average preacher a fatal cardiac event.
I sprang from the sofa to turn off the movie.
“What did we RENT?” she said with a gasp.
“I don’t know! You picked it out!”
“I wasn’t paying attention!”
“Neither was I!”
My date’s face was in her hands. Her cheeks were red. I felt so ridiculous that I started to laugh. Then we both laughed so hard our abdominal muscles were sore.
Looking back, I’m glad the movie stunk because with the movie off, we were able to have a real conversation. Which is what we should have been doing all along.
Our discussion was like most conversations youthful couples have. Have you ever listened to conversations between young lovers? They contain the most magnificent and idealistic dialogue you’ll ever hear. Here was ours:
“So. Do you like kids?” she asked.
“Oh, yes. Love’em.”
“Boys or girls?”
“I’ve always wanted a daughter.”
“Awww. A daughter.”
“Yeah, I always wanted to spoil my daughter and make her into a daddy’s girl.”
She smiled. “You know, if I had a daughter, I’d name her Rose. What about you?”
“I’d name my daughter Benny.”
“Benny! For a girl?”
“Sure. It’s a great name. I once knew a girl named Benny, she taught me everything I know about Ford carburetors. Great old gal.”
“I’m not naming our daughter Benny.”
Then we talked about Sunday school. Would we let this imaginary daughter go to Sunday school at our Baptist church where most members suffered from life threatening constipation? Because this would mean that poor Benny would sit beneath the tutelage of Miss Devons, who was an unstable woman.
Miss Devons once told the second grade Sunday school class that Jesus was coming back next Friday to condemn any child who had not memorized the scripture verse from their quarterly. That week there were nine reported bed wettings.
“Don’t be silly,” said my date. “Of course the child will attend Sunday school. Everyone needs Sunday school.”
“With Miss Devons? That woman is eight bricks short of a load. No way.”
“No Sunday school? Didn’t YOU ever go to Sunday school?”
“Of course, but my Sunday school teacher never caused me to pee the bed. I could do that without anyone’s help.”
She crossed her arms. “Well, I’d want Benny in Sunday school, I think it’s important.”
“You called her Benny.”
Also, I noticed we had scooted closer. Not so much like lovers, but more like two people so comfortable with each other it just made better sense to be together. I noticed my cheeks were flush. Also, I couldn’t breathe.
“You’d make a good dad,” she said.
“No, I’d make a terrible father. I didn’t have a good example growing up, I’m afraid I’d screw up my child’s life. But listen, you’d be a terrific mother.”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
She inched closer. She put an arm through mine and rested her head on my shoulder. I could smell her shampoo. She said nothing. Neither did I.
We sat in a quiet den and I knew this woman would one day be my Everything. I knew that whenever I looked at her, I was actually staring at the best years of my earthly life. This was a human being with whom I wanted to become geriatric. In fact, she would be the greatest gift ever given to me.
All of a sudden, we heard a loud crash from behind the sofa.
This was followed by a hoarse whisper that said, “Did he kiss her yet?!”
“Hush, woman!” said another voice. “I can’t see a dang thing with your big head in my way!”
And that’s when I met my future in-laws.