You know a daunting way to go on a first date? In a bathing suit. Yep. This cute guy I’d been intrigued with for several months had been intrigued with me too. He called and asked me out. To a water park in Wisconsin Dells that he’d helped build.
I have no great love for swimsuits and less love for pattering about in public wearing one. But I did it. We had fun, and I learned more about the inner workings of water parks, slides, filtration systems etc. than I knew there was to know. More dates ensued and Labor Day weekend one year later we were at the Dells again.
In that year we’d gotten close, and at one time he’d even let the “m” word slip. But he had already gone through a horrific marriage and Biblically-sanctioned divorce. I was in my middlin’ twenties and determined not to send out vibrations of marriage desperation. When we walked past jewelry stores in the mall I looked in the opposite direction lest I appear to be hinting.
We were both more relaxed this second trip up to the Dells. The whole swimming suit/water rides/drag a big inner tube around thing was less daunting. We went on a duck ride down the river. (Ducks are those amphibious vehicles left over from WWII.) Pretty romantic. Maybe, I thought, maybe he will propose this weekend. Or at least propose the idea of proposing. The duck ride ended with no mention of marriage. Like good Christians we thought we should try the under-visted Biblical Gardens next, where we felt less than piously comfortable with all the unchangingly pious expressions on the various life-size “Jesus” figures. Still, it was a pretty location. Maybe here, on a bench overlooking the nativity scene in the tall pines, maybe this would be the place to discuss the possibility of entering into holy matrimony. It wasn’t.
Or possibly, I thought, after dinner, as the sun set and the air cooled, possibly it isn’t going to happen today.
That evening my boyfriend wanted to take a boat ride to Stand Rock for the Indian Ceremonial program. It would be chilly on the water so he ran back to the pickup to grab his jacket while I worried that all the other tourists flooding in would mean we’d miss the boat.
We didn’t. The sun was all the way down; I sat next to the railing where, if it hadn’t been ink-black out, I could have watched the water churn. The thought of all that cold water gave me goosebumps and I twitched the jacket from my boyfriend’s lap and pulled it on.
You would have thought I’d pulled his fingernails out while calling his sainted grandmother scurrilous names. He demanded to know why I’d grabbed the coat. He dropped to the floor and scrabbled under the seats, muttering something that didn’t sound complimentary. I watched with interest but not much concern. He could, on occasion, become excitable. I was just getting warm and cozy but obviously he needed the jacket more than I did, and I handed it back.
It was the right, good-girlfriend thing to do. He hugged it close and popped back onto his seat as though nothing had happened. We shuffled off the boat with the rest of the folks, found seats in the amphitheater and watched the ceremony. I don’t remember much of it except a performance of the not-quite-native Indian Love Call. (When I’m Calling You-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo)
At intermission my boyfriend nudged me and handed me a beautifully wrapped square box. The one he’d been had under the jacket. The one he’d been so certain had gone over into the churning water when I grabbed that jacket from his lap. (To this day he swears that if it had, he would have dived in after it.) The box was sturdy, squarish and chunky with some heft to it. It’s a stack of those fancy soaps was my first and only thought.
Not soaps. Inside the wrapping I saw a chunky squarish box. Honestly, folks, I still had no clue. Engagements happened via a ring slipped from a man’s pocket and onto a woman’s finger. Not via a chubby box.
Inside the box sat two rings. Both had diamonds. I puzzled over this. Multiple choice?
Then my boyfriend breathed those magically intoxicating words. “How about it?”
I responded with something equally soul-stirring. I think it was “Why are there two?”
My boyfriend, it turned out, hadn’t watched the same romantic films I had. He’d bought the engagement and wedding ring as a set, had the jeweler wrap them, and presented them to me as “Will you answer too-oo-oo-oo-oo?” echoed from Stand Rock.
To cover my anticlimactic initial reaction I squealed (more like a quiet squeak, we were in public, after all) and kissed him. The one he indicated as the engagement ring went on my finger. My now-fiancee, continuing our unscripted scene, breathed a sigh of relief when it slid all the way down.
“Why do I always think you’re so much bigger than you are?”
Any wonder that I said yes?