It was December 29, 1989. I was in cahoots (this is a word all the children agree has to be in the story) with Cindy's dad. I had actually met with him over Thanksgiving break that year. I did some work for him at his office and then sat him down for a heart-to-heart chat, asking for the hand of his daughter in marriage. He agreed and we started to conspire how I was going to get to PA during Christmas to surprise Cindy.
Why December 29? Cindy and I had started dating the first month of our freshman year of college. By our junior year we knew that we were going to get married but Bluffton College (now University) did not have any type of married housing and the local community was not very inclined to rent to college students. We talked about how nice it would be if we could be hall directors in which case we'd have an apartment on campus but knew that would be a long shot. So, Cindy and I had looked ahead to our college graduation which we knew would be late May 1991. We figured a month after that would be a good time to make this thing official so we picked June 29, 1991 to be our wedding date. We didn't check with the church or anything but hoped it would be available. It was, after all, well in the future. Cindy, who does not like surprises, and who also doesn't trust me to get things right (or according to her plans), had left many hints about a good time to propose. Most importantly, she wanted to make her wedding dress, didn't want to start before an official engagement, yet was very emphatic that she needed a summer to work on it. She left big hints about Christmas being a good time for me to propose but then I realized that Dec. 29 would be exactly 18 months before the date we had chosen for our wedding.
Cindy hitched a ride home to PA for Christmas break and I went home to Indiana. Her dad and I had explored various options for me to travel east from Flatland, USA. Our final plan was that I would leave from my grandma's house in Ohio on Dec. 28, drive to Bluffton to pick up Cindy's yellow Plymouth Turismo which was a much more reliable than my 1972 Pontiac Bonneville, and then drive as far as I could before spending the night somewhere in PA. I ended up staying at the Motel 6 off the PA Turnpike in Harrisburg, just 5 or so miles from where we now live. Who knew! Anyway, after arriving at the motel, I called Cindy, who thought I was still in Ohio. She questioned me about each of my family members, wanting to know what they were doing and how they were. I made it all up but unbelievably, she bought the whole story. The next morning, I drove to her dad's office, passed the time by doing some work for him, and then after learning that Cindy and her parents had left the house, I broke into their home as had been prearranged.
I was prepared. I had a ring, I had memorized 1 Corinthians 13, I had 18 pink baby roses (her favorite roses and the number of months til the wedding) and I was dressed to the nines in my nicest clothes. I had a Christmas gift of a block of famous Guggisberg Swiss Cheese (a Mennonite Swiss delicacy that my family enjoyed and gifted to people they liked) for her family, wrapped and in the fridge. I settled in to wait.
Cindy was not prepared. She was wearing her staple outfit, jeans and a sweatshirt, and was enjoying time with family at her aunt's house. Afterward, her parents asked her if she wanted to join them at her brother's high school basketball game. She declined (shocker - although she admitted later that she did entertain the thought of accepting their offer, had she figured out what was going to happen next, she would have agreed just to see them squirm) and they dropped her off at home. They sent her into the house, knowing that I would be there waiting. On her way through the kitchen, she stopped at the fridge to put some leftovers in there. Upon seeing the round, wrapped package, she commented to her dog, Sandy, "Oh, what is this? Looks like a bomb in the refrigerator." Yes, she did talk to her dog. She always talked to her dog. She also let the dog sleep with her but that was going to change in 18 months. I panicked, figuring that she knew I was there. But no, she did really truly believe a bomb had been placed in the family's refrigerator. And yes, I still went through with the proposal even though my wife-to-be talked/talks to animals and had/has an overactive imagination.
At this moment, I stepped around the corner. Cindy immediately figured out what was going to come next and apologized for her attire. She begged me to allow her to change first but I declined. I didn't need any more time to be nervous. I gave her my speech, recited the verses, got down on my knee and popped the question. She said yes.
Then she went to change.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Except that a few months later I was asked to serve as hall director for our senior year. Yes, the job came with my very own apartment. We could have gotten married the summer of 1990 after all. But my dear wife-to-be was busy making her dress. The wedding would have to wait.