By Joan Clayton: Religion columnist
“Hey guys. See that girl over there?” the tall, lanky kid pointed, talking to his friends.
“That fat girl in glasses eating an ice cream cone?” they asked, almost chuckling.
“Yep. That’s the one,” he said. “I’m going to marry her someday.” (And he was talking about me.)
Everyone knew the prize “catch” of high school. He was the all-state center, the track star and so tall, dark and handsome you wouldn’t believe it. Needless to say, “zilch” became my popularity with the girls in our little country high school. Emmitt only had eyes for me.
The day after our high school graduation, Emmitt had to report for duty in the Army. We clung to each other and cried. I watched that big Greyhound bus carry my high school sweetheart away … as far as I could see.
Emmitt wrote faithfully during those years. He told me of his love and homesickness. Yet, not one single time did he ever mention anything about marriage.
Finally, after what seemed to me to be an eternity, Emmitt’s tenure in the Army ended. He arrived at Christmas time, and just seeing him again made the best gift for me. When I saw him get off the train, I gasped. How could he be more handsome than ever? My heart beat with excitement.
He swooped me up in his arms and turned me around and around. He began to tell me of his plans, and my joy turned to disappointment and dismay. He told me he and some Army buddies had plans for striking gold in Alaska.
I was devastated. That made me mad, and I really hadn’t planned to say it, but I said it anyway: “Well, buddy, when you get back you won’t find me.”
Emmitt seemed shocked, and I thought, “Boy that’s not going to get anywhere.” So I decided to try something else.
“Will you marry me?” I screamed.
Emmitt had the most surprised look on his face. He took me in those big strong arms and said, “I thought you’d never ask.”
I didn’t care whether it was leap year or not. I just knew I was madly in love. It seems to me it was only yesterday.
Our three wonderful sons grew tall, dark and handsome, too … just like their dad. I have been reaching up to hug handsome men for a long time. Now I am reaching up to hug tall, beautiful grandchildren. I feel those same familiar strong arms around me they inherited from their granddad.
When our family comes home at Christmas, our grandchildren say, “Tell us again, Mawmaw, about the Christmas you asked Granddad to marry you!”
Emmitt tells the best part of the story when he takes me in his arms and whispers in my ear: “I’m so glad I didn’t go to Alaska because I struck gold here.”
Two people make my life complete … a little baby boy born in a manger and a husband, both of whose love I could never live without.
To tell the truth, I am the one who struck gold.