I started this particular blog series about lessons learned from Dona, but several lessons we learned together. What follows are three that stayed with us throughout our time together. These lessons came early in our relationship, from dates during the cool 80’s. As time progressed, we tagged these lessons by the three restaurants we had learned them at.
My first date with Dona was merely a cola date.
The restaurant was on Campus Corner just down Boyd Street from the BSU. I think the place had once been a chain eats called Across the Street. Not sure. By the time we were in college, it was a small, independent bar/restaurant called The Street.
The Street was the first place I ate potato skins. I still judge all subsequent potato skins against the originals.
The Street’s atmosphere was 80’s cool: dark wood, somber colors, indirect lighting, clean lines. Banished was the tasteless décor of the 70’s. The Street served your Coca Cola in a tall, clear, smooth glass with a cherry atop.
Dona and I walked down there after one Vespers (that was the big meeting at the BSU each Thursday evening). The time was spring; the night air was warm but not overly so. Campus Corner was active but not crowded. We walked past Dee’s (where you ordered from a phone at your booth) and Harold’s (the ultimate prep clothier), past McCall’s (where I had purchased my then favorite shirt) and Town Tavern (an OU tradition). We reached the cool quiet of The Street, ordered our cokes, and talked.
You might ask, “There’s a lesson here?”
Yes, a couple.
One: The first date doesn’t have to be a big deal. You’re just getting to know each other a bit; it isn’t a lifetime commitment. Drinking a coke takes a short time, and short times don’t strain conversations. If it’s obvious neither of you are interested, then not much time or money has been invested. But if a little spark shows up and holds, then the next date can be longer.
Two: Though memory colors our experiences, whether for better or worse, there are some places that surely are destined to be preserved forever. Maybe not the place itself, but perhaps the atmosphere, perhaps the emotions – if they’re good and pure and joyous – are a glimpse of what eternity holds.
Whichever it ends up being, I believe if Coca Cola is served in heaven, it will be in a tall, clear, smooth glass with a cherry atop.
For our next date, I drove Dona up to my old stomping ground of northwest Oklahoma City. We ate at a home-style restaurant called Sweet Pea’s, a homage to the baby in Popeye or maybe just about peas. It doesn’t matter.
The date was a disaster.
Dona and I just sat there like logs. We couldn’t seem to keep a conversation going.
Normally, this would have been a signal that no further dates needed to be pursued.
A year prior, I had taken Maggie Liz to The Street on a dinner date. We stared at the walls, the floor, the food. We’d start a subject only to have it die out. Maggie Liz was a beautiful girl: Tall, thin, tan, jet-black hair. Her roommate claimed that Maggie Liz woke up looking like that. Simply a natural beauty.
But no matter. Maggie Liz and I were dull together. It wasn’t Maggie Liz’s fault. There was just no connection between us. By the time I dropped Maggie Liz back at her apartment, I had decided not to seek another date. I was happy about that decision. She probably was, too.
But for some reason, Dona was different.
After the Sweet Pea’s date, I was bummed. I felt I had muffed up some opportunity at any future with Dona. I figured she’d never want to go out with me again. And why did I feel this way? I hadn’t had these thoughts after Maggie Liz.
What was the deal?
On the way back to Norman, Dona and I stopped at an arcade just off the freeway in Moore. It was the 80’s, and Dona was a Ms. Pacman aficionado. She could get past Act III. I barely could get to Act I. As she played a game, I watched, already in the dumps from obvious failure. It didn’t matter what Act she reached in Ms. Pacman. The monsters had eaten me and “Game Over.” Cue Pacman sinking music.
Dona told me later, she felt the same as I had, thought she had been so dull that I’d never call her again.
The lesson? Just because things don’t start ideally, doesn’t mean they won’t end well. There’s more to relationships than just one experience. You’re free to give your date and yourself a second chance.
Another thing: There was something about Dona that resonated with me.
My π Pizza
Let me skip forward to a later dating experience with Dona.
I could talk about the time we doubled with Wade and Beatrix, went to an Amy Grant concert, and afterwards dropped by Denco’s Restaurant, where a fist fight broke out next to us with one of the combatants being shoved into Wade and then Wade into Beatrix. But that experience doesn’t really have a lesson; it was just interesting.
I’ll tell about the time Dona and I went to My π Pizza.
That’s ‘My Pi’ to you non-math types. It’s a play on ‘pie’ for ‘pizza pie’ and ‘pi’ the value used in determining the circumference and area of a circle. See, it’s like…
O, skip it.
We learned a lesson at My π we never forgot and referenced it throughout our marriage.
The problem at the My π date was neither of us said what we wanted because we were afraid not to please the other.
Ah… Isn’t that sweet?
Not really. We ended up with a pizza neither of us wanted.
For years after that, one of us could look at the other and say, “My π Pizza,” and we’d know enough to be warned of squelching personal opinions to what we guessed the other wanted. Does this make sense?
My π became a proverb between us that in marriage, both persons need to be brave and lay out their preferences, their desires, and their dreams. That said, neither needed to be belligerent or domineering.
Marriage is a deep and long relationship. You can’t get away with minor infractions and tiny dishonesties like you can in other relationships.
Marriage is not about compromise. Compromise is for Congress… if they’d do it.
Marriage is about consensus.
Consensus is harmony. Consensus is not merely making a decision both of you can live with. Consensus is coming to a decision both of you are happy with, a decision better than the ideas either of you had separately.
Why? Because marriage isn’t a partnership; it’s a union.
In summary, no earth-shattering lessons from these dates. But you know life is lived in big and small ways. Small lessons can give your life a big boost…
In a cool 80’s way.