Hold out for being cherished.
I know, I know. The word “cherish” sounds like something straight out of a sappy romance novel. But if you look up the definition, it means lovingly protected and cared for.
We deserve to be cherished, each and every one of us. And I was blessed over 50 years ago to find a boy who knew that.
Our first date was unusual, to say the very least. It was to the annual high school switch dance, which meant the girls asked the boys for a date, paid for the tickets, fashioned a homemade corsage for the boy from ingredients like Hot Wheels and soccer balls that she thought the boy would appreciate, drove the date to the dance, and paid for a pizza after the dance was over.
I knew I was so out of my league asking John.
And I nearly gave up after calling his home several times and having his mom tell me he wasn’t at home just then, but I should please call back. I found out later he worked as a busboy at a restaurant close to his home; he really wasn’t trying to avoid my calls.
But you have to understand: John was in the popular group at school, and I was a bookworm and a nerd—plain and simple. It should never have happened. But he accepted my invitation, and I spend the next couple of weeks alternately walking on air and feeling very sick to my stomach at the very possibility of a date with John. My friends were ecstatic this was even a possibility and saw it as a barrier-breaking miracle. They were counting on me. There was a new dress, new shoes, even a tiny bottle of perfume, so many good wishes and “way to goes.” Because if I could do this, they could, too.
Awkward doesn’t begin to cover the way I felt. John insisted on driving, and he had the cutest little white convertible. I found out small talk wasn’t terrible; the drive to school really wasn’t that far. I watched other couples to know how to act, but many of them were holding hands and walking with arms around each other. We danced a little, sat with a couple of mutual friends, and it was seriously effortless. He held doors and helped me into and out of the car.
Of course, I knew it could only be one date—it could never be more.
On the way home, I asked about the car and if it went fast. “Not when there’s a girl in it,” John said. Wow, he must really date a lot. Even when he asked me for a second date, I figured it was just to repay me for asking him to the switch dance. On the third date, I found myself feeling happy, hopeful, cared for, and appreciated for myself.
John asked me if he could kiss me a few weeks later. Asked me. As if my world could become more wonderful, as if I wouldn’t love to go steady with him, as if the words “I think I love you” had ever been said with more reverence, or several years later an engagement ring offered with more hope.
With looks of awe as we welcomed our four children into the world and he stood at my shoulder with tears in his eyes, with an understanding heart when times couldn’t get any tougher, with a quiet ear when I needed to vent, a glance across a crowded room or stopping stone still in the grocery store when he heard our song playing.
Even when we fought, I knew it was never forever.
We just needed to air our fears. The sun would come up the next morning and his hand would still be resting on mine as we woke.
And now, this many years later, I heard the nurse ask someone if he was there for a shot. He had followed me into the vaccination room and was standing out of the way against the wall, winking at me. “Nope, I’ve had mine already. I’m just here to give my wife some trouble. And she wants a cute Band-Aid if you have one.”
Hold out for the one who will cherish you.