I was all of 19 years old, and enjoying my new found freedom that the college experience brings. I had fun dating and hanging out with new friends. I would call my Momma and tell her of my latest adventures that had taken place at the Loveliest Village on the Plains. She would laugh and inquire about making time to study. I would lie and say things to assure her that my grades were important to me. After all, there are things about college that are so much more important than school work and grades.... like meeting Mr. Right.
My Aunt, Mommy Beth, suggested I sit on the steps of the Architecture building or the College of Engineering, and wait for Mr. Right to notice me reading, with the sunlight glistening in my hair. Mommy Beth's advice wasn't half-bad, and will be passed to Her Highness someday. But, that's not how I met my Mr. Right. That freezing cold night in January, as I passed my future husband in the entry way of the Student Center, I seriously felt something. However, being the bright eyed, bushy tailed 19 year old I was, I didn't give Bert a chance to talk to me. I ignored him and played hard to get, chatting with all his buddies, and saying only "Hey." as I turned to walk away from him. After flirting, then ignoring him like crazy, then flirting with his friends, Bert finally got my (very) mixed messages and asked me out.
The first time Bert called me, I was heading out the door to meet some friends for a study date over dinner. (That was about the only way I ever did study, if socializing was involved.) I hated to cut Bert short, but my crew was waiting and honking the horn rather obnoxiously. After about two minutes of small talk, Bert blurted out, "So, you wanna go get something to eat tomorrow night?" I hated to turn him down, but I had plans for that night too. "Nope." was all I said back, trying to make him squirm just a little. "Oh, okay. Well....ummm.... Alright." Bert sounded disappointed, so I chimed, "But we can go out Thursday night if you're free. Hey, can I call you later?" When I finally got home that night, it was about 10:00, but I called him anyway. After all, this was college, so I figured he would still be up. I was wrong. I woke up Old Man River and started talking his ears off. We chatted for three solid hours about all sorts of things.... where we grew up, our families, who we wanted to be when we grew up, and why we both chose Auburn. Bert said something in that conversation that helped to seal the deal for me, "My Mom is a stay-at-home mom, and that's always been something that's really important to me-- that I can provide for my family so my wife can stay home with my children someday too." Cute: check. Funny: check. Smart: check.
Yep, we were headed in the right direction.
After our first date, we sat in his truck in front of my apartment and talked for four more hours. I had a history test the next morning at 8:00, but couldn't have cared less. Finally, Bert walked me to my front door, held up my hand, and kissed it. Then he walked back to his truck and left. I was in shock. I woke up my roommate to discuss why in the world he didn't kiss me. And again after our second date, which was me throwing myself at him by offering to type his paper for a Lit class, I woke her up nearly in tears, "What is wrong with him... or me?" Finally on our third date, which ended again with talking for hours on end, while I was in the middle of a sentence, Bert leaned forward and kissed me. I think he had just called me a snob for something I had said and as I was defending myself with, "Uhh, I am NOT a sn..." He shut me up with a powerful kiss. The kiss that made me realize this was most definitely my future husband. The kiss that taught me forever more, Bert Hudson would not do things by the book or the way anyone else does them. Nope, instead of kissing me goodnight, Bert interrupted me mid-sentence to lay it on me. It was, as if he had to build his courage, then, in that one moment when he finally had it, he couldn't let it go.
Our lives have been just like that ever since. Bert has always done things in his own time, and quite random at that. His proposal was no different.
It was early in the month of June, and I was working late at the Hotel and Conference Center on campus. Bert called, several times, to see if I might get off early. I thought something might be up, since we had recently started talking about marriage and had actually looked at rings once. When I finally got home, my excitement was squelched when I saw Bert in his gym shorts and t-shirt with books sprawled out all over my couch. He had gone to my apartment to study, since his roommates were in the heat of a Play Station Nascar tournament, and had obviously not been preparing to propose since there were no rose pedals or candles lit or romantic music. Nope. Just Bert, down on all fours looking up under my couch. "Hey Babe, how was work?" He asked with his face planted on the floor, looking under the couch with a flash light. "Fine." I sighed. "I'm going to take a shower." I never even asked Bert what he was looking for. I was disappointed, but didn't want him to know it. So, I took a long shower. Then I plucked my eyebrows. Then, I picked at a zit that I'm sure wasn't even visible, but I made it visible by picking at it for 15 minutes. Finally, in my pj's with a towel wrapped on my head, I walked out of the bathroom to find Bert STILL on all fours looking under the couch. "What are you doing?" I finally asked. "Well, I dropped my calculator and the battery fell out. I think it rolled up under the couch, but my hands are too big to fit. Can you reach under there and grab it for me?" I rolled my eyes, and thrust my hand under the couch and said, "Nope. I don't feel anything." Bert insisted I try again and that time, I did feel something.
I began to shake, realizing Bert could have just lifted the stupid couch and gotten his calculator battery himself. I pulled out an ivory colored box and barely got it open due to all the shaking. Bert said some really sweet things after that, but all I heard was "Will you marry me?" I screamed and screamed "YES! YES! YES!" Then, I called my parents, who had been expecting that phone call for several days. We all laughed, as I told the story of how Bert proposed and my Daddy said, "Well, that's certainly a unique proposal!"
But, that's so Bert. And that's just one of the many things he's taught me: That feeling the moment is so much more important than the plans behind it. Living in the moment is something Bert is great at. And I'm so glad that I get to live with him in those moments. Bert and I have been together (including dating) for 10 years now. That's over a third of my life. But, I can't imagine spending that time with anyone else.
Me: "Wow! It's my wedding day! I'm so excited and can't wait to travel this adventure together. Wonder how many children we'll have. Oopps. We've never really talked about that. We better squeeze that conversation in on the way to our honeymoon. Nah, who wants to get bogged down with details anyway. Let me just count these roses in my bouquet. That will be a good number to have."
Every year at the beginning of June, when the weather starts to get hot and sticky, the crickets start to chirp, and the lightning bugs start to glow... I think back to that early June night, so many years ago, and I smile, thinking of Bert down on all fours with his face pressed to the carpet, pretending to look for a battery. It makes me laugh to think about what must have gone through his mind as I showered and primped for what must have felt like an eternity. I'm so glad he didn't get up and leave. Though, I wouldn't have blamed him.
I love you, Bert Hudson.