“Who was that?” we asked as mama said a merry good-bye and put the phone back on the desk.
“You know that young man that’s been in contact with daddy about church? He called to ask if it’s alright to visit tomorrow.”
We listened attentively to her response, then peppered her with questions. What did he sound like? What was his background? How old was he? Did he have an accent? What did she think about him? We were, after all, the Five Kauffman Girls, void of little to no male acquaintances in our circles, and ever agog when a new one came into existence.
Our little chapel was packed the next morning: it was the day my two sisters were getting baptised. A number of visitors were present, and as I walked to my seat, I remember seeing the back of someone dark with black hair and assuming that he was “that new guy.”
We had a shorter-than-normal service, and then loaded congregants and food into vehicles to drive to the rock pools at Mothar Mountain for the baptism. I chatted with numerous people that afternoon- a circle of girls here, a romanian grandma there, a child over there. At one point, the aforementioned visiting man and I were in the same circle of chatting friends and found out a few things about the other. I found it pleasing to learn that he played the cello, a favourite instrument of mine. He, a passionate linguist, found it fascinating that I was rather jaggedly translating a conversation for one of our visitors.
His name was David, and he came back to our place for the evening, bearing with him a delicious looking cake with layers of sponge, pudding, cherries, dark chocolate, and cream. The man baked! I, one who loved to cook and savour any manner of food, was significantly impressed. We all enjoyed a slice and made our rounds of exclamations. His company was relished all evening, and at one point when he needed to run down to his car for something, daddy turned to us with that ever-familiar smirk that he uses when he’s thoroughly impressed but likes to cover up the fact with a teasing remark. “Well girls, he’d make a fiiiiiiine son-in-law one day!”
We got to know each other reasonably well over the next five months, though all married couples would tritely insert here a comment here about really not knowing each other at all.
The night was June 28, 2012. Bible study was over, and we were all sprawled over the couches, reading and snacking, putting books down to chat every few minutes. David was a regular visitor by this stage, and we loved having him around. He was so normal and so interesting, my little brothers adored him, and he felt like a big brother to my sisters. I was quite smitten by this stage, but the millenial question that will forever haunt the mind of a woman with a crush haunted me then: how can I tell if these feelings are reciprocated?
He had his own book, likely a concordance or dictionary. I remember glancing at him occasionally and thinking that something weighty must be on his mind: he kept turning pages but was staring off into the distance.
Meanwhile, the evening was fast derailing from the one he had envisioned. Did these girls always stay up so late? Was there ever going to be a chance to catch her alone? Rumour had it that I awoke early before everyone else, and there had been visions of sneaking out at sunrise to talk with me on the veranda. But as the clock ticked closer to midnight, he realised the unlikelihood of my alarm staying set for 5:00. After a time, we suddenly remembered that we had a job rostered on for the morning, and all arose to cast books aside and scatter to our showers and respective rooms.
I was sharing my room with a sister that night, her’s being turned into the guest room. I retired there, and as I was waiting for the shower to be free, started folding a basket of laundry to pass the time. I thought David had already gone to bed, but then! The sound of footsteps. He walked past the open doorway and on to the bathroom, or so I thought, till he stopped and the sound of footsteps again gradually came nearer.
He knocked on the door frame, and I glanced up, already aware of who was there.
“I’ve been trying to catch you alone. Can I talk to you for just a minute?”
He was just slightly inside the door now, and I went to him.
“Can we just step out into the hallway to talk?”
He thought I was being ever-prudent one; the woman who, God forbid! should talk to a man in her bedroom. Little did he know that I was just trying to move out of the sight of a sister who was not yet asleep in my bed, huddled around the corner with huge eyes and a blanket to hide her mouth agape with incredulity. I was trying not to laugh because I knew he didn’t know she was there, but mostly I was trying to process what he was saying behind the ka-boom of my heart in my ears. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what he said or asked me. I remember words about Poland and how he knew I was going overseas. Words about praying and his dad encouraging him to talk to me anyways. Words about the kind of woman I was. All I remember was a fragment from his last sentence,
“….have however long you need to think about it, and if you then feel like you could love me and see yourself with me, you can be assured that I will be here waiting for you when you get home.”
The rest is blurred. There was more, I know. A gleeful whisper of “David! I’ve been praying for this to happen!” Watching his eyes light up. Seeing his shaking hands. We talked for a few minutes, deciding to leave further dialogue for the morning after he talked to my daddy.
He had scarcely gone to his room, when I jumped back into mine, and there was Janae, a jack-in-the-box form that sprung from my bed, our eyes and mouths competing with each other for width. We became one tumbling pile of giggles and blankets on the bed. I hyperventilated into the sheets while she alternated between muffling her gasps and clutching my arm. “Carolyn, did that FOR REAL just happen?”
Two sisters emerged from other rooms. They had been showering and were completely oblivious to any prospect of romance in the near future, much less a proposition from the man himself on that very night. We shrieked their names in high-pitched whispers, and they joined the party, where we all laughed wildly as quietly as we could, cried a little, and then all crept down the hallway together to go wake up the remaining sister.
I was on a roll now, and couldn’t help it. I bounced into mama and daddy’s room too. They stared with wrinkled foreheads and bleary eyes at the clock and the red numbers of 1:00 projecting from it. They hugged me and chuckled over the story with the kind of chuckle that only perceptive parents have. The kind that said “Yay! But we knew this would happen sooner or later.”
That was June 28, 2012. It is now five years, a whole lot of happiness, and two pretty girls later. I am wooed every day by the one I get to call mine. He tackles the backed-up dishes, tickles the babies, and rubs my shoulders after a long evening of hosting. We’ve known immense joys and unwanted sorrows. We’ve changed together, grown together. We share a comfortable companionship now, my favourite thing about our marriage. And he still makes those cakes: layers moist and intricate; their delectableness impossible to replicate. And every time I have a bite, I remember that long-ago day with the fondest of feelings, and tell myself that there really is no wonder I was smitten by that visiting man.