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The Pickup Criterion

(Today’s post is part one of a two-part story. Part two is here.)

When Kendra and I first met, I was 19 years old, and she was 16. We dated for two and half years before marrying in 1991. (I used to like to tell people we had to get married ‘cause she got me in trouble—never mind that our first child would not arrive for six more years.) I had a GMC S-15 pickup, with an extended bed and a big V-6, which was an important criterion her dad was looking for in a potential mate for his eldest daughter. Evidently he had a lot of items that required towing and hauling, so a nice, sensible boy with a truck (and of course good parents) was just the ticket.

When I was younger, my mom had given me the excellent advice that when you’re considering seriously dating someone, a girl you think you might marry, you need to get to know her family intimately well. Because if she’s close to her family, you’re not just marrying her, you’re marrying all of them. My family was of the opinion that you don’t want to marry someone who’s not close to their family. Now, just to be clear, your mileage may vary. If your spouse’s family revels, for example, in getting hopped up on crack and moonshine and hunting endangered species with large, illegal artillery, probably it’s better if you guys maintain some healthy distance from those folks. (Just sayin’.) But my mom’s wisdom was spot-on for me.

I enjoyed hanging with Kendra’s family almost from the very start, from her mom’s perky exuberance and can-do attitude, to her dad’s viciously sarcastic sense of humor, to her tiny 8-year-old sister’s ability to plow through a dozen tacos in a single sitting—not unlike a commercial woodchipper, albeit one with long, blond hair and blue eyes. Kendra’s family and I were made for each other. And anyway, once I had fallen for Kendra, I had it baaaaad, and there was no turning back. Even so, I cannot lie: the fact that her dad owned at least four smokers and was himself an impresario of the occasional smoked meats extravaganza was a definite bonus.

I had already proposed to Kendra months earlier (as romantically as a clueless, inept 20-year-old boy knows how in an evening at the Olive Garden), and she had already foolishly accepted, when came what would become known to me as “the call.” Ken asked if I could come over and bring the truck. There was something he needed to go pick up. I said, “Of course.” And why wouldn’t I? (I had already made out with his firstborn, so it seemed a more than reasonable exchange.)

So I topped off the tank and headed over. ‘Cause that’s the type of sweet, innocent boy that I was in those days. When I arrived at the house, he had me park in the driveway as he shuffled around in the garage, looking for something. I innocently, dutifully obeyed and offered to help. “That’s okay. I’ve got it,” he said, as he came out carrying two trailer hitches and a toolbox.

He went to work attaching one of the hitches as I looked on, innocently. “So, what are we going to pick up?” I asked, rather innocently. He responded, perhaps not as innocently as would have made me most comfortable, “Oh, it’s a surprise.”

When he finished attaching one hitch after just a few minutes, he said, somewhat mysteriously, “We’re gonna take this other hitch, just in case. I’m not 100% sure the one I put on is the right size.” And he set the toolbox and the spare hitch on the floor in the cab. I started to climb in on the driver’s side, and he asked, “Hey, do you mind if I drive this time?” Of course I didn’t, so I tossed him the keys and walked around to the other side. And off we drove. Innocently.

(Today’s post is part one of a two-part story. Part two is here.)

If you’re married, what was your courtship like? What did you “bring to the party” that made you worthy of your beloved? How did you know they were “the one”? (Or “the two,” as my pastor is fond of saying.) Why do you think trailer hitches always have to be so flippin’ complicated?