I’ll never forget when I first saw Anna.
Years ago — it amazes me to think how many! — I met my future wife on our college campus. I’d been at school the preceding year and returned after a summer away. My roommate and I, now sage and sophisticated sophomores had just finished depositing our things in the dorm and were strolling across campus, speculating on what sort of year it might be.
My opinion on that subject was about to escalate dramatically.
We shortly encountered another group of students. Some I knew, and some I didn’t. And that’s when I first saw her. She’d just come to school, and I met her during those moments when the eight or ten of us in that group stood talking and laughing together.
After a few minutes my friend and I said, “See you later,” and continued on our way. But something had “clicked” when I met that girl. It was that less than an hour into my first day back on campus, I had already made up my mind about one thing.
“Fred,” I told my buddy, describing the new girl who had caught my eye, “I’m going to take that one out.”
Boy did I take her out! It wasn’t two weeks after our first date before we were inseparable, and nothing changed from that point on! The pivotal moment was neither our first meeting nor our first date. It was the Sunday after our first date. We attended the same church. I played in the orchestra in the morning worship, and she had joined the choir. That morning our eyes met a couple of times during the service, she in the choir loft and I in the orchestra pit, and we smiled at each other. I thought to myself, I’m going to catch her right after church.
Because I’d been around the previous year, I knew where the choir left their robes. I could appear to be “casually walking by” just as she walked out the door. As a result of that cleverly arranged “chance meeting,” we ended up having Sunday dinner together that day in the dorm dining hall.
It wasn’t particularly intimate or quiet — you know what dormitory dining halls are like. What’s more, following dinner I had an unglamorous role with the clean-up crew. Several of us were “on duty” that week with sponges, brooms, and mops.
When we concluded our meal, I excused myself and headed out to do my chores. I presumed she would simply smile, take her leave and return to her dorm and her studies. After all, there was really no reason for her to stay. We weren’t going together or “serious,” as we say, so she certainly wasn’t obliged to wait around for me to finish my “K.P.” duty.
But she didn’t leave.
Anna waited for me, she later explained, for the simple reason that I had walked with her to the dining hall. As she saw it, walking back with me was a matter of courtesy. There was nothing calculating or possessive about her waiting. It was just plain thoughtfulness. So after clean-up that afternoon, I walked her back to her dorm. And that was that.
But to this day, I remember being terrifically impressed, because most of the girls I’d known wouldn’t have waited. They would have been embarrassed or worried about “how it looked,” or concerned about appearing to “try too hard.” They would have played it cool.
But Anna’s whole demeanor was different, refreshingly so. I was impressed by the unaffectedness of that girl. There wasn’t any pretense or game-playing about her. She was just herself. I liked that, and that was the reason I asked her for another date. Eventually, it was one of the main reasons I asked her to date me regularly — and then to marry me.
Anna has always been like that. Sweet. Honest. Open. Steadfast. To me, her most endearing quality is her simple, unadorned sincerity. She’s always the same. Even if she’s irritated with me, she’s still just herself, with no manipulating or maneuvering. In a world of three thousand exotic ice cream flavors, she is consistently and deliciously vanilla.
And I’ve always loved vanilla best of all.