A ’57 MGA is a lousy make-out car… so we sat in a dark spot I knew on a black and cold March evening in 1967. Her shoulder tucked under my arm and her face jammed into the hollow of my neck, th’ Luvly Laura once again sobbed her heart out as she had been doing more and more often, but would tell me nothing… again. Finally, I’d heard all the weeping I cared to. I’m a guy, and guys FIX things, but we can’t fix what we don’t know. I got out of the car (an awkward business for a five-eleven man with all the flexibility of a utility pole), walked around to her side and opened her door.
“Sob! *hic* Ba-a-awl…”
“Heard you the first time. Out!” I stooped over, slid one arm under her and one behind her and lifted the entire 115 pounds of sobbing female out of the MG… banging her ear lightly on the top of the door frame as I did it. Standing erect before the pain in my back made me drop her, I tossed her upward a couple of inches and let her legs drop (squatting a little to keep her feet from dangling), and turned her to me as she touched the ground. “Stop bawling and TALK to me, dammit! Whutinell is wrong with you? You’ve been crying for two weeks!”
Whack! Her left hand spun my face left and slid off my right cheek. “Chuck Larlham, you’re an idiot! If you really loved me you’d kno-o-o…” She trailed off into another fit of bawling.
Uh-oh… BI-I-IG problem! I loved her, but I really didn’t know. I pulled her in and kissed her eyelids. “Gotta gimme a hint, Babe.”
“Yuh… yuh… you’re going out to Utah and I’ll ne-e-e-ever see you ag-ag-ag-aga-a-aain!” One long wail, almost but not quite unintelligible.
“Oh. Well, about that… I thought I’d come back for you and we could get married over Christmas break. That’ll give your mother time to put a wedding together. Or we could elope, but she’d never forgive us. Then again, your father would probably be grateful. What do you think?” Long before I was done, she was beating on my chest with both hands and calling me names.
I grabbed her hands. “I was gonna ask you this weekend, but how does the plan sound so far?”
Th’Luvly Laura, perhaps for the first, last and only time in her life was utterly speechless. She just nodded.
“Didn’t get the ring yet,” I said. “Wanna help me pick it out?”
More violent nodding.
“Can we get out of the rain now? We’ll go to Cleveland and pick out the ring this weekend?”
More nodding. Big grin. I helped her back into the car and helped her dry her tears. Big emotional catharsis or not, the MG was still a lousy make-out car. I took her back to the dorm.
That Saturday we drove to Cleveland and spent the afternoon going from jewelry store to jewelry store. Eventually, at Robinson Jewelers, she settled on a small diamond in a simple setting, and I forked over seventy-five dollars and tax. Years later I did my best to get her to help me choose a larger stone, but she wasn’t having any. That was her engagement ring, and she wanted no other.
The day of the Prom, held in the basement ballroom of a Welsh mansion named Stane Hewitt (Hewn Stone), transported to Akron, Ohio by the Seiberling family, I went to Cleveland and retrieved the now-sized and polished ring. At the prom itself, I danced her outside and took out the ring, lifted her hand and put it on her finger. “Marry me?” *wink/grin*
Big hug… big kiss… “Yeah, I guess I will.” *wink/grin*
We went back to the dance. A waltz was playing. Th’ Luvly Laura’s hand draped over my shoulder, diamond throwing light, we danced. Wel-l-l-l… we tried to dance. Within seconds, every woman in the room was moving in our direction. For much of the rest of the evening Laura basked in the aura of her engagement and the hypnotic glow of the ring.
Me? I sat at the bar, smoked too many cigarettes and turned down congratulatory beers (drinkin’ and driving never seemed smart to me). After they played Last Dance, th’ Luvly Laura and I climbed into the MG and headed back to Hiram. I pulled behind the women’s dorm, pulled her close and kissed her. The MG was STILL a lousy make-out car. I took my Luvly Laura into the dorm.