A number of years ago, my late father found a portrait I had sketched in drawing pencil. It was a little smudged and faded, but it brought back a lot of memories. It was dated 1975. She was my first true love...
She and her parents used to come to the main Weiner King restaurant in Flemington, New Jersey. I started working there in the fall of 1968. From the moment I laid eyes on her, she was beautiful. I used to wait with anticipation for those occasional Saturdays they would come in. My eyes were always peeled. When their car pulled into the parking lot, my heart would begin to pound and I made certain I was at the cash register to take their order as they entered the front door. One day, she turned me into a nervous wreck. She came in and applied for a job.
"Please, please, Jack, hire her, hire her, please, please!" Jack Little was the best boss I ever had.
"Oh, I don't know, Dave. We don't really need anyone right now."
"You've got to, Jack! Please! Please! Please!"
Jack was only teasing me. Of course, he hired her. It was the fall of 1970 and, boy, did I fall! On her first day, I asked her out by the French fry warmer. She said yes. We dated for many years, but this isn't a story about her and what we did together, this is a story about Valentine's Day, sometime in the mid-seventies...
When we're young, we have a circle of friends, especially at the high school level and a year or two beyond. It helps to work at the most popular place in town, too. Quite obviously, then, her friends know my friends and my friends date her friends and so on and so forth, and that's how a particular message got relayed to me when she didn't want to come right out and point blank tell me. Hint. Hint.
"Dave, she says if you don't ask her to marry you by Valentine's Day, she's going to break up with you."
Whether she really would have or not, I don't know, but I wasn't taking any chances and I knew she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. It's just that my "hurry up" gear wasn't shifting quite as quickly as hers at the moment. Yes! Of course I wanted to marry her!
There were two Weiner Kings in Flemington in those days. I worked at both. One was in a touristy area called Turntable Junction. Nearby was a jewelry store and the owner came by regularly for lunch.
"I need to talk to you about an engagement ring." She wasn't surprised. I think the whole town knew about the two of us.
"How much do you want to spend?" I told her the range and made it a point to visit her shop one afternoon. What did I know about engagement rings? Nothing, but I ended up purchasing a 1.25 carat teardrop diamond set in white gold. Oh, how it glistened brightly!
I've always been a practical joker, so I asked if she would sell me a cheap promise ring. This one had a chintzy diamond chip in the center that was surrounded by highly polished silvery metal. At first glance, it looked like something more. She laughed at my idea and gladly threw it in for free.
I bought several other gifts for that special day, probably cologne and, maybe, a blouse. I don't really remember. I do know that we went to dinner at a very nice restaurant. No, not the Weiner King for chili dogs with cheese and onions! After our romantic fine dining experience, we drove back to my apartment. She pretty much knew what was in store. I'm sure the word got back to her. I removed my suit jacket and her coat, we settled into the sofa and sipped good wine. Then, we exchanged gifts. I don't recall what I got because I was more interested in the engagement. When the moment was just right, I handed her a special little box, all nicely wrapped, frilly-like, and dropped to one knee. I was a modern man, but when it came to this, I was as traditional as it gets...
"Will you marry me?" I asked, as she unwrapped the box and opened it up.
"Yes!" she responded, her eyes welling up.
"I'm sorry, this is all I can afford right now."
"That's alright. I love you so much..." she said while wiping away a flood of tears. Quickly, she placed that little diamond chip ring on her finger.
"I love you very much, too. More than anything." I wiped away a few tears, too, and we hugged and kissed. We were officially engaged. We spent a very loving evening together. Hours later, it was time to take her home. She still lived with her parents. I helped her put on her coat and then donned my jacket.
"Oops, what's this?" I asked, with a surprised look on my face. Fumbling inside the pocket, I pulled out THE BOX.. "Hmm, I must have forgotten about this. Here." I softly folded it into her hand and eased her back to the living room sofa, where we sat back down. She tore off the wrapping and slowly opened the box.
"Oh My GOD!" The shock of that diamond staring up at her was almost too much to grasp. "I can't believe this."
"Look, I really wanted yellow gold, but this is what she had. Do you want me to return it for another?"
"How about giving that cheap one back to me. That was just a joke."
"NO! I love it!"
After more hugging and kissing, I took her home. Her parents were asleep. We kissed goodnight and off I went. I was the happiest and luckiest guy in the world.