After my short stay in Verdigris, I flew back home to Alabama to finish out the rest of my summer. While Devin was 721 miles away in Oklahoma, Mom and I were busy with wedding plans. We booked the florist and the caterer, looked for bridesmaid dresses and shopped for lingerie. We had exactly one year to plan the wedding of a lifetime and we were not going to waste one minute.

Just before our summer break was over, Devin came back to Alabama so we could take care of a few more details before heading back to school. For the life of him, Devin couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. Why we needed to make decisions so quickly, why we needed a caterer, why we needed to meet with the cake lady, or why he needed to wear a tux. He didn’t understand the need for picking out wedding china, stem wear or flat wear. He had never heard of such things before. When I tried to explain to him the importance of these things he would look dumbfounded and say, “we don’t do it like that in Verdigris”. I would just smile and think to myself, well buddy you’re not in Verdigris anymore! He obviously didn’t understand what June 29, 1985, was going to be like. In one word, it was going to be BIG!

Before we knew it, summer was over and it was time to go back to school, which meant mom and I would have to say “good-bye” all over again. Once we packed the car with my stuff, and I said my tearful goodbyes, we were on the road to Springfield, Missouri once again.

Even though I hated to leave my Mom and my southern roots, I was glad to get back to my home away from home, CBC. I was anxious to see my friends and share the good news of our engagement. Even though I didn’t have a ring yet to make it official, we decided not to keep it a secret any longer…it was a good thing since the entire state of Alabama already knew about it 😉

When we got back to school I was surprised to find many of our friends had some news to share as well. Ginger, my roommate, had gotten engaged over the summer to her beau Doug. And, Devin’s roommate Darrel and his girlfriend Crystal were engaged as well. Love was defiantly in the air!

We fell back into the old routine rather quickly. With classes, homework, class projects and papers to write there wasn’t much time for romance. And PDA (public display of affection) was kept to a strict minimum on campus, making it even harder for two people in love to find time for each other. We went for long walks and talked about our future together, what we wanted to do, where we wanted to live, and our hopes and dreams.

In spite of our love for each other, it was apparent we were two very different people with opposite upbringings and personalities. I was motivated by fun, laughter, excitement and spontaneity, always looking for a new adventure. Devin was solid as a rock, steady and in control of his emotions at all times, and required very little to be happy or content. He liked order, discipline and routine. Whereas, I thrived in chaos, spontaneity and surprises. We knew we were an unlikely couple but our appreciation and admiration for each others qualities fueled our love for each other and made it stronger. To me, he was like a grand Oak…wise, strong and steady. I needed that. For him, I was fun and exciting. A breath of fresh air he needed to brighten up his day and keep him from being so serious all the time. We fit perfectly together, like two puzzle pieces. He knew it and so did I.

Even though our personalities complimented each other most of the time, there were occasions when our differences got in the way. Every single day, Monday through Friday, we had to go to chapel. While I loved chapel, the routine of it day in and day out was enough to drive me crazy. The thought of sitting for an hour and a half, with no talking, or moving around was not on my list of fun things to do. Each morning when I went to chapel Devin would be waiting for me in the lobby. “Hey good lookin’!”, he said with a grin. I flashed a smile his way and responded “hey! Can we pleeeese skip chapel and go get a cinnamon roll at The Country Kitchen?” I waited patiently for him to fast and pray about this big decision, giving him a flirty grin hoping it would somehow convince him that we needed to skip. As I stood there, bouncing up and down with excitement, hoping against hope that he would like my idea he said, “Tonya, we have already skipped this week.” “No we havent” I said quickly, “that was last week!” “no it wasn’t, it was Monday and we already have three skips this semester”, He so wisely reminded me. “But we get ten skips a semester…we have seven left and I’m starving! Come on Devin, let’s go, pleeeze.” All of my pleading and arguing fell on deaf ears. “you can skip if you want to, that’s fine with me, but im not going”, he said in his annoyingly calm tone. I hated it when he did that! This is one of those times when his self-discipline and rule following was like nails on a chalk board to me. He knew I wouldn’t go without him, I was not about to have more skips than him because at the end of the semester he would have a skip left over and would go eat without me! I was quite angry with his ‘goody two shoes’ decision and replied, “fine, I’ll just starve to death!” I stormed off to my assigned seat to be bored. He was not fazed by my pleading or anger. He knew I wasn’t going to starve to death and that skipping again wasn’t wise, so once again we did the right thing even though it was boring.

Another telltale sign of our opposite up-bringing was in the area of money, in specific, the spending of money…or the lack thereof. Every Friday afternoon I would go to the campus “bank” and cash a $5.00 check to help pay for our weekend activities. By the time friday would arrive I was ready to go out on the town which included, but not limited to, a little shopping, dinner and a movie. But, Devin would inevitably point out the need to save money for our future…or something like that…and I would inevitably give in and agree to SPLIT a dollar whopper from Burger King. That splitting a dollar hamburger and a coke classified me to be the cheapest date in the history of the world, averaging a whopping .75 cents per date! I didn’t care though, it didn’t matter what we did, or how much money he spent or where he took me, all I really needed was him.

The weeks turned into months and soon it was Christmas time again. Once again, we packed our stuff in Devin’s brown Cutlass Supreme and headed to Alabama. The idea of spending our first Christmas together was almost more Than I could stand. I could not wait for him to experience Christmas MY way…with lots of decorations, food, family and most of all gifts. There was another reason however, why I was excited about Christmas. I was going to get my ring! We had purchased the diamond earlier in the summer and then picked out the ring it would be set in. I had seen them both but I hadn’t seen the final product. Ever since I was a young girl my dream was to have an Emerald Cut diamond for my engagement ring. I would have been happy with any shape diamond of course, but the fact that Devin went to great lengths to fulfill that dream made him even more wonderful in my eyes.

As soon as we made it to Mobile, the festivities began. The tree was decorated beautifully with handmade ornaments and family favorites. The gifts were numerous, piled up high under the tree and out into the floor. I could see the shock on Devin’s face when he saw the amount of presents, and that many of them were for him. My mom had gone to great lengths to make his first Christmas with us a memorable one. With Christmas music playing, holiday goodies everywhere and gifts galore, he had died and gone to Christmas heaven.

Christmas Eve was wonderful. I had prepared a huge, three-foot sub sandwich with all of Devin’s favorites, wrapped it and put it under the tree for him as a special surprise. I learned early on that the best way to a mans heart is through his stomach. He also unwrapped various clothing items and a set of luggage from my mom and dad, so he didn’t have to use a dirty clothes basket as a suit case ;-).

Later that night, after Mom and Dad had gone to bed, Devin and I sat on the floor, cross-legged, face to face, in front of the fire-place. The house was quite with nothing to hear but the crackling of the burning wood and the only light was the glow of the Christmas tree. The fire was warm and cozy but nothing compared to the warmth in my heart for this man. Sitting in front of me was the man of my dreams. The one I waited for and prayed for, the one that God hand picked…just for me. I was the luckiest and happiest girl in the whole world. Nothing else mattered at that moment, there were no other people on planet earth, just me and him, together, in darkness and silence both giddy with excitement at what was about to happen. With tears in his eyes and a smile on his face, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet box. He faced it my way and opened it slowly. There it was, what I had been waiting for, the most beautiful and perfect ring I could have ever hoped for…and it was mine. He carefully took it out of the box and place it on my finger and said, “well, what do you think?” as if he couldn’t tell by the huge grin on my face, I said, “oh Devin, it’s just beautiful! It’s perfect!” I thanked him with a long kiss. Sitting on that floor, hugging and kissing the man of my dreams with a ring on my finger…I was indeed the happiest girl in the world! To be continued…