After that last brief conversation between cranky butt and myself…I didn’t waste any more energy on him. I thought to myself, if he wants to spend his life being a crab…fine! If he feels the need to push caring people away…no skin off of my nose! If my cheerful, optimistic outlook on life grated on his nerves…clearly it would be his loss! If he wants to be a loner…so be it!

Being somewhat of a social butterfly, I managed to make new friends almost daily. I even managed a date or two…nothing to write home about…nothing that made my heart go pitter patter…just a date. Going out with a group of friends was much more enjoyable. Going to a movie or spending the evening at the Joust, the student union at Evangel College, was the usual hangouts. In the weeks ahead, I found myself socializing more and more with the boys from Oklahoma and of course, Mr. grumpy butt was in that group. When forced to socialize, he would speak, maybe laugh at something I said but that was about it and I was perfectly fine with that. Besides, he wasn’t really my type anyway. I could never see myself with a non-verbal, Oklahoma country boy with a ‘I don’t need anybody’ chip on his shoulder and an incessant need to hunt anything with fur! There was never any romantic feelings on my part anyway…and clearly none on his part either, so…we were both content with the way things were.

When I left Alabama months earlier, I not only left my parents, my friends, my job and my church…I also left a special someone behind. He and I had only been dating for about six months when I decided to leave, and he had plans of his own that would take him to another part of the world, but still, it was always in the back of my mind, wondering if he could be the one. That thought would leave my mind as quickly as it entered because I knew that God had a specific plan for my life…although I had no idea what that plan was…I felt this hometown boy was not in it. I would soon find out how right I was.

One morning, while eating breakfast in the cafeteria, I found myself, once again, sitting at the table under the clock with my Alabama girlfriends and as usual, the Oklahoma boys weren’t too far away. After I finished eating what was on my plate, I decided to take a trip to the cereal bar. This was one of my favorite parts about breakfast…the cereal! They had all kinds, granola, Frosted Flakes, Rice Crispies, Lucky Charms and my personal favorite…Froot Loops! A big ol’ bowl of Froot loops drowning in ice-cold milk reminded me of home so much. Not only did it satisfy my need for sugar, it also satisfied my need for a little piece of home. When I reached for my bowl and a spoon, I noticed someone standing in line behind me. I glanced from the corner of my eye and saw, surprisingly enough, it was Devin. I looked up, smiled and said, “good morning”, trying not to spook him. As I reached for my scoop of Froot Loops, Devin said, in a shocked tone, “you like Froot Loops?” Puzzled by this question and a little thrown off by his sudden need to know what I like for breakfast I replied, “I love Froot Loops! Ever since I was a kid they’ve been my favorites” He looked at me with this dumbfounded look and said, “really? I like them too. As a matter of fact I love them!” At that precise moment, over a bowl of Froot Loops, our relationship changed…finally something we could both relate to…some common ground. Don’t ask me why it took a bowl of cereal for him to see that I was ok…because I don’t know. I was just glad that we could finally be friends.

It had been months since I had seen my Mom and Dad and they were scheduled to come to CBC for a visit. I wasn’t sure who was more excited, me or my Mom. We missed each other terribly. I couldn’t wait to show them round campus and introduce them to my new friends…Devin in particular. Oddly enough, after that bazaar Froot Loop incident, our friendship grew. For weeks I had been telling him that my parents were coming for a visit and that I wanted him to meet them. When they arrived and I began to introduce them to my friends, Devin was nowhere to be found. The more my parents heard about him and the other Oklahoma boys the more intrigued they became. “who is this Devin”, my Mom asked. “oh he’s just one of my good friends, you’ll really like him…if I can just find him!” Finally I ran into Scotty and asked, ” have you seen Devin? I want my Mom and Dad to meet him.” “oh, he’s not here”, he said, ” he went hunting with his dad in Kansas.” I couldn’t believe it. I had been talking about his for weeks and he just leaves town to go hunting???

When my parents heard that Devin was a hunter they began to laugh. “What’s so funny? I asked “Why are you laughing?” They replied, “you always said you would never date or marry anyone who likes to hunt…and he’s out of town…hunting!” “we’re NOT dating”, I explained, “we’re just good buddies…that’s all!” No matter how hard I tried to convince them that we were only friends…they weren’t sure they believed it. Maybe they saw something I didn’t. When the weekend was over, my Mom and Dad went back home and took a piece of my heart with them. Oh how I missed them and all my friends at home, but I never wavered from the assurance that I was where I was supposed to be.

As the semester was reaching its end, so was the fall, and old man winter was making his grand entrance. I had never experienced cold like this before. I was not prepared at all. The only coat I had was a pink, all-weather coat with a pink Satin scarf….I might as well have been wearing a sun dress! That year, Springfield experienced one of its coldest winters on record and I felt every bit of it. Fear of me freezing to death prompted my Mother to send me a long, down filled heavy winter coat. Not only did it keep me snuggly warm, it also kept me from looking like a clueless, idiot who had never experienced winter before.

That first winter at CBC provided for me a gift. A gift I had never been given before. A gift that awakened, the kid in me. That gift was snow! As hard as this may be to believe…I had never really experienced snow before. Sure, I had seen flurries floating through the Alabama air as a kid, but nothing like what the winter of ’83 brought. I had never left footprints in the snow, never made a snow angel, never made a snow man or thrown a snow ball. I awoke one morning to see snow falling outside my window, I was amazed by its beauty and could not wait to experience its purity and wonder first hand.

I quickly made my way outside to join in on the snowy fun. Students were everywhere, making snow balls and hurling them at each others head…and in the mix? Devin. I quickly made a bee line to him with a big grin frozen on my face. “this is so beautiful!” I said, “I’ve never seen snow like this before!” he stood there looking at me with a smile….a real smile! I hadn’t seen a lot of those on his face…they were obviously reserved for special occasions…like this. Watching me experience snow for the first time, seeing my delight, listening to my laughter made him happy.

Unlike me, he was very familiar with snow. He wore a blue, down filled coat that had a big fuzzy collar to keep his neck warm. He had big heavy work boots and he stood motionless with his fingers tucked in the front pockets of his Levi’s to keep them warm. He was not even shivering and I was frozen solid. I couldn’t feel my face, my fingers or my feet but that didn’t stop me from having the time of my life. He took time to show me a snow flake…one single snow flake that had landed on his sleeve. I was genuinely amazed at its detail and fragile beauty, and he was just as amazed that I had never seen one before. He explained to me how each snow flake was unique…with no two looking like the other. I had no idea that each snow flake had its own unique shape and that they actually looked like the snow flakes that I had cut out as a kid…I truly was the Epitome of naivety. He took delight in the details of nature and sharing them with me and I took delight in his wisdom and sense of calm. He seemed steady, like a rock, appeared to be secure in himself and he was calm….always calm. I liked that about him.

After about 45 minutes of freezing fun he could see that my extremities were bright red…something I was too busy to notice. As I ran past him he yelled out, “hey Tonya, come here a minute!” I stooped to head his way as he walked to meet me half way. “yeah? Whatcha need?” I asked. Then he did something that I will never forget as long as I live, something that made me melt in the freezing snow, something that changed everything. With a gentle smile on his face, he pulled his toasty warm hand out of his pocket, took his thumb, wiped the semi frozen snot off of my cheek and then wiped it on his jeans! I was mortified, shocked, and embarrassed! As he continued to clean my face and wipe it on his jeans, I said in horror, “oh my gosh! That is so gross! I’m sorry, I didn’t know that was there.” He just smiled, took my red, frozen hands, and cupped them in his toasty warm ones. “Ain’t nothin’ gross about it”, he said, matter of factly, “it’s just snot and I knew you couldn’t feel it…so I figured I’d help you out.” Then he lifted my hands up to his mouth and began to breathe his deep, warm, breath on them, in an effort to thaw them out. There we stood, in the middle of a snowball fight, hand in hand, in our own little world.

I met the real Devin that day. A practical, no-nonsense kind of guy who was warm and wise, gentle and caring. I had no idea all of that goodness was hidden in such a cold, rough and rugged exterior. I saw something new in him…something I never expected to see…and it made me feel secure. I felt that when I was with him, I was in a safe place. And I liked that feeling, I liked it a lot. To be continued…