It was at a church youth group party that I first saw Linda. I didn’t require a second look to decide she was lovely, a girl I’d like to spend time with. Even today, some 48 years later, I recall feeling inexplicably attracted to her. But, she was with another guy and he was at her side continuously. I heard someone say they were “going steady,” as we referred to it then. Reluctantly, I dismissed the memory from my mind.
On a cool, dark night several years later, my friend Alvin and I were sitting on bales of hay at the rear of a flat deck truck. It was another event sponsored by the same youth group. Although I didn’t attend the church or belong to the group, I knew they were pretty accepting people and I had suggested to Alvin it could be fun.
Very close to us were two lively, fun loving gals, Linda and her close friend Jenny. Attractive and congenial, they laughed easily. I again found Linda’s animated face, dancing eyes and lighthearted manner appealing. Her boyfriend of two years ago wasn’t there so I wondered if that relationship had ended. My interest was definitely and significantly rekindled.
For the next two weeks I mulled over the idea of calling to ask her out. I had no way of learning if she was still seeing the other guy. Finally I decided to take the risk of finding out, possibly the hard way. With great anticipation and even greater trepidation, I deposited a quarter into the pay phone at the corner of Clearbrook Road and the Fraser Highway. I didn’t want my parents to hear me being turned down.
A weight lifted off my young shoulders when she agreed to go to an Abbotsford Panthers basketball game with me. I had switched to Abby High for my last year of school and enjoyed the drama of basketball. In their black uniforms, the players were impressive visually. The cheerleaders had dazzling good looks and knew how to work the willing crowd. A student at Aldergrove Secondary, Linda is still somewhat amused at my lack of creativity on our first few dates. It didn’t immediately occur to me she might not be enamoured by the idea of watching basketball players she did not know. At school the following week a friend said to me, “she’s a doll. Where did you find her?” I decided I would not introduce him to her.
She was the girl of my dreams and I was smitten, but I certainly
was not yet thinking in terms of a life partner. The idea of marriage wasn’t even on the distant horizon. I did understand though that if I became serious about a relationship with a girl from a Mennonite home, there almost certainly would be a significant obstacle.
In the Mennonite faith and culture in which Linda and I had both grown up, the church and the faith were central. They determined values, morals, ethics, and many aspects of lifestyle. I was quite aware that most Mennonite parents at that time fervently hoped their children would follow in their footsteps in regard to the faith. Like my parents, Linda’s parents were founding members of the church she was attending. It was the church on which I had turned my back. When I began seeing Linda, I didn’t need to be reminded that my lack of interest in the church or the faith would become a deeply troubling concern for her parents.
We were young though, and I wasn’t yet giving this matter serious consideration. If it troubled Linda, she didn’t talk about it. Our focus was on enjoying the relationship and having a good time together.
Gas was relatively inexpensive then and we often explored backroads, looking for interesting , little known hiking trails. Sometimes we took food and cooked meals in the outdoors. Rollerskating in Lynden and visits to Shakey’s Pizza Parlour became part of our routine. Sometimes we read a book together and this is where I became acquainted with Great Expectations and Gone With the Wind.
In winter we skated on outdoor ponds. One night we went to an ice skating party at Lysak’s Pond on the border of Canada and the U.S. We arrived late and were amazed to find the pond dark, deserted and silent. We had the entire expanse of the pond to ourselves, skating hand in hand. Suddenly, an ominous roar rumbled through the ice, as though it was about to fracture. Terrified, we made a speedy exit. We now understood why everyone had left early.
Still in school, I was living in the basement of my parents home. In summer I worked with Dad operating a bulldozer and doing whatever was needed in his business.
Dad and I shared vehicles and when he saw I was dating a very
nice girl from a solid family, he bought a pretty red and white ‘57 Ford Fairlane hardtop. He wanted to encourage our relationship.