July 1967, I escorted my girl-friend at the time back to her dorm. On the front porch of University Hall, I handed her an envelope and asked her to open it. In it was a greeting card. The cover read, “Life is just a bowl of cherries.” On the inside was written, “Full of pits.”
However, below that I had written, “Would you grow old with me?” And below that, I taped to the inside of the card a diamond ring.
Life really is a bowl of cherries with pits. And, I can say truthfully that my life with Beverly has been just that crazy. Pits? Of course; plenty of them. Yet, despite that inauspicious beginning, we’re still married. Allow me to explain why I think our marriage has worked.
First, We learned to Enjoy the Cherries of Life
When I turned sixteen, my mother told me to be sure and get to know as many girls as possible. “Have a lot of dates with a lot of different girls,” she said. “Discover the qualities you like in the girls you meet. So, during the next five years, I dated more than three dozen girls.
What did I discover? Well, I realized quickly that many of the girls I dated didn’t accept a second or third invitation to go out. And I also discovered that many of them were looking for someone to marry as soon as possible. Those I quit seeing as soon as I found out.
It took me several years to realize that I was looking for someone who was fun to be with. And that person turned out to be Beverly Rodgers of Black Oak, Arkansas. I met her after I transferred from McNeese State to Arkansas State where she was a student. The school was located about four miles outside of the small town of Jonesboro, Arkansas. You had to have a car to go anywhere. Neither of us had that privilege. So, we would walk all over campus just to be alone. Every so often we would walk the quarter-mile to a small eatery called Jack’s Diner located across the main highway on the north side of campus.
At Jack’s, we would order two small Cokes and one order of onion rings. Then we would sit together and share our time and abundance of food. Sometimes, she would borrow her best friend’s Volkswagen Beetle so we could go to a movie or to a nice restaurant for dinner. Oh, and I dated her best friend and sorority sister before I dated her. It didn’t take me long to realize I really enjoyed being with her. And by this, I recognized that she was a sweet cherry in my life.
Second, We Recognize the Presence of Pits.
We first met when I helped a girl I was dating at the time move into the dorm the day before classes began that fall term. Beverly was one of the girls that lived next door. She and several others came into the room to meet the new guy on campus. Later we met again when she showed up to be a walk-on in the fall theatrical production in which I was the lead actor. This girl, would tease and flirt with me during the performances attempting to make me break character in front of the audience. I held my own, but never quit trying.
Later, I asked her out on a date. I never dated another girl after that first date. We would sit in the lobby of her dorm and play a card game called “spit-n-cuss.” We would laugh and enjoy the game and one another’s company. Then one evening she just happen to tell me how much fun she had spending time with me.
I guess that despite not being able to take her places on our dates (a big pit), and despite dating her best friend before I asked her out (a super big pit), she decided that I was worth having in her life. And we have been loving and laughing our way through cherries and pits for fifty years.
So, have I discovered the big prescription for a successful, and lengthy marriage? I honestly don’t know. But one thing I can say is that if you want to live and have fun with someone for many years you first must accept that there are a lot of pits in the fruit bowl of life. But instead of focusing on the pits, learn to enjoy the wonder and beauty in the flavor and the fruit of the cherries.