Two of my granddaughters announced their engagements this summer. So exciting!!! Daisy is going to marry Steve Luck. Would you believe me if I tell you that Grace is going to marry Gil Luck? But these two men with the same last name are NOT related. Both men proposed to each granddaughter within a couple of weeks of each other. Stories about how men proposed to women flood the Internet. Would you like to know what happened between me and Charley?
By today’s standards, the story is a bit weird. But it worked!!! I was 19 years old. Charley and I had dated for two and a half years.
I had been on a trip around the world with my parents for two months. All I talked about during the entire trip visiting all those exotic places and all those Heads of State, was my boyfriend, Charley. We wrote to each other all the time. He timed letters to arrive in the cities we visited, and he did a great job of it. I almost always received letters that had arrived at hotels before we did. And more arrived for me if I stayed there more than a night or two. We were very much in love and missed each other terribly. He was a sophomore in the Architecture school at UVA. It was pretty intense. He probably worried that I would tire of him while away for so long. But “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is a true statement if the love is real.
When we arrived home to Washington DC on the night of March 22, 1961, I was finally able to talk to Charley on the phone. I can’t remember the details of our plan for seeing each other for the first time. However, I remember that within a day or so, we met down at the farm in Hillsborough, Virginia. Buckskin Cabin was one of my favorite places. It was a log cabin. But it had been improved with all sorts of amenities such as bathrooms and a garage. We all often went down there for weekends to relax and get away from the city. It had lots of room for guests, and we enjoyed it.
On our first weekend home after the trip, Charley and I stayed at the cabin with my parents. We were thrilled to be together after the long absence. I can’t speak for Charley, but I was walking on clouds because I was so happy. It was a crisp March Friday. Mother and I went to the market to buy food for dinner. When we were gone, my father took Charley aside and asked him, “What are your intentions toward my daughter?”
I expect Charley gulped in surprise, but he said, “Well, I want to marry her!”
Then my father said, “That is great news. Pick out a ring!” And he opened his hand, exposing a collection of rings. All of them were beautiful. There was an emerald with two diamonds on the side, a ruby surrounded by pave diamonds, a large simple diamond ring with side diamonds, and a deep blue, square cut, sapphire circled by baguettes. And most unusual of all, a star sapphire with an asymmetrical swirl of pave diamonds and quite a few individually set small stones. Well over 30 diamonds in all, it was totally unique.
“Here, pick out one of these.” My father was pleased with himself. Charley was surprised and not sure what to say. Except that he knew I would want to pick out a ring that pleased me. So he said, “Let’s wait until Bonnie gets back and let her choose for herself.” And that is what happened.
No one ever asked me. It was simply assumed I was going to marry Charley. He did not go down on one knee, but by giving me the choice of rings he showed me that he cared about me. He cared about my feelings, my likes and dislikes. He wanted me to be happy. What better quality can a future husband have? I picked the star sapphire. It is still the most beautiful ring I have ever seen. I was thrilled. When Charley and my father told me the story, I was slightly irritated that my father had horned in on my engagement; but I was too happy to complain.
My father brought those rings home to show my mother for her input because she was a great lover of jewelry. They planned to give an especially nice ring as a present to my sister, Dede. She was about to graduate from Holton Arms School, where I graduated the year before.
Not every girl would like her father to be so involved in her engagement ring. Charley paid my father for the ring. That helped make it feel all right. Typical of me, and I did not like him meddling in my life. But my mother used to tell a story about my father, speaking about me and Charley, “If he doesn’t marry her, I am going to kill her!” (This is a joke, dear reader, he loved me but….) Apparently, I was a pain in the neck to live with because I talked of nothing but Charley. Marrying Charley, being with Charley, loving Charley and comparing the rest of my family unfavorably with Charley. One reason I was so intent on getting married young was to be away from my loving, generous, and highly intrusive family.
We got engaged on March 23rd, 1961, and immediately began to plan an engagement party. Why wait? Unlike young people today, we thought it would be more fun to be married than to remain single. Our engagement party was on April 15th at my parents’ home. It was a lovely formal cocktail party. During the planning for that party, we decided to marry that June (two and a half months away) instead of having a grueling year-long wait for a wedding. Both sets of parents thought a long engagement would be risky.
Shopping was part of being properly sent off. Stationary and monogrammed linens, trousseau clothes, and a kitchen shower took up much of my time. Several people gave cocktail parties in our honor, too. We were so wined and dined I was exhausted by the time the wedding day arrived.
And so we were married on June 23rd, 1961, in a huge wedding ceremony at Metropolitan Memorial Methodist Church at Ward Circle. The reception was at my parents’ lovely home, Underoak, on Nebraska Avenue in Washington, D.C.
Copyright©. 2023 Bonnie B. Matheson