Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Love and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

We had a contest today in Toastmasters, and I participated. I came in second place. I was a little disappointed, but Kathy did an amazing job, so I both understand and agree with the judges' decision.

I thought I would share my speech with you, because I really enjoyed it. Just a note: words that are bracketted off like [this] are little notes to myself.

Love and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I love grilled cheese sandwiches. My Pop Pop makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the whole wide world. He slices the cheddar cheese to just the right thickness. He spreads just the right amount of butter on the bread. He heats up the frying pan to just the right temperature and flips the sandwich just the right number of times so that each side reaches a glorious golden brown. Then he slides it onto a plate and cuts it in half, the melted cheese oozing from each piece, ready for me to dig in.

I love my Pop Pop. In addition to being the maker of the world’s best grilled cheese sandwiches, he’s one of the most incredible men I have ever known. I love the relationship he and my grandmother have, and I hope to someday share that kind of love with someone. But I think I’ve had the wrong perspective on how to obtain that love for quite a while now. You see, I think I was looking at finding a husband kind of like making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. I thought I simply needed just the right ingredients, just the right amount of heat, and just the right amount of time to create the perfect relationship. Then my grandmother told me a little story that brought me back to the right perspective.

The year was 1947. Clyde, a young woman who hated having a “man’s” name, was a student at Winthrop, and Mark was finishing up at Clemson after returning home from war. As with most college students during those days, Friday night was date night. They put on their Friday night best, spruced themselves up, and headed to the local hangout, a jazzy little place perfect for dinner and dancing. But they weren’t headed there with each other. Mark was meeting up with another young Winthrop co-ed, and Clyde was meeting another Clemson man.

They all ended up at the same table together, Clyde and her date on one side, and Mark and his date on the other. Mark’s date was terribly upset and all out of sorts. The Winthrop girls had received their grades that day. Typically a very good student, her grades were simply terrible. She was very concerned about the trouble she was going to be in with her parents, and Mark’s charms couldn’t seem to lift her spirits. So she decided to go home, leaving Mark behind. A little while later, for reasons no one can recall, Clyde’s date decided to leave as well, leaving her alone with Mark.

They sat and talked for a while, and then they heard the voice of Ella Fitzgerald … [actually singing] “Say, it’s only a paper moon; sailin’ over a cardboard sea; but it wouldn’t be make believe if you believed in me …” Mark stood up and walked over to Clyde. He bowed a little and held out his hand to her. “May I have this dance?” Clyde felt her cheeks flush as she placed her hand in his. He led her to the dance floor, and their eyes locked as they began to dance. [begin dancing] With each word that Ella sang, Mark and Clyde glided across the floor. Song after song, they danced the night away.

Mark gave Clyde a lift back to Winthrop, and he walked her to the door of her dormitory. “I’d like to see you again,” he said. “I’d really like that as well.” That evening began a two year courtship, and Mark and Clyde joined in marriage in 1949. They have three wonderful sons and six rather remarkable grandchildren, and they will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in April.

You may be asking yourself what this story has to do with the strange grilled cheese sandwich philosophy I had on love. To me, the most wonderful detail of how my grandparents began courting is the fact that the young woman who was my grandfather’s date that night actually received the wrong grades. She really made straight A’s. If she had received the correct set of grades, she likely would have stayed there with my grandfather that evening, and my grandparents quite possibly would have never started courting.

I don’t believe it was fate. I don’t believe it was a coincidence. I don’t believe it was written in the stars. I believe a very loving God planned out the tiniest of details to put the right people together. So now I’m not focusing on a grocery list of the qualities I want in a husband. I’m not worried about making sure I’m in the right place at the right time so I’ll bump into Mr. Right. I’m trusting that the same loving God who placed my grandparents together will someday do the same for me, and that will be better than any grilled cheese sandwich even my Pop Pop could make.

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