Fall of 1995 had arrived and I decided to stay full-time with the WV Treasury and switch to being a part-time student at WVSC. Tammy continued her full-time studies while working part-time at the grocery store and she had also taken on a part-time job at the secretary typing lab assisting them with keeping their computers running. These old IBM tanks, as we called them, had small built-in hard drives and back in those days, the word processing software they used came on thirty-two 3.5 inch floppy disks. This kept her busy for ten or so hours a week while the grocery store occupied most of her weekends. Working the forty-hour week job at the Treasury and carrying a two 3-hour credit courses was challenging enough for me so by the end of that 1995 fall semester, I had all but given up on school and started to focus more on my full-time job.
However, by September of that year, I had saved up a little bit of money and I felt it was time to ask Tammy to marry me. At this time, we had been sparking for just under six and half years and many of our friends and family had already begun the “When are you two going to get married?” spiel. It had almost become a foregone conclusion to some people that we were going to get married. We had been together all those years that some people, when we met for them for the first time, thought that we were brother and sister. Our response would be, “No, but we are distant cousins by marriage.” A little known fact: I had actually tried proposing to Tammy once before when we were in high school – but that is a funny story best left untold.
When I told my parents what I wanted to do, I believe my mom was more excited than I was because she insisted on being the one to take me to the local jewelry store in Charleston to buy an engagement ring. Looking back now… what a special time that was; mother and son shopping for an engagement ring is something I will forever remember.
We arrived at the Town Center Mall in Charleston, a mall that at the time boasted 100’s of stores including four large anchor stores. Sadly, though this mall is falling away now given the mega shopping area which opened several years ago across town. I parked the Corsica in the mall garage and we made our way to the jewelry store. The manager of the store was actually one of our neighbors so he knew us immediately when we stepped through the main store front.
“Jackie! Beaulah! How are you two doing this evening?”
“Not too bad”, I said with a nervous cracking voice.
I continued with, “It is time Rick. I want to buy Tammy an engagement ring”
“That is great, Jackie. Let’s take a look at what we have”, replied Rick with his typical wide and bright smile.
We looked for nearly an hour at dozens of rings in all various shapes and carat sizes. Back in ‘95, there was really only one color – clear. None of these exotic colors like the Chocolate diamond seen in today’s jewelry stores. I settled on a 5/8 carat diamond, which looking back now was way out of my price range but this was for Tammy and I knew she was worth it and more. Rick package up the ring and we were out the door and on our way back home. This part of our story may sound simple, but how much can you really go into when talking about buying an engagement ring anyway? Simple, yes, but memorable nonetheless because I had just bought my best friend a ring and not just any ring mind you, but an engagement ring. This was nothing like the ring I had given her for Christmas a few years before because this one meant a whole lot more. This one meant that I was making a promise to her that I would love her from hereto forth and forever after that. A ring that if she were to accept it, would forever change us as a couple and would start yet another chapter in our lives together.
The time had come to ask Tammy to be my bride. Now many of you may be thinking that given our story thus far that I must have went all out on some elaborate proposal. Perhaps a trip to the New River Gorge Bridge where I would kneel down on my good knee and ask her to marry me. Or perhaps an even more elaborate engagement proposal at the top of one of West Virginia’s beautiful vistas overlooking the beautiful fall foliage in the valley below. Well, you would be wrong.
My mother and I staged it this way.
Mom was taking up an order for a Home Interior party and she needed to turn in the order that evening. I called Tammy to see if she could stop at the house on her way home to look at the book. Tammy reluctantly came to the house even though she was very busy at the time and needed to study for one of her accounting exams. When she walked into the house, mom told her “Jackie is upstairs. He has something to show you.” As Tammy walked up the stairs to my bedroom, I could hear say under her breath, “I do not have time for this…”. When she entered my bedroom, I was sitting at my desk chair and I motioned for her to come sit on my lap. She replied, “Jackie, I do not have time for this! I need to go home so I can study for my exam”. Tammy is notorious for ‘opening mouth and inserting entire leg’ even to this day. We look back on this part of our story even today and laugh at ourselves. I motioned again and this time she complied. We both have a fascination with Lighthouses and our passion for the Outer Banks had allowed us to see several of them already in our young courtship. During one of our many trips to the lighthouse, we had purchased a very small Cape Hatteras Lighthouse figurine which stood approximately three inches tall and was just big enough around that the engagement ring slipped nicely down to the base of the lighthouse. With Tammy sitting on my lap, I pointed to the lighthouse which was sitting on top of my computer screen and immediately she burst into tears. I said, “Tammy, would you marry me”, and she replied with “YES!”, as tears streamed down her cheeks. We decided almost immediately that a wedding would need to wait until after she had graduated. Tammy had worked so hard for this degree and we did not want to take away that satisfaction from her accomplishments.