THE DAY KAREN AND I FIRST MET AND WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
Written by David Burrier
It was on a Tuesday night November 4th, 1973. I attended a 16 mm film (no videos or DVDs back then) of Rev. Billy Graham at Grace Baptist church on the south side of Waverly, Iowa (my home town) with a group of Wartburg College students.
We were there early (of course) to get a good seat. A few minutes before the film was to start a group of young gals entered the sanctuary and sat two seats ahead of us. My eyes were immediately drawn to (what I considered to be) one of the cutest girls I had ever seen. I decided I would make an attempt to introduce myself right after the movie.
The movie ended and there was a mad dash to the exit. I struggled to find her but she vanished. I was so frustrated. I ask around if people saw or knew her, but (of course) they weren’t near as observant as I was and were of no assistance. I couldn’t believe I had lost her.
My cousin Kim Koth indicated that a group of students were planning to gather in her dorm room on the 3rd floor of Centennial Hall at the college for some late night refreshments. I had no other plans, so I accepted her invitation.
The room was full of conversation and people were bopping in and out. I was sitting on the bed. Others were either sitting on the floor, on bean-bags or where-ever they could find a spot.
Then it happened. This most beautiful gal I had seen at the church appeared at the door. I couldn’t believe it!! I just about jumped out of my skin!
She made an announcement to the assembled. “Would anyone like some hot chocolate?” Several put in their orders including me of course. I wasn’t going to risk losing sight of her again. Then, before she left the room she fixed her eyes on mine. That’s right, she looked right at me and she said, “Would you like marsh mellows in yours?” No one else was given that option. Just me! Holy smokes I just about slid off the end of the bed. I could barely get the words out and I think my voice went up several octaves and I must have sounded like a junior high boy when I cleared my throat and responded with, “A..hum,..yes please.”
She gave me the sweetest smile and dashed into the hallway. I immediately asked my cousin Kim who she was and where she was going. Kim said her name was Karen Ingebretson and her dorm room was just next door. I think I said to myself, “Thank you Jesus!!!”
Moments later she appeared again and began to deliver the hot chocolate orders to everyone EXCEPT ME!!! Then she disappeared again for a few more minutes that seemed like hours. She came back and made a bee-line for me and sat right beside me on the bed and handed me a mug of hot chocolate with marsh mellows on top and made that eye contact thing again and flashed her most beautiful smile onto me. I’m sure I was too excited to say much so I lifted the mug and promptly burned my tongue. Dang!!! (Not really, just kidding, but I thought it would add to the story)!
Anyway we got introduced and we immediately delved into a serious discussion about our mutual faith in God and discussed the movie we had both seen that night.
Evidently we were so oblivious to our surroundings that we lost track of time and didn’t realize everyone had left the room. Kim asked if we wanted to find another place to continue our conversation (I think I needed a cold shower to tell you the truth), so we took a walk on campus and ended up at a quaint little place called Danforth Chapel. We talked till weee hours in the morning because college students don’t care what time of night it is right?
For the next two weeks we met at the Chapel every single night at 10:30. We had it all to ourselves. The reason for the late hour was that Karen was a 4 point (straight A) student and refused to get together until her homework was done. Whatever!!!!! I (on the other hand) was an “average” student. Well maybe a bit below average to tell you the truth.
(One side note is that my grade point improved considerably because I was able to arrange (manipulate actually) to meet Karen earlier if I committed to do my homework and not bother her. HEELLLOO!!!)
Anyways……after just two weeks of seeing each other every single day, we both expressed the “L” word and we began to talk about marriage. That’s right. We knew that we were going to get married within two weeks of meeting – we just didn’t know when at that point. I wanted to give her a promise ring (back then it was a pearl) for Christmas. Once I became more aware of her family dynamics I came to the conclusion that a pearl would set off a fire-storm back in Thor, Iowa her hometown where her father was a pastor and her mother was……..well…….I’m not going there right now. (VERY strict) Oh…I just went there. Oh well, I love you Marilyn if you’re reading this.
Anyway, realizing that we couldn’t go the pearl route, Karen actually said to me, “If you REALLY love me you’ll buy me a sewing machine.” That’s right! So we shopped around on a college kid’s budget and I bought my future wife a 64 dollar used sewing machine. You would of thought I had given her a 40 karate diamond ring!! Karen says she sewed around the world four times on that machine until flames were literally flying out the back of it.
Well, then I decided I might just give her a pearl in March of 1974. Nope!! Still too early for the folks.
Then Karen abandoned me!!! That’s right!! She signed up for a college summer course in Spain. (She was a double major in social work and Spanish education) What?????? Yep! She was gone for three (insert expletive) months during the summer of 1974. I wrote her every day. She saved every letter.
I on the other hand had to do something productive so I signed up for a summer college course in community organization (don’t even go there people :-)) and set up a summer ecumenical youth ministry in a small Iowa town southwest of Ft. Dodge called Callender.
Turns out that summer I had put together a trio of three guys and competed in a county fair for the Bill Riley Talent contest. We won a trip to the Iowa State Fair singing John Denver’s song Grandma’s Feather Bed. Go ahead and fact-check that. It’s true.
The day Karen returned to the States, I high-tailed it to Thor, Iowa. We were like two clingy junior high kids.
So not too many days after she returned I invited her to go on a day trip to Des Moines with me. On the way down we made a stop on the north side of Ankeny where there use to be a rest-stop. (It’s now the new 36th street exit.) I pulled over and parked the car. I asked her to open the glove box and inside was a small black velvet case. Inside was a diamond ring and I asked her to marry me.
I know those reading this are rolling their eyes about how well planned out and romantic that was thank you very much! Anyway she said yes and on to the State Fair we went. BTW, our trio got 2nd place in the Bill Riley Talent Search contest that year!!
We tied the knot on May 3rd, 1975 at Ullensvog Norwegian Lutheran Church in Thor, Iowa and were married by her father Rev. Marlin Ingebretson.
Since then we have raised three children, Joni, Brian and Marcus who are now married to the most wonderful spouses and have a total of six grandchildren.
We’ve had lots of ups and downs over the years to be sure, but through it all we have been blessed to discover a love that neither of us would ever have imagined on the day we were married 41 years ago.
This year instead of going out to eat, I’ll be cooking for us at home and we’ll just have a quiet candle light meal.
This year my plan is to serve Karen a mug of hot chocolate topped off with marsh mellows. Won’t that be romantic? 🙂
Life is good and getting better and better after we first met 43 years ago – that night when Karen sent me a message with her eyes. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.