An Old-Fashioned Romance: Part I
- Friday, March 22, 2002
On November 12, 1999, Mom got a letter.
I saw it first, late at night after a long day at our tea shop. Sorting through the days mail before handing it to Mom, I flipped past a couple of bills, a packet of mail-order "unique and distinctive gifts," then paused in surprise at a plain, cream-colored envelope. The name on the return-address label gave me a jolt - then realization set in. Although it was addressed to Mrs. Mary McAdory, I knew that it actually concerned Miss Sara Roberts. My thoughts were thrown topsy-turvy: "Surely not this, not yet!" And then, "Surely not him!"
Three years before, in 1997, I went to northern Virginia as an intern for Home School Legal Defense Association. Six months in the legal field seemed long enough for me to find out if I really was as interested in law as I thought. As it happened, a mere two weeks was sufficient: I wasnt that interested. However, I enjoyed the entire experience. It wasnt hard to do, especially with my four fellow interns (all of us girls) and the wonderful HSLDA people - including several eligible and interesting young men.
One of which, I might add, was not Darren Jones.
Actually, Darren wasnt married, so I guess he was eligible. And he might have been interesting, but none of us saw him often enough to know. While the other guys dropped in for frequent visits - usually around mealtime - Darren spent his spare time closeted in his room, studying law. The only time we were around him for any length of time was in our Constitutional Law class: it took all five of us interns to keep him from answering Mike Farris questions first. I knew him better than the other intern girls did because Darren and I attended a Saturday night Game Night at a couples house. We had pleasant chats about books and music, and I yelled at him when he beat me in a game (which means that I did a lot of yelling at him). But by and large, we didnt have much to do with one another. I left Virginia in June of 1997.
... Two Years Later ...
Most correspondence with my Virginia friends had trailed off into occasional notes saying, "Sorry I havent written. Im coming up to visit this summer - well have to get together!" In fact, it eventually came about that my only regular correspondent was Darren Jones. Our e-mails had begun as infrequent, very general notes, which I answered only because he wrote. When a girl suspects a guy of being interested in her, and has already eliminated him as a possibility, she isnt particularly eager to build a relationship with him.
However, it appeared that he wasnt particularly eager to build a relationship, either. His e-mails remained friendly, very entertaining, and utterly above suspicion - I left them out so my parents could check up if they wanted to, but there was nothing in the notes to worry about. Two years in a row, he attended the state home-school conference in Jackson to run HSLDAs book table, and two years in a row I returned to Virginia to visit. All four times we saw a little of each other, everything comfortable and casual. Gradually, his pleasant and detached conduct convinced me that his regard for me was merely friendly. When I knew he was "safe," we became rather good friends.
Yes, I hear those snickers. I heard them for two years, as my friends and even my mother insisted that Darrens friendliness went much deeper than appearances. But it was very important to me that we be "only friends." Any sort of romance was serious business. When I was about sixteen, I concluded that God didnt want me to date merely for the pleasure of a temporary romance. At the same time, I saw that dating relationships very often end in heartache and bitterness. Instead, I chose to wait until God brought me someone who had marriage in mind. Furthermore, this someone had to be at a point in life where he could support a wife. And finally, he had to be the one to approach first. I didnt want to date - I wanted to be courted. A bit idealistic, maybe, but that was what I had decided and thats what Id stick to.
I knew that Darren, like many of the guys I was friends with, didnt dabble in casual romance any more than I did. Most of us upheld the idea of "courtship." Although it varied from person to person, it generally meant that if a guy approached a girl to say he was interested, marriage was his intention. I certainly wasnt going to welcome any such approach from Darren - among other sterling reasons, he was pretty much the opposite of what I expected my husband to look like. And I wasnt going to be persuaded otherwise, either, much to my friends frustration.
"But, Sara," my friend Jenna wailed during one of our recurring arguments last year, "Why wont you consider him? I think Darrens wonderful!"
"Great!" I replied. "Then you marry him."
He was nearly finished with law school, and really was the only guy I knew who was close to being established and able to marry. I liked his e-mails and his company very much, which made me all the more determined to dismiss him. I even wrote in my journal, November 18, 1998: "I still am not interested in giving up my singleness, and certainly not by means of Darren Jones."
Thats in ink.
In the summer of 1999, I was twenty-two years old, fairly happy at home but becoming a tad restless, and liking being single but wishing for a little romance. My prospects were nil. I knew a lot of guys, but none of them were in any position to begin a courtship, and besides, no one showed any especial interest in me anyway. It was starting to get just a little irksome. As my friend Dana once put it, "I dont want swains, exactly, but an admirer or two would be nice." In fact, I visited Dana in Oregon that summer, and we talked at great length about courtship and romance and the sort of fellows wed marry - but it was all hypothetical because neither of us knew of anyone who wanted to court us.
When I got back from that visit this past September, life in general picked up pace. Our tea shop was gearing up for Christmas. School had started, so the newspaper I worked for had more material than we could print in a week. Darren sent around word that he had finally finished four-and-a-half years of law school, and after his November graduation would be preparing for the California Bar exam. My former Virginia housemate Marti wrote to say that she was engaged. I managed to send Marti a best-wishes note, but never did get a congratulatory e-mail sent off to Darren. I felt a little bad, but didnt really think he would notice.
It was a bolt out of the blue that evening in November when I sorted through the mail and found that innocuous-looking envelope addressed to my mother. Return address: Darren A. Jones. Two and a half years of buried suspicions immediately scrambled to the surface. Surely it wasnt... Surely not Darren...
The letter was direct and minced no words.
"Dear Mrs. McAdory," it began, "I would like permission to court your daughter Sara."
Thats just the beginning of the story.
Sara Jones was home schooled during her high school years. She is married to Darren Jones, attorney with Home School Legal Defense Association. Sara and Darren are the proud parents of Adelaide Marie.
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