I saw her on the first day of high school. Her name was Donna and I fell in love the moment I laid eyes on her. She lived in a big house overlooking the North Saskatchewan River. I live in a small house in Edmonton’s east end. Her dad was a well-to-do insurance broker. My dad was a poor immigrant tailor.
Donna and I did a Social Studies project together on a Commonwealth country. I think it was Australia. At the conclusion of the project, I screwed up my courage and asked her out for a dinner date. She agreed. I had never taken a girl out on a “dinner date” before. Sure, I’d been on coffee shop dates, you know, coffee and a burger, but never a fancy restaurant.
I snuck into my older sister’s bedroom and “borrowed” her Emily Post. I quickly read up on fancy restaurant protocol and returned the book before my sister could miss it.
Our family didn’t own a car, so I confided to my best friend, Jim, about my up-coming big date and he agreed to let me borrow his car for the evening. I wore my Sunday suit and tie and drove down Ada Boulevard in Jim’s old yellow 1959 Plymouth (the one with the monstrous tail fins) and picked up Donna. She looked gorgeous.
We went to a Hawaiian-themed restaurant downtown called The Beachcomber. Everything went just fine. After entering the restaurant, I took Donna’s coat and brought it to the coat check, then I waited till we were seated by the maître de. We ordered drinks (non-alcoholic) from our server. Donna got the menu without prices. I asked her what she wanted. I ordered for both of us. I used my cutlery from the outside in (thank you, Emily Post). We talked and gazed into each other’s eyes. We had dessert.
The server brought the bill on a little silver plate. I got up with the bill in hand and then realized I hadn’t seen a cashier anywhere. I wandered around the restaurant. No cashier anywhere in sight. Panic set in. What was I to do? I should have read Emily Post more thoroughly. I saw my server next to another table and waited anxiously for him to finish with his customers. I blurted, “I’d like to pay my bill.” The server looked at me and smiled.
“Oh, that won’t be necessary, sir. It’s all been taken care of. The young lady paid for everything.”
I stumbled back to our table, red-faced and embarrassed. I started to apologize, but Donna just put her hand on my arm, smiled sweetly and said, “I had such a nice time, Bob, I thought the least I could do was pay the bill. I hope you don’t mind.”
How could you not love a girl like that?
Memories grow dim after more than 50 years, but Bob remembers this event as if it happened yesterday. Beginnings are like that.