April is that time of year which inspires the romantic spirit, especially those who are young and looking for love. It can also inspire those who are young at heart and appreciate moments which inspire and motivate them through selfless acts of love and kindness with a spouse, family and friends.
One evening while Deborah and I were relaxing after a home-cooked meal of whole-wheat pancakes, eggs and bacon, we revisited an almost forgotten story.
As part of a routine “spring cleaning” of her office at Tabor, Deborah came upon a column, dated February 15, 2008, written by student, Tiffany Johnson, in The View, a student publication of Tabor College.
I offer Ms. Johnson’s rendition in its abridged entirety as I cannot improve upon her unique perspective.
In “Professors’ Love Blooms at Tabor,” she begins, “Tabor has long been known as a shoe factory: you go in single, and come out as a pair. Little do most students know, however, that some members of our very own faculty were once a part of the Tabor shoe line as well.
Professor Deborah Penner and her husband, Paul, have a very unique love story all of their own.
They met not here at Tabor, but rather in the choir at Parkview Mennonite Church. Paul himself was a freshman at Tabor, but Deborah was still a sophomore in high school, and even she admits that Paul was, as some might call it, “robbing the cradle.”
As Penner related their first date, her eyes glowed with excitement as she reminisced: “Paul asked me to the spring banquet in ’69, and of course, as a sophomore in high school I was really excited to go. I made my dress in two weeks, and on the night of the banquet he showed up at my doorstep with a cymbidium orchid, which was all the rage in those days.”
As Penner related further, “I was really impressed with the banquet as well. The theme for the banquet was ‘A night in Paris.’ They served French food for the dinner and there was a bridge leading into the cafeteria with dry ice.”
Of course, Paul and Deborah continued to date. When asked what attracted her to Paul, Penner replied, “He was really fun to be around and very friendly. I was a very shy, reserved person, so it was really fun to be with a social butterfly. Plus, he would create really good dates.”
After graduating from high school, Penner also came to Tabor. The couple dated a total of three years, and married shortly after Penner’s freshman year.”
The final paragraph in Tiffany’s focus on our story ends with the years of marriage in 2008 and ages of our children.
Several thoughts run through my mind at the moment: As of this month and year, Deborah and I have known each other for 52 years. This June, we will celebrate our 49th anniversary and eagerly welcome the homecoming of our children and grandchildren, even if the pandemic means we await their arrival for wheat harvest.
I do remember some of the dates we had, though I do not remember playing the role of a social butterfly: One late afternoon on a hot August day, I refueled my newly washed and waxed ’64 Impala coupe, and we drove the old four-lane, U.S 81 highway connecting Newton and Wichita, with windows open to moderate the summer’s heat. The car did not have an air conditioner, so to keep cool, we had a small cooler complete with ice and water.
Our first stop was to a popular restaurant along Broadway. Then we drove down Douglas towards a popular theatre where the latest movies were playing. I really do not remember the movie we saw, I was just happy to be there with Deborah.
As it goes with farming and agriculture, one often can be sidetracked with activities which are crucial at the moment; like planting corn, preparing for planting soybeans and making final preparations for the coming wheat harvest.
Indeed, and as it goes with life, one often can become sidetracked with such activities, and more, and the really important things become less important, and perhaps even forgotten. May this never be with us, with family, with friends!