The love of my life was born in Washington DC, though she was reared in Ventura, California. Not raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she and her family regularly attended another denomination. However as an adolescent, she came to know about the Church because she and her friends loved Donny Osmond—well, all the Osmonds really—and they attended concerts as often as she could convince her mother to take them to Las Vegas or down to LA to a Donny and Marie show. And it happened frequently.
When I was a little kid, Donny Osmond was popular. Looking back now, I didn’t really like him at the time—admittedly, it wasn’t really the cool thing for a youngster of my gender to do—but the girls went nuts over him. Though I will admit, I remember covertly watching the Donny and Marie Show on occasion, because I was kind of fascinated with his popularity, and he was Mormon, so in that way we sort of had a connection.
I must have been 9-10 then. Little did I know at the time that my future wife was hanging on each word and every song of Donny’s. He was ultimately responsible, I imagine, for her willingness to let the missionaries into their home when the elders knocked on her family’s door while tracting in her neighborhood way back in 1976. For that reason, my attitude of Donny and Marie has changed considerably. I will always be in their debt.
My sweetheart is an only child. She and her father used to go together to the local high school football games, and they watched professional baseball together on tv. He took her and a friend to the county fair where he bought them long fringed leather purses that were right in fashion back in the 1970s. That was only days prior to his death.
Fast forward nearly ten years, and she pursued her aspiration of attending Brigham Young University. Ever since joining the Church, she dreamed of going to this university with other members and experiencing life in Happy Valley. She left California and the marvelous universities available there to come to Utah. There were those that couldn’t understand how she could do that. “You are rejecting some of the premier universities in the nation to travel halfway across the United States to attend BYU. How could you do that?” They didn’t understand why she didn’t attend UCLA or Stanford or USC, but she had dreamed of going to school at BYU, and she loved every minute of it.
She tells about the dorm and her roommates. She reminisces about the friends she made, the major she pursued, and the trips home each summer to spend time with her mother. As my sweetheart relates these stories, it’s apparent this was a dream come true for her. Even now, she says life as a new student at BYU for her was like a fairytale.
We met at a dance. Since I was living off campus at the time with my sister’s family in southern Provo, my social life consisted of attending the weekly BYU dances. We used to assemble in the ELWC ballroom or similar facility and a live band would perform. Since I came to love dancing, and I had a few elective credits available in my schedule, I had taken a ballroom dance class, which came in handy at the weekend discos.
Frequently, these gigs were also held at the dorms, in off-campus student apartment buildings, or at the Star Palace (some of you old-timers remember that). Well, they were all fun and admittedly exciting. But the most memorable dance I ever attended was in the Garden Court at the Wilkinson Center. This was ages ago, and the band was setting up for the evening. I got there early as had a few others, and we awkwardly tried to play it cool in this uncomfortable situation. Before too long, more people arrived, the band started playing, and the dancing began.
I tried to demonstrate my chivalry when asking a young lady to dance. We would exchange names and accompany her to the dance floor, where we began tearing up the floorboards figuratively speaking of course, or so we thought. Frequently, I tried to show the proper etiquette by escorting the young lady off the dance floor at the end of the set and thanking her by name. But in all the excitement, I would find that I didn’t pay attention very well or forgot her name in all the excitement by the end of the dance. That probably never happened to others, but it did on occasion to me. This was a long time ago but not so long that we were still using dance cards, which would have helped me use and remember my dance partners’ names maybe.
For the younger generation let me explain. A dance card is a booklet, listing dance titles, composers, and the person with whom the woman intended to dance. Typically, it would have a fancy cover and a decorative cord by which it could be attached to a lady’s wrist or ball gown. From the 19th century until World War I, dance cards were often very elaborate, with some even incorporating precious metals and jewels.
In modern times the expression “dance card” is used metaphorically, as when someone says “pencil me into your dance card,” meaning “find some time to spend with me.”
This time, however, I didn’t need a dance card. I danced with a delightful young lady. She told me her name, and I remembered it. A few minutes later, she was available, so I called her by name and asked if she would like to dance again. She answered in the affirmative, and we boogied the rest of the evening. This was uncommon for me, but it felt right that evening. Following the dance, we walked to our cars and promised to see one another again. It has been more than 30 years since that night. She danced her way into my heart on that occasion and every day since. That’s how we met.
A few years ago, we arranged a little surprise getaway to a Donny & Marie Show in Las Vegas. My wife didn’t know about it, and when she found out we were going, she was very excited to say the least. But a memory I still treasure today is when the usher took us down to a front row table right at the edge of the stage. She had no idea and her elation was obvious and tumbled out in surprise and disbelief. That was the best part. We had a great time. I will always treasure that experience.
The best decision I ever made was to marry my sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given me and her constant love, support, and patience amid life’s challenges is my panacea.
Many people have shared similar experiences and choice moments of many sorts when they look back over their lifetimes. I often wonder how come I have been so lucky.
For me, it’s my sweetheart.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.