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The story of my college romance

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                            Here’s my story of how I pursued the only woman in my life to absolutely take my breath away. In 1978, as a junior at Wheaton College, girls were the …
By Seth Barnes
















Here’s my story of how I pursued the only woman in my life to absolutely take my breath away.

In 1978, as a junior at Wheaton College, girls were the furthest thing from my mind until one evening in Traber Dorm. Across the lobby I spied a beautiful blonde – I was immediately smitten. She was goofing around with a spray bottle squirting people with water. Something went off inside me and completely sideswiped my rational mind. Suddenly, all I could think of was answering one question: “How do I get to know that woman?”

The direct approach wasn’t my style. I needed some kind of an excuse. Fortunately, God provided me with one. Her best friend, Debbie, liked my best friend, Dave. Soon the four of us found ourselves regularly studying together at a table downstairs in the library.

Gradually the facts came out. She was from the Chicago area. She was majoring in Elementary Education. Then, horror of horrors, out came the revelation that she had been dating another man for three years. My consolation was that he was attending another school, leaving me room to swiftly move in for the kill.

Karen and I began seeing each other unofficially. We flew kites, we went for walks, we studied and ate pizza together. It was a great fall semester.

But what I didn’t understand is that Karen was actually torn between her two suitors. One evening she came walking into the library. As usual, my heart jumped as she sidled up to where I was seated and said, “How about if we go for a walk?”

“Great idea,” I thought. So, out we went into the frigid night air. I remember the snow was coming down and crunched under our feet. Our breath hung in the air as we walked together. Karen was fishing for words. She had something on her mind that wasn’t easy to say. Finally she blurted it out: “Seth,” she said, “I don’t quite know how to tell you this, but I’ve decided to get engaged to this other guy.” Then, almost sheepishly, she showed me the rather impressive diamond ring he’d given her.

This was like something out of a bad romcom. What? I already had made up my mind that she was the one for me. In my version of things, we were together for life. For weeks I had been plotting how to win her heart. Rewind the tape – this was going off script! I felt like an idiot.

I’ve always been something of a poet, but after that, I wrote poetry in prolific quantities. How could I express the pain that I felt? I was a mess. I still saw her and periodically and would show her one of the poems so she knew how forlorn I felt. My friends tried to cheer me up, but there was no hope. Life was bleak and I was beyond depressed. I told my mom, “I don’t understand it, but I’ll wait for her. I know this guy isn’t right for her – I may have to wait five years before she realizes it, but I’ll be there.”

Finally, after a month of this, she recognized that she’d made a mistake. She told me on the phonethat it was over with the guy.

k&s%20antiguaWow! Strike up the brass band! It was time to celebrate! I can still remember the incredible exhilaration I felt. We began a hopelessly romantic and magical courtship. Every day, hand-in-hand, we went walking somewhere, talking about life as we walked. We talked about everything under the sun. I was endlessly curious about her. We would stay up till early morning studying at the local round-the-clock diner. We’d go walking thru the arboretum together. We laughed all the time and were transported out of that suburban campus setting to a place that seemed to exist outside of time and space.

Two years later, we were married and living in Indonesia. Since then, our lives have been full of adventure. We’ve traveled the world together. We’ve seen amazing sights. We’ve raised five children. And now as the last of our children approaches 18, we’re entering a new stage of life still very much in love. She still puts the sparkle in my day. Her laugh is every bit as infectious as when I first heard it in Traber dorm nearly 30 years ago.

What a gift God has given me. Maybe that’s why I’m a sucker and cry at the end of romantic films when the guy goes running thru the crowd and at last embraces the girl as the camera circles around them. I’ve seen that you can have your dream.

Seth Karen

Here’s a sonnet I wrote for her during that tumultuous time:

Prison Paradox

Captured there sits my bluebird will,

Where once on sky’s soft breath it ranged and sailed,

Brought down by an arrow that did not kill,

But left a throbbing heart impaled.

Behind the bow shone sure eyes goddess green,

Guided my will to a carnation cage –

Flower prison built on scaffold unseen.

Luscious constrainment, though it seems unsage

To start searching for fledged freedom there.

Yet truth hides often, here in paradox;

Sometimes it’s silent, quiet in its lair;

This time I have found it, to me it talks:

Only placed in a cage which I see

Can my winged will in warm rapture fly free.

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