A Marriage That Started With Spaghetti

He asked her out, and she was dying to say yes. There was one problem: her father.

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- Posted on Sep 24, 2014

Carol, John and a big pot of baked spaghetti

Some couples have their song. Others their spot, the place where they had their first kiss, or where he proposed. John and I have spaghetti. Baked spaghetti.

It goes back to New Year’s Eve, 1979. My family had moved from Greenville, South Carolina, to the tiny farm town of Fountain Inn six weeks earlier. I was miserable. We moved often, first because of Daddy’s military service, and then because my parents were looking for a place to settle down.

A shy 14-year-old, I just wanted to call a place home—home home—and make friends I wouldn’t have to leave in a few months.

When our new next-door neighbors invited my brother and me to their church youth group’s New Year’s Eve progressive dinner, it took all my courage to go. The first course was at a house down the road. The rec room was quite the scene—kids were shooting pool, hanging out, talking.

I found a stool in the corner and perched there awkwardly, wishing I was brave enough to speak to someone. When it was time to eat, everyone trooped into the kitchen to get salad— yuck! I stayed put.

That’s when he walked up. An older boy in a crisp plaid shirt, with steelblue eyes, wavy brown hair and a smile that made my heart quicken.

“Hey, I’m John,” he said. “What’s your name?”

“Carol.” I was too flustered to say anything more than that.

“Nice to meet you,” John said. “You’re new in town, right? Where are you from?”

“Greenville,” I replied.

I found out he was 16 and had grown up here, on a farm that had been given to his family in a land grant from King Charles II back in the 1600s. Wow, here I was, six weeks in town, and this guy’s family had been here for 300 years!

“Time to move on,” the youth minister called. “Everyone get back on the bus.”

I snagged a seat right by John and we kept talking until the bus pulled up at the next stop, a farmhouse. John held the door open for me. What a gentleman! I thought.

We stood in line in the kitchen with our plates, waiting for our host to dish out the main course. “Where’s your house?” I asked, not wanting our conversation to dry up.

He gave me a quizzical look and said, “Right here!”

I was mortified. Of course...this was the farm he’d been telling me about. Our host was his mom. Duh!

“Mom made her famous baked spaghetti,” he said.

“Baked spaghetti? What’s that?”

“Wait till you try it,” John said, excited. “Mom serves it at all our youth events. You’ll really love it.”

He was right. Every bite was the perfect combination of melted cheese, tender pasta and seasoned beef. “This is the best spaghetti I’ve ever had,” I said, getting up to get seconds.

John grinned. “What did I tell you?”

The party moved on to the next house, where John and I shared dessert and counted down to the New Year together. It was almost as though we were on a date, just the two of us. But all too soon, the night was over.

A few days later, he called. “Hi, Carol. I was wondering if you’d like to go out sometime.”

My heart leaped...then sank. “I can’t,” I said. “I’m not allowed to date until I’m sixteen.”

“Oh,” John said. “Well, I’ll talk to you later, then.”

We hung up. I guess baked spaghetti on New Year’s Eve is the only date I will ever have with him, I thought.

The next day at school he caught up to me in the hall and asked me out again. I told him my father had laid down the law. John was undaunted. He asked me out a third time. Since John was brave enough to keep trying, I worked up the nerve to go to Daddy.

I told him about John, how we’d met, what a gentleman he was. “He’s the nicest guy, Daddy,” I said, then begged, “Can I please go out with him?”

Daddy asked our next-door neighbors about John. They spoke so highly of him that Daddy relented. “Okay, you can go on a date with this boy,” he said. “With one stipulation. He has to come to the house on Saturday and meet me first.”

Oh no! Daddy was a six-feet-two Yankee truck driver who’d served in Vietnam. Even I was intimidated by him! Surely John would turn tail and run at the mere prospect of confronting my father.

But when I told him the requirement for our date, John gave me a confident smile. “I’ll be there.”

Finally Saturday came. Daddy decided to cut down some trees around our house. Poor John. Not only did he have to face my father, he had to do it while Daddy was wielding a chain saw!

All I could do was spy on them from the house and pray that John survived the interrogation. He got right in there, helping Daddy finish pulling down a tree. With the chain saw switched off, I heard Daddy demand, “What are your plans with my daughter?”

“I was thinking I could pick Carol up for church tomorrow morning and take her to lunch afterward,” John said.

Daddy fired up the chain saw again. I couldn’t hear the rest of their conversation. I saw them shake hands, and John turned to leave. I ran outside to tell him goodbye. Not forever, I hoped.

“You have my permission,” Daddy said gruffly.

Daddy says that that was one of the best decisions he ever made. John and I think so too. We built our home on his family’s farm, right next door to the house where we first shared baked spaghetti on that memorable New Year’s Eve.

It’s home home, where we’ve raised two kids together and where we recently celebrated our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary. 

Try Carol's recipe for the same baked spaghetti that brought her together with John.

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