Gliding, Swinging, and Proposing: Love in Motion

Did your parents tell you stories about their early years of romance?

If they did, how did you react? Cringe or pay careful attention?

I think my Mother played the role of storyteller about right. She didn’t add flourishes to facts. She didn’t offer details. Instead, she dropped in nuggets like this one:

“Your daddy proposed to me

while we were sitting on a glider on the front porch.”

The next time we visited the farm where Mother grew up, I took a look at the glider. I wish I had a picture of it, but since I don’t, I made one from the details I remember.


The porch glider. 1940’s vintage. Made of painted metal. Cushions to soften the hard seat. Daddy proposed to Mother sometime in the fall of 1946.

Was it just chance that 22 years later, after we had just seen the movie Camelot, Stuart and I came back to the porch of the farm where I grew up, the “Home Place” setting for the memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World

There was no glider on that porch.

Only benches and individual rocking chairs.

Richard Harris’s singing of “How to Handle a Woman” still filled our hearts:

As I recall the moment, Stuart suggested that we go sit on the double seated swing between the barn and the garage.

There he asked me to marry him.

I said yes.

I also blurted out, “I want you to be the father of my children.”


“I can’t imagine living without you.”


We returned to the swing and had our picture taken a year or two after we were married August 2, 1969.

Stuart’s name means steward, caretaker, responsible one. He has lived up to his name so well as husband, father, and friend.

We didn’t glide into marriage, we chose a swing to carry us there.

Interestingly, gliders and swings move smoothly forward and backward as though to warn us:

love will bring you great joy but not without pain. Love anyway.

Do you know the story of your parents’ betrothal? Want to share your own? How about any story involving a glider or a swing?

P.S. Had to add this photo at the end. Turns out that my son and his wife just added some porch furniture. What do you think they chose, without having read this post? A reconditioned vintage 1940’s glider and chairs!

Found in Montclair, NJ, November 2015. The tradition continues!

Found in Montclair, NJ, November 2015. The tradition continues!

Shirley Showalter


  1. Joan Z. Rough on October 15, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Oh, how lovely and romantic, Shirley. I don’t know the details of my parents’ betrothal. All I know is they got married by a justice of the peace in Maryland on Valentines Day, 1942. My dad left the next day for training to be a member of what the German’s called The Devil’s Brigade, A bunch of tough guys seemingly afraid of nothing.

  2. Shirley Showalter on October 15, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Those four years, 1942-1946, separating the engagements of our parents made a huge difference in the lives of young people, didn’t they? I wonder what your own story would be like if your parents had married after the war was over? Reading and hearing your story over the years has been an honor.

  3. Merril Smith on October 15, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    Shirley–this was such a sweet and lovely post. It made me happy to read it.
    Like Joan, my parents also married during WWII. My mom did not have a gown, and they had a very small wedding because of the war.

    My older daughter and her wife got engaged at Disney World. They got “Just Engaged” buttons to wear. 🙂 Our son-in-law proposed to our younger daughter on Christmas Eve day last year at a favorite restaurant of theirs. We knew it was coming, but she did not. They waited at my niece’s house for them to arrive afterward, and she didn’t know we would all be there to celebrate with them.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 15, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      Thanks for all three of these stories, Merril. Each generation finds its own way. Engagements are such intimate moments yet not fully complete until they become public. What a great invention “Just Engaged” buttons — and at Disney World. I’ll bet that daughter has a great sense of humor. And the other daughter must be very gracious. No one would risk a surprise if they didn’t trust it would be received with joy.

  4. Sherrey Meyer on October 15, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    I loved reading this moment in your lives together. I don’t know the exact details of my parents’ engagement. And to be honest, it seems Bob and I always knew, right from the start, we would be married. No questions asked, no answers given. Isn’t that odd? The important part is that he has been God’s gift to me and a good husband and father. I only hope I’m half the measure as his wife and as a mother.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 15, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Sherrey, the love at first sight maxim seems to apply to you and Bob. And you are absolutely right. The follow-through is more important than the setting. Apparently, you didn’t need a hot air balloon or 21-gun salute. 🙂 Thanks for showing the value of a quiet, deep, story.

  5. Laurie Buchanan on October 15, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Shirley –

    I love the story of Stuart’s proposal to you. And I’m still grinning at your responses after the initial “Yes!” The photo you shared is a treasure.

    It’s interesting that you’ve shared the meaning of Stuart’s name (you’ll find out why this coming Tuesday)…

    Len never proposed. On a phone call from Hawaii (he was stationed on the USS Kitty Hawk that had briefly pulled into port for fuel) he TOLD me that we were getting married. That was pretty gutsy considering we’d had all of one date. Zillions of letters later (they were detained in the Persian Gulf for an extended period of time), he finally returned home on February 25th. Much to my parent’s horror, we eloped on St. Patrick’s day. We’ve been happily married for 35 years.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 15, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      Ha, Laurie. Len must have been pretty certain of where he stood with you to simply announce you would get married. I’m sure he also knew that he was not marrying any wilting daisy. 🙂

      Elopement on St. Patrick’s Day. That story must have elicited lots of laughter over the years. Is it a story your son enjoys hearing?

  6. Marian Beaman on October 15, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    This is sweetness distilled, Shirley, and with such an alluring title too. There were plenty of gliders and porch swings in my past. You have probably seen on blog posts the one that still hangs from two chains on the porch in the old homestead.

    No, Cliff did not propose on a swing. Instead, we had driven on a snowy road until we came to a T and got stuck in a snowbank. (Yes, go wild with metaphors here!) Cliff turned to me and asked, “If you thought it was God’s will would you marry me?” to which I replied, “Yes, of course!” Then, “Will you marry me?” My answer, YES!” (He had to reverse the car to move forward.)

    I don’t know why he thought he needed a safety-net question as a prelude. I had given every indication of willingness when the question came.

    I see a budding visual artist in your drawing. The style reminds me of Ilene Beckerman’s Love, Loss, and What I Wore. She draws a dress on every page with an anecdote – delightful! Maybe you’ve read it.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 15, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      Thanks, Marian. I was pretty sure I remembered a swing in your life. Most farms had at least one of them somewhere.

      That proposal story is great. I can just see a January blog post with this subject. Tell Cliff I am surprised that he was so cautious.

      I’ll have to go look up Love, Loss, and What I Wore. I know I’ve heard of it. Did you review it?

      • Marian Beaman on October 15, 2015 at 8:07 pm

        About Beckerman’s book, I didn’t review it on Rifflebooks or on my blog. Maybe you remember it from an earlier comment – worth checking out though. Entertains and informs without sapping energy.

        • Shirley Showalter on October 15, 2015 at 8:43 pm

          I just ordered the book. Looks like something I will enjoy with my fashion-loving daughter Kate. Thank you!

  7. Tracy Lee Karner on October 15, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    I had heard many times my dad’s version of the story of my parents’ wedding in the early 1960’s, and he even wrote it down for a family newsletter. Just a few weeks ago, while on vacation with them in the White Mountains, they showed me a movie I had never seen, taken by my grandfather, of their wedding party (which was a few days after the elopement). I had never heard about the party — but ALL my beloved relatives were there, including 2 of my great-grandmothers and numerous great-aunts and great-uncles (most of whom are, of course, no longer living). They were all squeezed into my grandparents’ tiny little elf house while my parents opened wedding gifts.

    If a picture paints 1000 words, that 10-minute clip is an enormous book, and I’m just beginning to wrap my mind around it. I could watch that clip over and over, and probably will.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 15, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      Tracy, thank God for images, especially moving images, from the past. I appreciate your telling this story now, since I just went through a huge collection of slides and was beginning to feel that all the effort to preserve and then to sort may not be worth it. If ONE member of my family someday comes across something I’ve documented and archived and feels what you are feeling now, the effort to save will have been worthwhile.

      “My grandfather’s little elf of a house” is a perfect description! Was it called Keebler?

  8. Janet Givens on October 15, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    A lovely post, Shirley. I particularly liked how you dropped your mom’s way of passing on family lore. But even more, I loved seeing those knees. I’ve not experienced Mennonite knees before. I’ve obviously missed much. 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on October 15, 2015 at 7:02 pm

      Janet, I am sure are are no stranger to the mini skirt yourself. But you guessed right, Mennonites before my time were definitely supposed to keep those babies covered. Thanks for the knowing chuckle.

  9. Shirley Showalter on October 15, 2015 at 7:58 pm
  10. Kathleen Pooler on October 15, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    I love this story, Shirley and your photo and drawing are priceless. That box on the basement is yielding many treasures. My parents were high school sweethearts. I have the precious pictures of both my parents on the day my dad proposed. They had taken a ride to Lake George in the Adirondacks and stopped at a scenic spot to take the pictures of one another. Their pictures are in my living room and I smile every time I see them.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 15, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      Kathy, I am not at all surprised that your parents had a well-documented story of the day they agreed to get married. I know that you have not only loved them as mother and father but you have always admired their life-long dedication to each other. Part of the way they taught you (so well) to love is by showing you the pictures and telling you the story. Your memoir is a tribute to this rock-solid relationship and its power to redeem.

      Thanks for sharing on Twitter.

  11. Marylin Warner on October 17, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    Shirley, I love the “glide” and “swing” references you weave in at the end of this lovely post. Wonderful, poignant picture, and the way you connect Stewart to the meaning of his name is a touching tribute to him.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 18, 2015 at 8:27 pm

      Thank you, Marylin. Sometimes the facts of the matter lend themselves to great metaphors. There’s a reason lovers gravitate to objects in motion. We (Mennonites) hadn’t yet learned to dance, so we did the best we could with what we had. 🙂

      I’ve always loved thinking about names. And Stuart’s is very apt. Sometimes I wonder whether: if our names fit us, is it because they are inherently right or because we live into them?

  12. Elaine Mansfield on October 22, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    Gorgeous story leaving me a teary-eyed reader. After just a few dates, my dad told my mother he wanted to marry her. They were very in love. The marriage lasted 20 years. He was a Merchant Marine in WW II for 4 of them and sick for 12 of them. They didn’t get much time.

  13. Shirley Showalter on November 9, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    Sorry, Elaine, that it took so long for me to find this comment and respond to it. I’m back in my red chair looking at the mountains, but it has been three weeks since I had access to my laptop and high-speed internet. Today I’m working on backlog.

    So sad that your parents had so little time, and that you and Vic had a marriage cut short also. I’m glad that you could relate to the love stories here. Your own story has made me more mindful of appreciating every day that Stuart and I have together and to try not to take togetherness for granted. Thank you for sharing the light and the dark, the love and the grief.

  14. Victoria / Justice Pirate on December 4, 2015 at 11:13 am

    That is amazing that your parents proposed in nearly the same way that you were proposed to. I think those are truly sweet ways of being proposed to. I love the photo too! What a beautiful couple! I think it is sweet that you asked him to be the father of your children too.

    I don’t really know how my dad proposed to my mom a little over 45 years ago. The only thing I know is that my mom wasn’t sure if she wanted to marry him after being proposed to. She hid out at her elderly neighbor’s home to ask advice and think things through. My mom read Gone with the Wind while deciding it. I know that at one point she threw the ring at my dad. I don’t know anything else and only bad things, which makes me sad. I wish I knew. I should ask them but I don’t know if it is a happy story after hearing the other things. Their marriage has been as bad as their proposal story though.

    We didn’t have a glider swing, but my husband proposed to me twice, the first time I was only 17 and he told me while sitting on a large rock together if I would spend the rest of my life with him. We bought $10 sterling silver bands (he wears his as a wedding band now, though it is breaking from him trying to fix our flat tire last year and we need a replacement sometime soon) and wore them on our right ring fingers as “pre-engagement rings” because we knew people wouldn’t like us being engaged with me still in high school (he graduated the year before). Once I did graduate he asked me in my bedroom after I got out of work and was in smelly dog kennel clothes. We went to a restaurant afterwards and I couldn’t stop smiling. That was 13 years ago. I still can’t stop smiling about him.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 8, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      “I still can’t stop smiling.” What a vote of confidence in your relationship. Thanks for sharing your stories, Victoria.

      It’s interesting that your parents had difficulties that even went back before their marriage.

      But one thing to rejoice in. They created YOU.

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