First dates can turn awkward.
Neither person knows what to say. Pauses in the conversation seem to stretch forever.
But what if the couple doesn't even speak the same language?
Marianne and Willard Christensen know a little bit about that.
Back in 1954, Marianne had just immigrated to Omaha from Germany. She was 18 and moved here to live with her aunt.
Marianne spoke only German.
Willard was 24, working in an Omaha plaster business.
A woman, who was married to Willard's boss and was a friend of Marianne's aunt, fixed them up on a blind date.
Willard asked her out, but Marianne didn't even know where they were going because she didn't speak English.
That first date turned out to be a night watching stock car races on a dirt track in Council Bluffs.
They made it through that first date, even though all they could do is gesture and smile.
On their second date they watched “The Robe,” a film staring Richard Burton.
Marianne followed the story line enough to enjoy it. And fortunately no one needs to talk much during a movie.
They went out dancing at Omaha's Peony Park for their third date.
Marianne liked Willard. He was polite and good-looking with his curly brown hair.
But without a way to talk, their relationship stalled.
“It just looked hopeless,” she said.
So they stopped seeing each other.
Two years passed.
During that time, Willard kept working in Omaha and Marianne took English language classes at Central High School and the old Omaha Tech High School. She also attended beauty school where she learned to read and write in English.
In the summer of 1956, the same woman who had fixed them up before gave it another try.
Willard took Marianne water-skiing in his 14-foot Thompson speedboat with a 25-horsepower engine. Willard loved to water-ski on Carter Lake and Lake Manawa and belonged to a water-ski club.
Now that they could finally talk, they discovered they had lots in common, like growing up on a farm. They also loved polka music.
During their courtship, they dined at Ross' Steak House and ate chicken at Rose's Lodge.
Marianne fixed German dishes for Willard, such as sweet and sour red cabbage and goulash.
Both enjoyed drives in the country in Willard's 1952 Chevy.
They also kept water-skiing.
Marianne's mother visited from Germany and liked Willard right away.
She told Marianne, “Er ist nett und freundlich.” (He is nice and friendly).
Willard and Marianne married on May 18, 1958, and celebrated their 54th anniversary this year. They live in Omaha and have three children and six grandchildren. Marianne is 76 and Willard is 82 and they still water-ski. Now they do it with their grandchildren.
Over the years, Willard has learned German words and phrases and even took a German language class.
There's one phrase he's never forgotten, “Mein schatz.” (My sweetheart)