Cup of Comfort
From the time of its inception 10 years ago, the Cup of Comfort series has produced 45 inspirational books and sold more than 2 million copies. These anthologies of personal essays about the extraordinary experiences of ordinary people have brought comfort and joy to millions of readers.
As of January 1, 2011, Adams Media will begin the gradual process of retiring the Cup of Comfort series and online community. The final book, A Cup of Comfort for Christian Women, will be published in February, 2011. Likewise, the Cup of Comfort website will become inactive – instead, please use this website for information.
Cup of Comfort books will continue to be sold through Adams Media’s online bookstore as well as at booksellers throughout North America and online. And if you’re looking for a great gift idea, you can order a personalized Cup of Comfort book for someone special.
While we will no longer accept story submissions, please feel free to check out the following links for tips on story development and writing:
To read some examples of published stories, check out these narrative essays from past Cup of Comfort books. And for more tips on writing and publicizing your work, we offer a wide collection of Cup of Comfort webinars.
A Cup of Comfort for Couples | REDBOOK Story Contest Winner
By: Samantha Ducloux Waltz
My heart skipped three beats when the phone rang and I saw Ray’s name on caller ID. Would it be a concert at Washington Park? A starlit run in Portland’s west hills? A bike ride out to the beach at Sauvie Island?
“Samantha?” His deep, warm voice raised goose bumps on my arms. “I know this is late notice, but are you free tonight?”
It was late notice, but I wanted to see him.
When I met Ray at a summer singles’ club dance, his hazel eyes, crooked smile and lean but muscular physique immediately caught my attention. He invited me to hike the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia Gorge for our first date, and I shivered with excitement. Tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert prompted a perfect second date. What would he entice me with this time? Every woman knows third dates can often be turning points in relationships.
“How about meeting me at Costco for dinner?” Ray asked with the same lilt in his voice I’d have expected if he were inviting me to dine at the posh Harborside on the Willamette River.
I sank into a chair, unable for a moment to say anything. Was he kidding?
“I need to pick up some things for a catering job. They have a great Polish dog. Pizza or chicken wraps if you’d like that better.”
He wasn’t kidding. I have a Costco card and appreciate the prices, the quality, and the easy return policy as much as anyone. But a big cement warehouse with everything in supersize for a third date? Where were the candles? The music? The scent of musk? Would he reach across a display of Joint Juice or Sonicare toothbrushes to take my hand?
“Sure. I’ll meet you there,” I said, focusing on those hazel eyes and ignoring a fluttering of disappointment in my chest.
“That works,” I agreed.
We met at the cavernous entrance, Ray already with a green flat cart in tow. He looked good, his yellow golf shirt setting off a nice tan. We flashed our cards at the attendant, ID pictures visible, and I trailed Ray and the cart as he walked purposefully to the back of the store, the aroma of fresh muffins wafting toward us.
“Wow,” I gasped at all the six packs and twelve packs of juices and soft drinks he swung onto the cart.
“Big party,” he said, moving to the section of paper products for plates and cups, then the frozen food section for meatballs and shrimp. Fresh fruit next: blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelons, bananas.
I touched his shoulder. “Those are going to be beautiful fruit trays.”
Ray took good care of his customers. I sensed he would take good care of me as well. Shopping with him, I felt a surprising intimacy as I watched him do his thing as the owner of a small restaurant.
We continued to date, mixing Costco runs with movies, theater, fall hikes, and winter sports. I met his adult children; he met my teenagers. Then one day at Costco, when we’d been dating five months, he grabbed a regular, red-handled shopping cart, not a green flat cart. “I need to get a few things for my apartment,” he said and proceeded to load a box of bottled water, a two-loaf pack of whole-grain bread, eggs, and a jar of peanut butter.
When we reached the frozen food section, he held up a bag of chicken burritos. “Your kids like these?” he asked.
“How nice. They’d love them.”
He tossed them in the cart.
We stopped next at the tables of fruit. “Like cantaloupe?” he asked, holding up a net with three melons. “I could keep one at my place and you could take two home.”
My stomach flip-flopped. What was going on? He was shopping for us.
He pushed the cart to the center of the store where a dozen tables were piled high with clothes, rummaged through a stack of golf shirts and came up with a green one and a white one. “Which do you think?” he asked, holding them up.
“Either one,” I assured him. He’d look terrific in both.
He tossed them in the cart and then moved to a table of women’s cashmere sweaters. “Like any of these?” he asked.
I went weak-kneed, now certain of the shift in our relationship. This was no business run. He was loading a cart with his and her things.
The red turtleneck I picked up felt as soft as a kitten’s fur against my cheek.
“I like you in red. You want it?” Ray nodded toward the cart.
I’d never considered Costco a place to buy clothes. I was learning so much this trip I could hardly breathe. With Christmas approaching, the red sweater would be fun, especially if I were wearing it to holiday celebrations with Ray. We were definitely an item.
Christmas came, then New Year’s, then Valentines. Ray and I spent as much time together as possible. My kids adored him and so did I.
“You think you’ll get married?” a girlfriend at the school where I taught asked.
I shrugged. My first marriage had been a dismal, gut-wrenching experience, and I wasn’t eager to try that route again. Nor had Ray dropped to one knee and proposed. I was fine with the status quo.
At least I thought I was. Recently, though, everywhere I went I noticed diamond earrings, diamond necklaces, diamond rings. I wasn’t ready to pick up a copy of Modern Bride, but something was going on.
Ray did not appear to be similarly obsessed with all things sparkling. When I shopped with him for his mother’s birthday gift, he didn’t even slow down as we passed the Shane Company and Zales, not to mention Tiffany.
That night we headed off to Costco for some laundry detergent, bathroom supplies, and a Polish dog. We flashed our cards as usual, but for once Ray didn’t grab a cart. Assuming he’d forgotten, I turned back to get one. Gently but firmly he took my arm. In seconds he’d propelled me to the jewelry case. “See anything you like?” he asked.
A necklace for my June birthday? No, too early. I suddenly felt dizzy.
“I kind of like that one.” He pointed to a perfect solitaire diamond set in a platinum band.
My mouth went dry.
“Do you want to look at it?”
He strode off and returned within seconds with a red-vested clerk who unlocked the case for us.
“That one.” Ray pointed to the solitaire.
The clerk handed it to him.
“Want to try it on?” Ray threw me his fabulous crooked smile.
“Rings never fit me. I have huge knuckles like my dad.” My voice trembled as I gazed at the ring he held out to me.
Ray steadied my left hand and slipped it on.
I stared at it. How could it fit so perfectly? And be so beautiful? Even in the fluorescent lighting of Costco, it sparkled like a meteor shower.
“What do you think?” Ray asked.
I answered with a kiss. Yes, right there in Costco. I could easily imagine our future. The wedding wouldn’t be there, of course, but perhaps for our first anniversary Ray would say, “Want to go to Costco?”
And I wouldn’t be able to think of anything more romantic than sitting across from him at a long, stainless steel table, eating a Polish dog and celebrating our supersized love.