"Statue of Liberty play. It only works once, don't throw it away."
That slightly obscure song lyric was rolling around in my head a lot the past two weeks, and not because football season is starting. No, rather, as many of you reading this know by now, something fairly monumental happened to me Saturday night. I got engaged. If you're a random person who's somehow reading this and you're curious who the girl is, her name is Krissie. She's easy to find on my page.
Anyway, the feeling of this happening after 30 years – the majority of which were spent doubting if it ever would happen – was just amazing. I'm thrilled. And the aftermath has convinced me beyond a doubt that this was the right decision. Krissie's parents suggested that I write up my memories of the big day to preserve them, and I thought that was a great idea. I feel a tad self-indulgent doing this, but I guess this is an excusable time to be a little self-indulgent. So here are, from my point of view, the pivotal hours of August 25, 2007, as well as I can remember them:
10:00 a.m. – Several hours before Krissie and I are to attend an outdoor concert at the Morton Arboretum, I'm keeping her company in the cafeteria of her elementary school, where she and three other teachers are testing kindergartners for placement. She's not going to be done until noon, which gives me a perfect window of time to duck away for a bit. I tell her I'm going to Borders to look for a football book I want. This is a half-truth. There is a new football book I want, and I do hope to go to Borders, but only if time permits. First, I have a couple of more important errands to run.
10:10 a.m. – I park my car outside Krissie's parents' house. They have no idea what I plan on doing, and I wouldn't feel right about it without telling them first. I realize that this task is perhaps even more nervewracking than asking Krissie herself, and has much less potential to truly satisfy me. If it goes well, I still haven't gotten a "yes" from the one who matters most. If it goes poorly, that could potentially be almost as bad as a "no." I ring the doorbell. No answer. Attempt No. 2 also brings no answer. This is not good. I get back into my car and call Krissie's mother's cell phone, and then I'm in luck. Both parents sound surprised, but supportive. I have a nice conversation with each for about 20 minutes, and with that errand successful, I head to the store.
11:00 a.m. – No, not Borders. Jewel-Osco. The supermarket. I rush in for two items – a dozen red roses and some Ziploc bags. I figure the easiest way to get rose petals is from actual roses. Maybe I'm totally naïve about this, but it was the best way I knew, and men don't like to ask. I sit outside on the curb in front of the supermarket, and begin picking every last petal off those dozen roses, cramming the petals into three Ziploc bags. A girl walks by while I'm doing this and says, "I have no idea what you are doing, but seeing that is going to make me smile the rest of the day." I tell her I'm planning on proposing to my girlfriend that night and using the petals. Her reaction (the sort of "awwww" reaction that girls always give for anything of this sort) gives me a little mental boost that I'm on the right track. This might actually work.
12:30 p.m. – Krissie and I arrive at her house, after she has finished her testing. A weary Krissie eventually heads to bed to nap, while I head for the living room TV to see if there's anything on that can take my mind off things. That's no easy task. My stomach has been in knots for most of the last 10 days, I've been having trouble sleeping because of how nervous I am, nobody has known about this, and now it's only worse. I eventually settle on an ABC Family broadcast of The Karate Kid. Not a bad choice, since it's upbeat and I don't have to concentrate on it much. Plus, the song "Glory Of Love" from the second Karate Kid movie absolutely has to be played at my wedding. For today, I simply must convince myself that I'm the best around. Nothing's gonna ever keep me down.
2:40 p.m. – We leave for Morton Arboretum. I am carrying an engagement ring and the three Ziploc bags of rose petals in my pants pockets (along with my wallet and keys), but the pants are baggy enough that it's not obvious. And yes, I chose these pants on purpose. It's all in the details.
3:05 p.m. – We arrive at Morton Arboretum. The concert doesn't start until
6:00, but Krissie wants to get prime spots on the lawn to see Josh Kelley and Sister Hazel (well, really just Josh Kelley. Neither of us care one way or the other about Sister Hazel, a band that had one cheesy hit in 1997). We settle in for a long wait in some blazing sun and humidity, but we keep our spirits up.
4:50 p.m. – Twenty minutes later than expected, they finally begin letting ticket holders onto the concert lawn. I run about as fast as I can while carrying a portable chair, and the two of us stake out some prime real estate. The lawn seats 4,000, but we're dead center and maybe 50 feet from the stage. The wait was worth it. I get our dinner sandwiches from a tent, and eat mine despite the fact that I don't feel like eating. Despite being a nervous wreck inside, I don't think Krissie can tell. I mean, I lied about going to Borders (totally unlike me) this morning, and now this. I want my Oscar.
6:10 p.m. – The concert begins, and circumstances throw me a curveball. We expected Josh Kelley to headline, but in an inexplicable piece of scheduling, he takes the stage first. Plus, the atmosphere on the concert lawn is tightly packed and loud. I'd originally envisioned proposing during a romantic Josh Kelley song towards the end of his set, but that won't work now for multiple reasons. It's too loud and crowded to make a marriage proposal on the concert lawn anything but a terrible idea, plus I'd feel a little weird not letting Krissie watch all of Josh Kelley's set. She's waited months for this show. Kelley is a somewhat mellow, pop-soul singer/songwriter type – not my usual cup of tea, but pleasant enough, and the fact he can play all the instruments on stage and perform well live makes him likeable to me. Krissie is enjoying the show immensely, while I'm pretending to relax but doing nonstop scheming for how on earth I'm going to pull this off. She catches my eyes wandering around the perimeter of the lawn a few times, and she's wondering why I'm doing that. I have no explanation, but at least she's surely not thinking "marriage proposal." Kelley will play for an hour-and-a-half, and in that time I need to come up with a plan that will work. If it doesn't go the way I hoped, I will never get this chance back again in my lifetime. Plus there will need to be at least some mild element of trickery involved. Statue of Liberty play. It only works once, don't throw it away.
7:35 p.m. – Finishing his set in unorthodox manner with a highly impressive drum solo, Josh Kelley leaves the stage. I reach into my pocket, grab a handful of rose petals, place the petals in Krissie's hand and grip it. "Let's go for a walk," I tell her. She questions me, but I insist on taking a walk in between acts just to get a couple of minutes of peace and quiet. I lead her through the crowds, all the way out the back corner of the concert lawn. We keep going until I find a cluster of trees with some grass in front of it, and the sky behind me. The sun has just set but the clouds are still golden, and in front of the trees nobody else can see us. We are within earshot of the stage, yet alone. Standing there, I tell Krissie how she's my favorite girl I've ever met, how she means more to me all the time, all the while sprinkling rose petals onto her shoulders. She has waited a long time, but I tell her the wait ends tonight. I kneel, take the ring out of my pocket, and ask her to marry me.
The ring is a princess cut diamond set on top of a white gold ring with a pair of emerald-cut sapphire sidestones. Krissie told me once, months ago, that a ring like this was her favorite she'd ever seen (years ago with her best friend), although she didn't honestly believe she'd ever actually get one. I kept her description in my memory bank, and tried to find a ring that matched what she remembered. I can only hope I got it right, but even if I didn't, the ring looks good.
Krissie is shocked by what is happening. Because of that, she pauses for a second or two. For me it feels like 10 minutes, because so much of my future is riding on the way she reacts. But the pause ends, and she nods her head and lets a faint "yes" out of her mouth. I slip the ring on her finger and the size 5 fits.
I stand back up, we both burst into tears and we give each other one fantastic, indescribable hug. This is the most pure, spontaneous, perfect bit of absolute exhilaration I have ever experienced. It's as if all the bad experiences I've had with girls in the past, all the disappointment and the lying and the being treated like garbage and the three decades of frustration now strangely feels almost worth it because of what has come to pass after it all. And all that weight, plus all the stress I'd been feeling has been lifted off my body instantaneously. I can only imagine Krissie must be feeling something similar. As the Boston baseball fanatic I am, the only thing I can compare this to is when the 2004 Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years and broke Babe Ruth's curse, and it felt like New Year's Day. But as much as I loved that moment, that was still just a baseball team. This is real life, my own real life. And while my wedding day or the eventual birth of a child may ultimately be the happiest day of my life, I may never again experience one moment where I go from uncertainty to pure euphoria quite like this. This might very well always be the single happiest moment of my life.
7:40 p.m. – We walk hand-in-hand back onto the concert lawn. I tell Krissie that the moral of this story is: If I ever tell you "let's go for a walk," you should probably listen.
Somehow watching Sister Hazel play "All For You" would seem anticlimactic, and right now both of us want to begin telling the world and celebrate. Krissie suggests that we just go home, and I agree. We begin packing up our chairs to leave. A blonde-haired girl (probably 25 years old or so) behind us says "How can you leave? You're going to miss Sister Hazel!!" I tell her we just got engaged. Krissie emphasizes that it happened just now.
The girl goes nuts, starts yelling out that we got engaged, jumps up and hugs us. She takes a picture of us with Krissie's camera, and the another with her own camera. Krissie is holding the ring up in the picture, and we both are smiling from ear to ear, still in our moment of exhilaration.
7:50 p.m. – We head back to the car and start making phone calls to family and friends. Everyone is ecstatic, especially Krissie's sister Karyn, whom I asked about ring size nine days ago and has kept quiet ever since. The line of the night is uttered by Karyn's eight-year-old son Matthew, who upon hearing the good news says "It's gonna be SO COOL to have an uncle who has a Wii!" I say Matthew will be able to play my video games plenty.
Everyone's reaction, excitement and happiness merely drives home to me the notion that if there were any doubt left, I have definitely made the right choice. This is a night I will always remember fondly and never regret. I love you, Krissie. I always will. And all I can do in the many years to come is to try my best to be the kind of man that you so richly deserve