It was Christmastime. The malls were decked with ribbons and lights and giant evergreen trees. We’d gotten our first snow of the winter, and everyone: from child to college students, could be seen outside, enjoying the wintery fun. Christmas carols were heard on the radio airwaves, the occasional Santa hat could be seen, and the holiday spirit was in the air.
In spite of the snow, the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, was in the throes of final exams.
I was stretched thin. As a full time student, I had several exams to study for. On top of the study stress was the stress of also working a full time job.
Because I had to pay the rent somehow.
And out of everything, the one thing I wasn’t willing to give up was the apartment I shared with my boyfriend and our three rambunctious cats.
When we first started dating, Brian made it clear that he had plans to move to Nevada to live with his father. The tickets were paid for, the arrangements made. We decided to just enjoy the summer together, never expecting to fall in love. Just before he was set to leave, Brian surprised me with a weekend trip to Wilmington for an Edwin McCain concert. While en route, we got the call that would forever change the shape of our relationship.
My grandfather, the patriarch of our family, had suddenly passed away.
|Me with Paw, at Tweetsie Railroad circa 1984.|
Brian, who’d been intending on enjoying this last romantic excursion, was instead thrust into a tense, emotional situation in which he had to “meet the parents,” console his devastated girlfriend, and attend a funeral for a man he’d never met.
By the time our trip was over, I knew in my heart that I wanted Brian to stay. “That’s really great,” he’d said to me. “Because I already told my dad I was staying in North Carolina to be with you.”
Six months later, and we’d been living the love story of the ages. We’d already started planning our lives together. We’d stay up late at night talking about our dreams, our goals. We’d name our future children, plan where we’d live, imagine our first home. We were both on the same page about marriage and family and kids.
|Apparently, we couldn’t afford to get Brian a haircut,
but we could afford really bad hair dye for me.
One afternoon, in between class and work and studying, I took a quick (and much needed) break, and headed to the mall, where Brian worked at a small café called “Tucker’s.” My mission was two-fold: visit with Brian during his lunch break, and pick out a new outfit for an upcoming holiday party. I’d found what I’d wanted at a department store, but found myself short on cash. Knowing Brian was at work, I’d asked the lady to hold the black knit cardigan I’d chosen, and went in search of my honey, hoping his pockets were a little deeper than mine were that day.
That’s when something sparkly caught my attention in the jewelry store’s window.
|The three stones represent “Past, Present, and Future.|
I was staring in open-mouthed delight at this gorgeous ring when I heard a familiar voice behind me.
“Whatcha lookin’ at, dear?”
Crap. I’d been caught by my boyfriend while
drooling on looking at engagement rings.
“Oh, nothing. The display just caught my eye.”
“Yeah, sure.” I could hear the humor in his voice. “Which one?”
I pointed out the ring and held my breath, unsure of what his reaction would be.
“Oh, wow. That’s really nice,” he said.
And in typical boy fashion, he managed to diffuse the situation with his nonchalance. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or annoyed.
“What are you doing here, anyway? Don’t you have your last exam this afternoon?”
“Yeah, I just had to come find something to wear to that party. They’re holding a sweater for me because I’m a little short. Can you float me a $20?”
“I haven’t picked up my tips yet. Why don’t you leave it? I’ll pick it up for you after work and have it for you when you get home later.”
“Alright, thanks hon.”
And with that, I was off to the bus stop.
The entire way to campus I kept thinking about how he’d blown me off when it came to that engagement ring. Maybe he wasn’t really thinking about marriage yet after all. I mean, we were still really young, and I had no intentions of getting married before I graduated from college. But we were in this for the long haul, weren’t we?
Several hours later and I’d pushed the ring incident to the back of my mind so I could focus on my last exam of the semester. Relieved, exhausted, and a little moody, I was more than ready to get home, kick off my boots, and relax.
As I pushed open the front door to our apartment, I saw Brian sitting on the sofa next to an extremely large, beautifully wrapped Christmas present.
“Uh…what’s that?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s just your sweater.”
“Why’d you have it gift wrapped?” This was not Brian’s usual MO.
“They were doing it for free in the mall today, so I just thought it would be a nice thing to do.”
“Weirdo.” I laughed. I crossed the room to set down my heavy bag and knelt to take my shoes off.
“Don’t you want to open it?” he asked.
“Right now?”“Yeah, right now,” he insisted.
Still clueless as to what was going on, I agreed to open the package. True to his word, when I lifted the lid, I saw the pretty black cardigan I’d chosen for the Christmas party.
Thinking he just needed a little appreciation for running this errand for me, I leaned over, pecked him on the cheek, and said, “Thanks for picking it up for me.” I settled back, grabbed for the remote, and prepared to get my relaxation on.
“Aren’t you going to try it on?” came a voice from beside me.
“Why? What size did you get?” I asked.
“The one you asked for. But you should still try it on.”
“I tried it on at the store.”
“You should try it on anyway. So I can see it.”
At this point I was a mixture of annoyed, befuddled, and amused. “Since when do you care so much about my fashion choices?” I joked.
“I’d just like to see it on you, that’s all.”
Well what girl can so no to that? So I pulled the cardigan from the box, slipped it on over my long-sleeved blouse, and did a little turn in the middle of the living room.
“So? Do you like it?”
I glanced over at my boyfriend who was looking at me with expectation in his eyes.
“What?” I was so lost.
He grabbed my hands, pulled me over to the couch, and flipped up the left sleeve.
There, carefully taped to the inside of the sweater sleeve, was the gorgeous ring I’d been drooling over that very afternoon.
Absolutely stunned, I looked up at him.
And in true Brian fashion, he said, “So…will ya?”
The rest of the story goes the way most engagement stories go: hysterical crying, lots of head nodding, placing the ring on my finger, lots of hugging and kissing, staring at the new ring on my left hand. Then I jumped off the couch, dashed to the phone, and called my parents long distance to share the news.
When I made my announcement, I could hear my Mom crying on the other end of the phone. And my Dad said, “Well it took long enough. The boy called us last week and asked for my permission.”
And that, dear readers, is why I married Brian. Not just because he’s clever or handsome or smart or sexy. But because he never misses the important details.
|Our engagement photo, taken in 2004.|