Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Full Story Behind the Engagement

(this is a repost from the arborboy blog written by Alex just about a year ago)

It was the fall of 2008 when I knew I wanted to propose. A death in the family, a major surgery for my dad, and the holidays all took precedence as one would expect they might. I divulged my plan to a select few to get advice and support. Jodie talked about the power of family heirlooms. Melissa asked about how I would pop the question, the how and where and when to ensure maximum surprise, wow-factor. The energy began to build. Not good at keeping secrets I began to slip my intentions to more people. Amanda’s eyes grew large and her awestruck smile only further supported my hunch that we were meant to get married to one another. The only place I could safely look at rings online to get an idea of shape and size and detail was at work so quickly my shopping team became a group of supportive and positive horticultural minds standing anxiously over my shoulders. Cornell spoke about the complimentary nature of a strong, loving marriage. Earl joked about the letter he had to write to Joan’s father back in Guyana. Diane enjoyed evaluating all the different looks with me. McB kept telling me from afar how much fun it was to be engaged, egging me on even more. She promised complete jeweler support, even though 1100 miles away in Iowa. I cherished all the heartfelt sentiment.

Finally with the New Year I had a chance. Working New Year's Day in the garden I had that Friday, the 2nd of January, off. I decided that would be my main shopping day. Granted I had already stopped in a number of jewelry stores in our neighborhood between the R-train stop and home, but I knew I would have the best success down in the Diamond District in midtown. I slipped and told my love that I had off that day. It was surely odd that on my first full day off since all the holiday madness I wanted to go take a walk alone through the city. The forecast calling for snow and windy cold I am sure only made my girlfriend more suspicious, but thankfully she didn’t pry too much. I talked about how, when first in the city, I loved to take long agenda-less walks around town to see what I would find, camera and journal in tow. The truth was I didn’t want to be outside at all that day but the mission was too important and time was of the essence. I bundled up, babbled some nonsense to attempt to cover my tracks, and sped off towards the train. I brought my camera to take pics along the way as if that would help prove I was walking all day.

The plan was beginning to fall into place, but more slowly than my nerves would have liked. Krissy’s birthday was on the 15th and originally that was going to be the day. Then we found out that she had to be upstate to take the state board exam to become a certified Vet Tech early the next morning, the 16th. My heart skipped a beat, but I recovered. We decided to celebrate only partially on the birthday itself, and leave the major celebration until we got home the following evening. Everyone said that there was no way I could propose on her birthday since it would distract her too much from doing well on the exam. “Damn”, I said over and over again, trying to think. I was told, “what you need is a bullshit gift.” That way the ring will still be a surprise the next day when you pop the question. Great, but what the hell is the bullshit gift going to be? The bullshit gift would be the “birthday present” and the ring would be the “graduation present”, which she would not know she was getting. With my nerves so on my sleeve the “birthday” present still had to have some heft, it couldn’t be all silly. That just wouldn’t work.

One evening we were driving to Brooklyn taking care of regular errands. I asked again about the test and the procedure, where and when we would go. I said I didn’t know what to do for her birthday, yet another terribly transparent fib I feared, and I asked if a special and celebratory dinner upon return on Friday might suffice. Krissy was okay with the offer, but was not going to let me off the hook that easily. “You could always get me another diamond to match my necklace”, she nudged. I was silent in the passenger seat. “Well, you don’t have diamond earrings”, I tried to not seem totally busted. I was glad it was after dark and my blushing cheeks were somewhat disguised under the amber street lights. “Or a doorknob for my finger”, she followed, cutting right to the chase. Inhale, exhale, breath. I apologized that the damned NYS Department of Taxation and Finance was getting the doorknob this year thanks to a recent audit dating back to the Dark Ages. I switched the topic to the frighteningly dangerous drivers in Queens and we crossed the bridge into Brooklyn. Phew, that was close. The next morning at work I could finally expose my panic. “You guys, she is totally on to me!” I was told to relax and ultimately I did. A moment of clarity followed later that day. I figured out the bullshit birthday present. And it wouldn’t be that bullshit at all.

When I arrived in midtown on the 2nd I knew where I was going but had no idea what I would find. The excess of diamond exchanges, halogen lights, and sparkle had me quickly on the phone to various members of the support team. My father’s sweet voice of calm assurance felt so good. Just then a man held a business card with scratched penmanship over the cases in his front window display, “we have items at 50% off – come in, we’re nice!” It was time for me to take the plunge. I put my game face on and entered one of the seas of vendors. Sal was the first booth I went to. I could tell he liked excess by the use of hair gel he was sporting in his quaffed Italian ‘do. He was convinced I should go with a 1.2 carat diamond he had. “One carat twenty” he repeated over and over again, the accent coming out more each time. The size of the rock I am sure had my eyes wide, but this was nowhere near right. My excuse for the vendors once they began to push the sale was that I was going to have lunch, think, and come back. They saw right through it but at least I figured out an “out” to use. There was the man who had nothing close to what I wanted, but he kept shaking my hand with his soft palms and telling me how he would take care of me. There was the booth of beautiful pieces but the women ignored me rudely. The buxom Russian was helpful but her boss I feared thought I was a waste of time, and by that point in the day perhaps I was. I looked at so many settings and different stones and different vendors I started to have sun spots in my eyes. But I was getting closer, I was learning. I knew princess cut, side-set stones, white gold, no bigger than 1 carat for the main diamond. It was lunchtime, for real this time. A chicken parm hero and can of Coke never tasted so good. I looked out the glass at a bustling 48th Street and refueled.

In the end there were two places and two men who seemed to understand me, my desires, and the love I was anxious to honor. Hamid at Matisse Trading Inc. my mother referred me to just that morning. She liked his collection of antique settings and older pieces and he did a sensational job resetting Nanny’s diamond a few months ago. You could tell he had a careful and unique eye and he showed me a lot of gorgeous things. A setting from the 1920’s came close, but it could only hold a certain size stone, ultimately smaller than what I had wanted. Then he said, “Let me show you this.” The ring he pulled out had something to it. Indescribable, just as my friends and family said it would be. It was the first one that took my breath away. The cut was right, the side stones too, excellent color, the best I’d seen in fact, and it was just the right size. I stopped by his booth twice before lunch. The second time he held the ring far away from me out of the lights and it still glowed. Jon at Jonro Jewelers had exceptional loose diamonds and took the time to show me them completely. When he asked if I had ever looked through a loupe before I replied only to inspect plants as a botanist and he chuckled. His wife loved the story of the animal lover and the plant lover falling in love with each other. I got up close and personal with exactly the stone I could afford and it was wow. I could now see the color and the clarity. He wanted me to truly understand diamonds, and was the most helpful. His vote was for a most exceptional solitaire stone in a simple but complimentary setting.

When I finally ate it was already 3:30pm. Knowing that 5pm was my cutoff point I had to think. My mind was spent, my feet too. I had another round of talks with my parents before finishing my cola and leaving the deli. This time I turned my mind to instinct and let my feet go where they may. Eventually I stopped and in a daze I smiled. One last look and I knew. “I’ll take it.” Hamid had a tranquil smile and packaged the ring and wrote out the receipt with as much information as he could. I paid and sighed and my shoulders dropped, but only slightly. Success, …almost. There was one more stop. I could not say that I had bought the ring from someone else so I crafted the sentence before reaching the counter. “Jon, can we switch gears, what about diamond stud earrings?” By 5:00pm my puffy jacket was full of diamonds and I was retreating back to Astoria. I told Krissy I had found a silly gift downtown that I couldn’t resist and I acted as though it was a big package that I brought in and hid in the closet. My secret was safe for the moment. I was not sure how I was going to keep my cool for another two weeks.

There was only one part of the plan left to figure out. I had the ring. I had the distraction present for the birthday. I knew when I would propose. The thing I was worried about was the fact that the box of earrings was small like the box the ring was in. I wondered if Krissy would get her hopes up upon seeing the small box and then be bummed upon opening it, for it would only be earrings and not a ring. For that Jackie swooped in and saved the day. One night over at her place I told her I had recently attained Krissy’s engagement ring and she jumped up and cheered like I couldn’t have imagined. I brought up the box situation and she instantly had a solution. “Easy, just get a stuffed animal and put the earrings on that, and give it to her in a big box.” Done, solved, without even raising her arms. This way I could avoid all ring talk all together on her birthday and make the surprise even better. The next day my exhaustion caught up with me and a cold laid me up. That afternoon I found “Jolly Roger” in a dollar store on Steinway. Perfectly ridiculous.

With all my ducks in a row there was one last hurdle before the big day. Even though some called it an out-dated and unnecessary step, I knew it was important to me that I call Krissy’s father and ask for his blessing. I had hoped to talk to Dick over Christmas about my intent to propose, but should have known better that the chance would not have presented itself. It was now the Sunday before her birthday, the 11th. The plan was to sleep in and be well rested for a long day of NFL playoff action but while Krissy was crashed out I was a ball of nerves and wide awake. I had tried her parent’s house a few random times and never got through. Sunday morning I knew Dick would still be around the house and laying low, reading the paper, preparing for an afternoon of football himself. Outside there was a half-inch layer of ice on everything following the overnight freezing rain. The car was a few blocks over. I cleaned off the stairs and found my alibi. I went out to “de-ice the car” in case we needed to do any errands before kickoff at 1:00pm. Of course, we didn’t need to do any errands.

I went right into it because I was instantly more nervous than all the other times I had talked to her dad ever before, ever. I said I was thinking about asking his daughter to marry me and that I wanted to know his thoughts and feelings on the matter. I am pretty sure I was talking very fast. Dick sensed my nervousness for sure. He was gracious and broke the ice by saying, “well, what took so long?!?” We laughed and I exhaled heavily. I went on to talk about rings, and Dick reminded me that it’s not about the size of the doorknob, but the size of the love shared. He applauded us for being good kids who know ourselves and know what we want out of life, for working hard to achieve our goals, and for not being hasty. He wanted to know that this devotion was here to stay and I affirmed to the best of my cold and chattering ability. “It’s ultimately up to my daughter, but as far as I’m concerned you have my blessing”, he said finally. My feet were frozen, my heart elated. We would gab about football and summer camping and good times ahead for another ten minutes or so before getting off the phone. I climbed into the now toasty and ice-free car and sat for a moment before cutting the engine. Wow. Now everything is in place, it’s just a matter of the follow through. By this point the ring was practically boring a hole through my closet door, or so I was convinced.

Thursday morning arrived. We woke together and I quickly wrapped Jolly Roger and the earrings in a big box and placed it on the coffee table. On the gift was a great clip of an old seamstress and dress form and a caption I wrote, “As you will see, it’s not always about the outfit, …but sometimes the accessories.” She opened the box amazed to see a perfectly ridiculous magenta stuffed bear wearing perfectly beautiful diamond earrings. The surprise was there, and she loved them. I talked about my day and newfound education looking at diamonds saying things like “you know, so I’m better educated when it is time to get the real one.” She took the bait, we dropped the point, and moved on. She put on the earrings and we continued to get ready for our overnight up in Schenectady. We hit the road by early afternoon. The ring stayed in the closet. Diane at work reminded me that I made it this far and now had to stick to the plan, and that everything was going to be great. I knew so too, but settling the nerves was another story.

The next day it was 7:30am and ten degrees below zero when I dropped Krissy at the test sight. I returned to the hotel room unable to go back to sleep. Talked to my folks again, explaining that the ring was at home. I had paced enough in the hotel room and checked out to go sit in the lot and wait. In no time we were on our way back to Queens. Krissy was finally able to relax and I was only getting more and more tense. We got home and unpacked. Krissy said she was going to call her folks and I freaked. “Don’t give it away!” I was screaming inside my head. Luckily her dad answered the phone, let her do most of the talking, and my secret stayed safe for one last moment. Phew! She got off the phone and I said that it was probably time she have her graduation present. “Oh, you didn’t know you were getting a graduation present? Oh, well, you should come into the living room then.” As I typically do I sat Krissy down on the couch in the living room and made her close her eyes. I cleared off the space on the coffee table in front of her and pulled the small black and gold box from my closet. I told her to open her eyes and she saw the box sitting there. As she reached out to grab it I grabbed her hands and took them in mine. I said, “but first, you have to answer one very important question”. Trembling, excited, nervous, scared, thrilled I asked her to marry me and all eyes were tear-filled in nano-seconds. She said yes and we embraced there on the couch in our living room. I told her she could then open her “graduation” present and she did. She said it was perfect, and putting the ring on her finger for the first time I knew she was right. It was perfect. We called family and friends and texted and emailed and eventually tore ourselves away from our comfy den for a blissful dinner to celebrate. The champagne never tasted so good, and we just stared in awe at the sparkle before us.

So here we are, engaged. We are going to celebrate this great love and the starting of these next chapters and take it at our own pace. First, we are going to resize and then proceed to stare at the new bling for a long time. Out of it will come amazing celebrations and marriage followed by many years adventuring together while always being each others rock. We are thrilled. And all along the way we are thankful for the love and support of our amazing friends and family.

Don’t worry, my fiancĂ©e and I will be in touch! “My fiancee”, ooh, I like the sound of that. Cheers!


No comments:

Post a Comment