Tuesday, August 3, 2010
She said yes

The weather above looks ominous but the moment was rather glorious (and unbelievable): that when Kelley agreed to marry me.

Let's start from the beginning. We left the second week of July for a two-week jaunt to New York City, Washington, and Chicago for a friends' wedding, some touristing, and a visit with my family. I had packed no plans to propose during the trip; I was set to resume ring shopping once we returned. But on one of our days in New York Kelley took us to a vintage jeweler in Chelsea she had wanted to see. After about five minutes I begged out to the sidewalk, but when she emerged later gushing about a certain piece, I took us back in to have a look. It was indeed a handsome ring, from the 1920s, we were told, with a round diamond in the center and smaller stones sprinkled along the Art Deco exterior. Suddenly the thought sprang to my mind: buy this ring, dummy.

Indecisive twit that I am, I revived the subject of the ring a couple hours later at lunch in an attempt to make sure she did like it—a move I was sure tipped my hand. Still, I proceeded in secrecy, asking one of Kelley's friends to cook up a girls outing the following morning, during which time I could make the purchase. Sara (and Lauren) did their duty, and rather than wait with me for Shakespeare in the Park tickets, Kelley went with them for breakfast and some illicit knockoff-purse-shopping on Canal Street. After it was confirmed there was no hope for those tickets—the line was already six blocks deep when I arrived at 7am—I headed back to Chelsea and bought and pocketed the ring, thus beginning perhaps the most stressful and worrisome week I can recall. First off, I had to carry a ring box in my pocket the rest of the day. The bulging cube was more than a little conspicuous, despite my attempts to casually park my hand in front of it, and I was sure Kelley would immediately ask what the heck it was. That evening, in Central Park, we were sat on a bench when Kelley yawned and went to lie down with her head on my lap—just inches from the ring. I about wet myself.

And so it went. I did not want to propose in NYC and thus appear to upstage the wedding we all were there for, and I did not want to propose in Washington because the city has no special meaning to us. Chicago made sense: it's where I am from and where my family still is, and we could celebrate together. I just had to make it through seven days. Fortunately there was much to distract me: the endless wonders of New York City; the grandest wedding that either of us have been to (congrats again, Kim and Eric!); the many sights and the oppressive heat in D.C. (get better, TBall!); the comfort of being "home" again in Arlington Heights (love that "True Companion" video!); and the joy in seeing the wonderful new home of friends Karl and Kristen (take care of that basement by football season, Karl!).

Finally it was Friday, when we planned to head into the city and when I planned to propose. We dumped our bags at my brother's place and met up with our friend Anne for a walk around lovely Hyde Park. I was so eager I almost burst; I did begin to leak, to my parents and a few others, what was on my mind. Once we finished on the South Side I suggested to Kelley that, after so much time spent in the company of others, we sneak off for some alone time. We scooped some wine and picnic fare and headed to Olive Park, a little tree-lined pathway and green space that extends out over the beach and offers beautiful views back onto Lake Michigan and the city skyline (thanks for the tip, Anne!). I was not nervous about whether Kelley would say yes—I never was, as we'd talked about this sort of thing many times before—but about whether I could ask her before the raging thunderstorm that was forecast began. It had been sunny all day, but the gray-black clouds were slowly gathering, and as soon as we set foot in the park we felt the first fat drops. "Uh-oh," Kelley said. "****!" I thought. I pushed us forward, and the rain fell harder. "We'll get under a tree and it'll be fine," I wished aloud, thinking there exists a tree that blocks all rain and attracts no lightning. The skies, perhaps unable to take it any longer and laughing to the point of tears at my desperation, burst open and quickly drenched us. Those who had been in the park and on the beach scattered. Kelley said, "We are not having a picnic in this." I knew it would be difficult to argue. So I set our basket down on a bench and, half-defeated but also half-buoyed, said, "Yeah, no picnic, but I'm not leaving here until I do what I came here to do." I reached into my pocket for the ring, dropped to one knee, and asked the woman I love and my best friend to marry me. She said yes, we hugged and kissed, and someone was kind enough to stop their fleeing and snap a picture of us. It was better than I could have scripted.

We ducked out of the rain and into a Starbucks within a grocery store (I know, how romantic) to gather ourselves, and then celebrated that night with Scott and Jeni, and a couple days later with my parents. (And in between, we saw the Cubs actually win a game!) Reality dictates we immediately thrust ourselves into wedding planning, which we have to some extent. But permit me, please, to linger here a while longer, and to remember what is easily the happiest moment of my life.

Posted by Chris at 10:46 AM | 4 comments