Three years ago, I walked in the door of our two bedroom apartment, tired after a long day at work. It was dark and cold outside and I was in a least favorite outfit and hadn’t showered that day. As soon as I shut the door behind me, I noticed Will sitting at our kitchen table. He told me to sit down. My stomach immediately dropped. I knew something was wrong. My heart started pounding as I asked, “Is it bad?” He looked like he was going to throw up but he said “No. Just sit down.”
I pulled up a chair and as I did he pushed a brown box across the table. The lettering on the box was in gold and I immediately recognized it as an engagement ring box from my favorite jewelry store. My heart started pounding again, but in a different way.
“Open it.” He said. I briefly surveyed the situation. I was still in my coat from work. Will was in gym clothes, as we were supposed to go to the gym as soon as I got home. No romantic lighting, no romantic speech, no romantic anything, just “open it.” Still, my hands shook as I slid the box out of its cover and snapped it open.
Nothing. Completely empty. My heart sunk.
Will looked at me with a look in his eyes that said, “I know this is not going to be pretty.” He went into a speech about how he had known for so long that he wanted to marry me, but that he had procrastinated on buying the ring. That he had waited too long. He had gone in and talked to the owner of the jewelry store to find out what he could afford, and my dream ring was out of his price range. But, he said, he was serious about it now. He asked the jeweler if he could have the box to give to me as a promise that he was serious. He was going to save and save and save until he could give me the ring I deserved. But it was going to take him a while. Like probably another year.
I sat in a weird mixture of complete and utter disappointment and a softened heart towards Will. I almost said two things at the same time:
- I don’t need my dream ring! Lets go pick out something more affordable. I just want to marry you.
- ANOTHER YEAR??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???
I said neither. I sat there with my thoughts. After a painful silence, he asked me what I was thinking. I let out a real deep sigh and just said meekly, “ that’s a really long time.”
“I know.” He said, looking embarrassed. He stood up and asked if I would hug him. I of course stood up and fell into his arms. As my head lay against his chest he said he was sorry he had waited so long. His heart was pound, pound, pounding in my ear still. We exchanged “I love yous” and then I dejectedly turned and began walking up the stairs to change into my workout gear.
“Wait!” Will called, “One more thing!”
And when I turned around, I saw it.
Him, on one knee in the middle of our linoleum kitchen floor, holding a big, beautiful diamond ring. My ring. My dream ring.
“Will you marry me?”
When I was 16, I met Will. We were 19 when we broke up, and 23 when we got back together again. We moved in together at 25, got engaged at 26, married and had our first baby at 27. He has been there for me for damn near all of the hardest moments of my life.
He doesn’t buy me flowers. He has maybe a handful of times in the 13 years we have known each other. In most of my other relationships I was showered in flowers. But not with Will. Its taken me 13 years to notice that he doesn’t buy me flowers. I guess I haven’t needed them.
One night last winter, I sat on the couch and cried because I was so overwhelmed. I had a thousand things on my to-do list, and I had a new baby I was still trying to adjust to. It was December, and I hadn’t decorated for Christmas because I was too stressed out. As I cried frustrated tears, Will convinced me to go spend some time with my mom to relax. I did, and it helped, of course. As Gia and I were walking back in the door after being semi-revived from an afternoon at Gam Gam’s, I smelled the unmistakable scent of Christmas. As I turned the corner into our living room, tears involuntarily sprung to my eyes. Candles and Christmas lights cast a gentle glow over our cozy living room. Will had set up all of the Christmas decorations while we were gone.
There are things he does that make me feel kicked in the gut with thankfulness. When I watch him speaking to Gia in soothing tones and being patient with her tantrums after I just had to walk away, I feel like my heart is going to burst. There are times we stop in the middle of the aisle grocery shopping and he pulls me to him, looks me in the eye and says “I love you.”
Some people might think its silly that I like to celebrate our engagement. I also like to celebrate our original anniversary along with our wedding anniversary. I like to hold these dates in my hands and run my fingers over them again and again, replaying the emotions and re-telling the stories to my friends, my daughter, to each other. These stories become grooves in our rock, stories that can never be erased, that get sweeter and deeper and more special with time. They form a pattern that nobody else has seen, no other two lives have experienced quite like we have. I tell the stories again and again and hold these dates close to my heart year after year. Sometimes the years have been burning with excitement and intensity of new love, other years they have been cloaked in the exhaustion of starting a family, and still others have been celebrated with the pride that we are doing this. We are doing this. We are making it through the tough times and the joyful times and the mundane times and the times I feel like I must be dreaming because my life is everything I’ve ever wanted. We are living an impossibly normal and completely extraordinary love story and these landmarks help us know where we’ve came from.
Three years ago as I walked in the door from work, I had no idea my life was about to change in a few minutes. I had no idea a wedding was going to happen in just 8 months and that I would find myself staring at two pink lines the week before we said ‘I do’. I had no idea we would be buying our first home 7 months from that day, or that I would start a blog in two years and one day not too far after that over a million people would read my words.
You just never know what take-your-breath away surprises are just around the bend. Maybe you feel like you have been waiting forever for that thing you always wanted, or maybe you are about to get something you never saw coming.
“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” – Vladimir Nabokov