Getting Engaged (Finally)

Calling this post long-delayed is a bit like calling the Pacific Ocean “wet” or the guy who slipped up on the Zune leap-year bug “fired” – it is a severe understatement while still being accurate. I was recently alerted by Nightsinger to the fact that my lovely wife repeatedly tells her version of the engagement story, which has certain elements which depart wildly from the truth. Admittedly, that’s mostly because she’s assuming chaos where there was intention, but there were equal parts chaos where she assumes intention. It evens out on my side, because I’m writing this.

Like all good stories, it starts out with a hero. Unfortunately, he was booked, so Manda got stuck with me. We had known before our first car crash that we were going to get married; however, in a rush to get things out of the way, I totaled my car the next day. After that, we slowed down a bit. We knew we were going to get married, but small things like my brother’s engagement (Sneaky devil. None of us had any forewarning…) kept seeming to postpone our own engagement. Manda and I had decided to begin shopping for a house – it seemed like a good idea at the time! However, all those strictures on financing meant I couldn’t really acquire that lowly “engagement” ring until after we closed on the house – and it took us eight months to find a place.

However, I had retained a bit of dosh from my bonus, and just after Manda had mostly resigned herself to being an old maid (Southerners have some weird concepts), I snuck out on my own and began talking to jewelers. We had been ring-shopping for a while, so I knew what Manda wanted. I had had her mother’s engagement ring since when we had been dating for less than two months, all I had to do was get the band. And the side diamonds. And the custom design… Simple, really, if one spoke “jeweler.” Which I, of course, did not.

I ended up visiting a half dozen jewelers. Part of the problem was that I didn’t want Manda to know, so I only could see a jeweler when Manda was busy with work, and I wasn’t. The other part of the problem is that I had decided towards the end of November (after celebrating the anniversary of our first car crash) that I wanted to be able to propose while we were in New York for Christmas.

Jewelers apparently frown on four week deadlines for working in platinum. Who knew?

Fortunately, I found a small jeweler near our apartment (when I say “near,” I mean it was a five minute walk, and half of that was zigzagging around other buildings to leave the apartment complex) that was willing to make sure that the piece was ready – but couldn’t guarantee it any earlier than the day we were flying out. What can I say, I liked Jason. His bid was on par with everyone else’s, and he’s the only one who didn’t hesitate on the deadline. It was also nice to know he lived across the street from me if anything went wrong.

As Manda hadn’t known where I had secreted her mother’s engagement ring, she had no idea when it left my possession. The month of December was fairly stressful, but it was easier once I no longer had to worry about being caught sneaking in and out of jewelry stores. Instead, I just had to worry that the ring would be even a day late.

Of course, things are never that simple. Had it been a normal day, I could have swung by Victor’s Jewelry in Bothell, WA, and picked up the ring on my way to work. However, the day we were leaving was ALSO the day of my holiday party at work, and we were leaving directly from the airport afterwards. Nothing like cramming everything into one day. So instead of making a small stop on the way into the office, I needed to get back and forth to the jewelry store before Manda was ready to leave, as we were carpooling for the day. It was the quickest I had ever spent that much money – until I bought a house. (Later, I found out that Manda hadn’t even noticed that I had left at all.)

Do you know how to increase your stress level? Know you’re carrying several thousand dollars worth of ring in your pocket, and not be able to make the slightest gesture towards it out of fear that the person next to you will notice.

That being said, I smuggled it into the holiday party, and let a few people see it while Manda was away from the table.

Then it was time to head to the airport… but I had to move the ring. I wanted it in my carry-on, but not in my jacket while going through airport security. A ring on a X-ray machine? Not terribly suspicious, even post-9/11. A piece of metal on my person? Strip search time! In my jacket on the conveyer belt just seemed too risky. I had to move the ring from my person into my carry-on while we were leaving the holiday party. Thankfully, Abigail helped cover for me.

My planning made passing through security only mildly disconcerting (what if they wanted to check something in my carry-on??), but we made it through okay – and Manda didn’t have a clue. Nota bene: Manda is far from unobservant or an idiot or any such, she just had no reason to suspect that I would be hiding anything from her, much less an engagement ring she knew would be coming around April.

I showed my parents the ring once we got to New York – fortunately, Manda had gotten slightly ill on the plane, so I was able to be a bit less furtive about it, at least for one night. The next day we were going to be going to New York City, and I had considered proposing somewhere in the city.

Now, there must be a small side-note: Manda loves New York to the point of obsession. The last time we had been in town (for a friend’s wedding the previous February), she had insisted that we drive far enough west on Long Island so that we could at least see the skyline. She teared up, I grumbled about the traffic. So she was looking forward to the trip to the city far, far more than I was… and I had to come up with the agenda.

Errr, right.

I had known one thing she wanted to do – ice skating at Rockefeller Center. The rest, well, I figured a carriage ride through Central Park would be a nice, albeit clichéd spot to pop the question – the answer was so predictable it was almost boring to ask.

Mind you, I had no clue where, exactly, I should have the carriage driver pause so that I could ask or anything, so I spent a great deal of time pouring over the route maps to try to decide – I know some romantic spots; however, most of them do not feature horse-and-carriages.

I eventually went to bed, knowing that I’d ask somewhere the next day – full disclosure: the timing was half so that I could avoid contacting family extra times and risk missing anyone; within two days of December 23rd I was bound to see effectively all of my family.

We took the LIRR into New York City on the morning of December 23rd. First thing we did was head over to Rockefeller Center; Manda had brought her ice skates clear across the country with her. Having grown up in the area, I thought it was a bit nuts, but hey, if it made her happy… It wasn’t terribly cold out, but there have been warmer days. We got off the train and walked over to Rockefeller Center. We had chatted about what to do the rest of the day, and decided both on where to go for dinner as well as to go for a carriage rider after dark (I was a bit conniving, so sue me).

Manda was able to get suited up for skating in only a few moments, and I sent her out ahead of me. I, on the other hand, had to lace up rental skates – there are few things less pleasant than rental skates. On my way out, I spoke briefly to one of the managers.

You see, it turns out that you can RENT Rockefeller Center for a proposal. I found this out way, way, too late, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. So I skated out onto the rink, and tried to find Manda – she was already taking off her jacket because she was skating too hard. I, fortunately, would never have that problem. Very fortunately, because the engagement ring was in my jacket pocket.

After a few times around the rink with Manda, I noticed a gentleman taking pictures – except he wasn’t on ice skates. He was wearing sneakers on the ice, and then writing down something after he took each picture. He wasn’t apparently with anyone…

I’ve been to tourist traps before, where some random guy takes your picture for money. Suddenly, I knew I wasn’t going to wait until some random spot in Central Park to propose; a built in photographer? That’s a sign!

“Excuse me, are you for hire?” I asked quietly after Manda had gone off to spin in the center of the ice.

The photographer turned towards me, and looks blankly. There was a mumbled “Huh?”, so I asked again, and elaborated.

“I’m going to propose to my girlfriend, and…”

“Are you serious?” the guy said as he grabbed my arm.

“Yes…” I began to reconsider that wonderful carriage ride.

“Today?”

“Yes…” Perhaps by that restaurant, Pub on the Color?

“You have the ring with you, now?” Ladies and gentlemen, there are few things more awkward than a complete stranger asking you if you’re carrying several thousand dollars worth of jewelry at the moment, much less while you’re in the middle of New York City. However, on the ice at Rockefeller Center he would have had a hard time running – as I mentioned earlier, he was wearing sneakers.

“Yes…”

“You’re going to be in the paper tomorrow.” Again, this is not something you necessarily want to hear. “I’m a photographer for the Daily News.”

Another thing you don’t necessarily want to hear – Newsday, the Times, the Journal – but at least it wasn’t the Post.

“Just let me know when you’re going to ask, and I’ll get the picture.”

Well, the plan was back on. Manda had always wanted to be asked in a crowd of strangers, and there were certainly a bunch of them on the ice with us…

I rejoined Manda circling the rink. The next time around, I caught the photographer’s eye, and gesture slightly to Manda – he nodded. Unfortunately, Manda saw the exchange.

“You did NOT just ask him to take my picture,” she warned.

I started fumbling a denial, then realized that lying right before asking her to marry me was probably a very, very bad way to start towards married life. So, I did what any man would do: I distracted her.

I pulled her towards the center of the ice, and got down on one knee – and it’s really, really hard to kneel in ice skates, particularly while trying to pull a ring box out of a jacket pocket.

I go to ask her to marry me, and she’s almost chanting. “No, nuh uh, no way.” I am reaasonably certain it was in disbelieve that I was asking, and not the question itself. I also got into trouble for using her middle name.

But she said yes!

I slipped the ring on her finger and stood up to embrace her…

And then the photographer scurried up.

“I didn’t get over here in time, can you ask her again?”

The second time I asked the photograph didn’t turn out, but the crowds of people sure noticed. Now, I’ll admit that I had only thought of the fifty or so people on the ice with us. I had completely forgotten that we were surrounded by both throngs of people waiting for their turn on the ice, and several hundred New Yorkers and tourists admiring the tree. We’ll just say the audience was substantially larger than I had been expecting. We got applause, and Manda said yes, again.

“One more time!”

I asked again.

After that, Manda told me that she wasn’t taking the ring off again, so the picture better have been good enough.

We were in the New York Daily News the next day, courtesy of Michael Schwartz.

Comments

  1. I knew most of this. But not all of it. And it’s about time it was documented somewhere for your Internet-searching progeny to uncover.

    A fine job on the lot, Androo!

  2. Aww…. 😀 That’s so terribly sweet!! 😀 Thank you so much for finally finishing the story. 😉

  3. Soooo sweet! What good memories. 🙂

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