Okay, so I realize I’m three and a half weeks late with this post, but here it is nonetheless. As you hopefully saw here, I’m engaged! Sorry to surprise you if you’ve been hiding under a rock without reading the back burner for the past few weeks, but it’s true. Al and I are getting married!
It’s funny, you know, how you always think you have everything figured out. Well, at least I do. I’ve been telling people (friends, family members, random nosey people) for the past couple of years that we weren’t in a rush. “He’s going to grad school,” I’d tell them, “so we’ll get married when we get around to it.”
As I’m sure you can imagine, some people appreciated that outlook more than others — and many folks really started in on the question-asking when we decided to move in together in Richmond. I’d laugh it off, say that we’d get married when we could find the time to plan a wedding, all with a smile big enough to say “We love each other, and we’re getting married, and we’re doing it on our own schedule — so mind your own business!” :)
Anyway, I really believed that I wouldn’t see Al down on that oh-so-romantic knee of his at least until he was almost finished with PT school. So, when he started acting a little strange a few weeks ago, I chalked it up to stress — about the upcoming batteau festival going off without a hitch, about starting his graduate program….you know, the obvious stuff. We were at McGrady’s the night before he proposed, and he was acting a little strange. Mostly, he was acting quiet. And when Al is too quiet, I can always tell something is up. I asked him about it and got no information.
“I’m tired,” he said. “Don’t forget we’re hiking in the morning.”
[Insert me, finishing another vodka tonic.]
He kept talking about hiking like I was going to bail, which I also thought was a little strange. The whole adventure had been my idea in the first place — to celebrate his last week before becoming a student again. I had a meeting at McGs at 3 the day we were going, and so I wanted to keep our destination within a reasonable distance of Cville. Alex had been campaigning for Three Ridges, but it’s a huge hike and makes for a long day, and I just couldn’t miss my last meeting ever at McGrady’s.
Anyway, we got up and packed our food and water and dogs into my car and headed to Crabtree Falls. Crabtree has always been one of my favorite hiking spots in Virginia, because my whole family used to go there together on weekend trips. Little did I know I would have another reason to remember it by the end of our hike. When we got there, Alex was still a little off. When he was filling out the parking pass, he called to the back of the car.
“What’s your license plate number, babe?”
“Really?” I said. He just looked at me.
Here’s why this is strange: I have vanity plates (don’t judge me). My favorite word in the entire world is “JOLLY,” which I use in normal conversation way more than the average person and which I also wrote an essay about for my UVa application (and yes, they let me in). My license plates say SO JOLLY, and they brighten my day every time I see them. Also, everyone who knows me identifies me on the road by my license plates.
He kept looking at me.
“So jolly?” I said. I made a mental note of how out of it he seemed to be.
He shook his head. “Oh, yeah,” he said.
We started our hike. I kept oh-so-sweetly remarking that I seemed to be sweating out V&Ts, and the whole time Al was still much quieter than normal. He didn’t even make fun of me when I sniffed my forearms to see if I smelled like the lime-y concoctions I’d had the night before.
As per norm on our hiking excursions, Alex and Charlie were leading the way while slowpoke Roxie and I were bringing up the rear. Every so often, I’d need some water. Perfectly acceptable, right? And I’d do what I always do — tell Al that I was getting water, reach up to the backpack (which he usually carries) and start unzipping while he stands still.
But not this time. Every time I said the word “water,” my soon-to-be fiance would stop in his tracks and aggressively whip the backpack around and get the water out for me. Again, mental note that he must be more stressed than I thought. I probably said “I can get the water myself if you want!” about ten times on the way up.
Anyway, hindsight is 20/20, right? Of course now I see that I should have thought “Oh, duh, there’s a ring in the backpack. Of course I can’t get my own water!” Except, yeah right. I never would have figured it out on my own. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Al is a sneaky, sneaky man. :)
So we get to the top, let the dogs off their leashes, and do our normal thing. Well, I did our normal thing, which is to frolic and play in the stream at the top with Charlie and Roxie. The water felt great, the weather was beautiful, and it’s the pups’ favorite part. Alex, however, was just standing there. I had to beg him to come up the stream with us, and he seemed so distracted. Finally, I suggested some lunch.
As he was getting our food out, Alex started telling me how much he appreciated that I was moving to Richmond with him. I told him that I wouldn’t have it any other way — which is the honest truth. :)
Suddenly (and this this where it gets a little fuzzy), I turned around from the dogs and Al is standing right in front of me. “Nikks,” he said. “If I promise to love you and take care of you for the rest of my life…”
And then, BAM. He’s on one knee, with a gorgeous ring in his hand.
“Will you marry me?”
After probably a good ten seconds of standing there, looking down at him, with my mouth open wide, I processed what was happening. “OF COURSE!”
And there you have it. We were engaged. Yay! I found out, on the way down Crabtree Falls, that he’d been shopping for rings for three months with his mom and sister. AND that my dad had managed not to tell anyone about it, AND that all of Alex’s family and all of his guy friends knew about it. What a bunch of secret-keeping crazies.
We had an amazing afternoon and evening, sharing the news with my family and friends and celebrating both at my parents’ house and (of course) McGs. And now all we have to do is plan the wedding. No big deal, right? More on that to come, I’m sure. :)