How A Procrastinating Pragmatist Rediscovered Romance
Continued from Part 1 – An Engaging Story: Mid-morning on April 18th I woke up, looked at my phone, then rushed to the laundry room for pants. I had a lunch appointment with my girlfriend’s mom. I needed permission to marry her daughter. The rest of the day would be for ring shopping…
… I had two things remaining on my to do list: 1) find a ring; 2) tell my parents. I didn’t get around to either that day.
On the family patio I ran into my father balancing our trusty stone fountain with a screwdriver and some pennies. Water started gurgling from the angel faces on all four sides.
“Dad I’m–getting engaged.”
He stood up. “When?” The angels went silent.
“In two hours.”
“You better tell your mother,” he said. Those were his words anyway, but the look said, “Son, you’ve stepped in it.”
I took a deep breath and stared at the gaping cherubs on the imbalanced fountain. “Don’t look at us for help,” they seemed to say. “You’ve really done it this time.”
My mother interrupted these reflections by opening the front door. There was no time for a lengthy explanation and the words spilled forth in an unbroken stream.
“Hi Mom I’m getting engaged.”
“Before you say anything I have to do it in two hours and I don’t have a ring and I really need your help.”
My dad needed to be at work, but he came too. We drove to the downtown jewelry shop where he’d once taken me to buy my girlfriend a silver necklace inlaid with purple-glass. That was the night of junior prom.
“Good afternoon,” my mother said to the jeweler lady, “We’re looking for engagement rings.”
“Congratulations!” she smiled at me sympathetically. “We don’t have a huge selection, but you’re more than welcome.” She removed a case with about 30 rings of assorted shapes and sizes. The prospects were dim.
After a while my mother picked out an imperial-looking ring whose center stone rose high above two bulbs of carbon. It was quite probably the best of the lot, but it wasn’t good enough.
“Wait a minute.” I pointed to a better one. “She’d love this.”
It was a band topped by an elongated, angular face with a pearl coming out of the head like a turban or a partially popped piece of corn or an exposed, giant-white brain: A Temple of Doom ring.
“You can’t,” my mom said.
“It’d be kinda funny.”
“An engagement is something a girl never forgets. It’s supposed to be romantic.”
“It’d just be a place holder…”
“If you buy that, she will say no.”
“…Till I can afford something nicer.”
My dad was extra silent.
“I will tell her to say no,” my mother said.
I nudged her in the “let’s keep our voices down in front of strangers, you’re embarrassing me” way, but she was rolling and there was no stopping her.
I sighed and looked back at the potential symbols of my engagement. I was pretty set on the Temple of Doom ring. I tuned back into my mom.
“You can’t put everything off,” she concluded.
I glanced once more at the case, and there they were: five small diamonds shining from a gold setting that looked white, but proved yellow on closer inspection. It was modest. It was elegant.
I plucked the ring from the lackluster assembly. My mom looked pleased.
“That’s the one.”
“That’s pretty good,” my dad said.
The jeweler placed it on a measuring rod. “Size six and a half, but I can have it resized by next week.”
“Wonderful!” said the jeweler. “Where’d you make your reservation?”
I brushed the lint off my black jacket and tied the knot on the skinny tie my girlfriend likes with a few minutes to spare. The ring was in the cookie box. The cookie box was in a bag.
I picked her up on time, and my girlfriend and I drove back to the downtown and parked outside its nicest restaurant. The jeweler had called ahead to save us a place.
“This is so nice,” my girlfriend said.
And it was. Over our food we debated the merits of BBC’s Pride and Prejudice miniseries versus the Hollywood production and laughed and cast people from our high school in roles from Anna Karenina. I brushed the bag under the table with my foot and felt confident.
It was very dark when we finished, but not cold. Outside I placed my jacket over my girlfriend’s shoulder’s and asked if we could go for a walk. We strolled beneath the old iron street lamps, past the cluttered display of the jewelry shop, the town hall and the pizza place we’d been to on a chaperoned date. We walked past the watch maker’s corner shop and turned toward the wooden-planked bridge that leads to a small park. I heard water meandering down the creek bed.
One night after class as a 17-year old I’d walked to my girlfriend’s house on the county line to say “I love you” for the first time, but I’d known it in this little park before that, leaning on a railing and listening to the stream beneath the cool redwoods.
We crossed the bridge and I felt nervous for the first time that day. Beside the railing I took out the cookie box.
“I got you a present. Something small.”
“Well, your mom went to Paris and I asked her to get those macaroons you always talk about.”
She took the box and balanced it on the rail to give me a hug. It tottered for a moment.
“Let’s take a step back,” I said.
“Will you marry me?” I asked.
I looked at her face. She didn’t say anything, but I got the feeling I’d just drank something very warm except in reverse, starting in my stomach and moving to my chest. She was crying. I stood up.
“Yes,” she said.
Did I tell her how much I loved her and how happy she’d made me right there and then? No. I smiled and wrapped my arm around her. I had the rest of my life for that and I didn’t want to spoil this moment with words.