This is the story of how we got engaged. It’s a story I like telling, but have never fully told here. A rainy night like tonight, exactly five years later, seems like a perfect time to tell the tale.
We were sitting at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant when my cell phone rang. It was November 2004 and I’d just spent the entire weekend in San Clemente with friends. Jonathan was sitting next to me shoving down a huge burrito. My college roomate’s voice chirped up on the other end of the phone, “Guess what?! Long story short, I won a radio contest and the prize is a three day trip to New York City for two people. It’s all expenses paid plus a shopping spree. The only problem is it’s only for one particular weekend in December and Matt can’t go! So, I’m wondering, do you want to go with me?!”
My heart just about dropped down to the floor. I’d wanted to visit NYC at Christmas time ever since watching Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. And, all expenses paid? How could I say no?
None of my friends could believe my good luck, including Jonathan. A few weeks later, Anne emailed me my plane ticket along with a copy of hers. She’d fly from Chicago, where she lived, and I’d fly from Los Angeles.
On December 9 I said goodbye to Jonathan for the weekend. He was leaving that night to go out of town with friends. They’d be in the mountains, far far away from cell phone reception. We’d have to catch up when I returned. The next morning I boarded a bus to Los Angeles for my weekend getaway. Anne phoned while I was on my way and told me she’d arrived at the Chicago airport early. Her plane was overbooked so the airline offered her a voucher if she’d leave on an earlier flight. Could I just meet her at the hotel in Manhattan?
Six hours later I arrived at JFK. I called her when I landed for instructions. “The radio station got us transportation,” she said. “I’m at Rockefeller Center picking up our vouchers for tomorrow. The driver will know where to take you. Just change into dinner clothes and we can go straight to dinner.”
I changed in the airport bathroom, dropping my cell phone into the toilet during the process. It was one mistake that could have thrown the plan completely off course. Fortunately, I shook the phone off and turned it back on just long enough to write Anne’s number down. Then it died, again.
I walked down the airport concourse, found a driver holding a sign with my name on it, and confidently plopped myself into the back of a Lincoln towncar. This was the THE LIFE, I thought. He let me use his cell phone to call Anne. I watched a light rain fall as we inched closer to the city of lights. She was waiting for me anxiously.
When the driver pulled up to Rockefeller Center, I called Anne one more time. “Go up the steps and I’ll be right at the bottom of the tree. You can’t miss me,” she said.
And so I made my way up the steps, into the crowd, and into my boyfriend. What? Jonathan? What was HE doing here?
My mouth dropped at the sight of him, all dressed up on a new jacket and pants from J. Crew. He was beaming. I got closer and he dropped to one knee. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I do remember the rain beginning to fall as he asked me to be his wife. I don’t remember choking out the word YES. After peppering him with questions (“did you ask my dad?!?!”) we walked to St Patrick’s Cathedral where we stood in the back to soak up the sounds and scents of such a holy place.
That night he took me to One if by Land, Two if by Sea–one of New York City’s best restaurants. We called our parents in the taxi, and listened to Katie’s roommates cheer for us from their dorm room in Santa Barbara. Tolan sent us a bottle of wine to the restaurant, and we giggled like kids but pretended to be grownups. That night, alone in my room at the Hephzibah House, I woke up from a dream wondering if it was all real. I felt for the ring then got up in those cold sleepy hours and trudged to the bathroom for a look. Yup. Still there.
We took in New York that weekend in a way I will never forget: a carriage ride through Central Park, FAO Shwartz, The Rockettes’ Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall, Macys, The Met, Ground Zero, the Empire State Building. It was, to sound cliche, a whirlwind of romance and adventure. The best part is that five years later, it remains as so. I love my husband for wanting to give me a surprise I could never have hoped for or dreamed of myself. Pictures here.
photo credit to: szlea