I adore the Saturday paper …. It’s thick and wordy, filled with all sorts of things that could not be fully enjoyed squeezed into a Monday or Thursday – things that need to be savoured under a blanket on the couch, with a fresh cup of coffee and an unfrazzled mind. A weekend mind. Yesterday, there was an article about staged proposals, complete with hired photographer who tails the couple from a discreet distance and takes a picture of the event. The fellow featured in the article not only hired the photographer, he also hired a dog. A celebrity dog named Jiff, to be exact. For $600, Jiff made a custom video for the lady, walking on hind legs while wearing a tiny shirt that read “Lauren, Jiff thinks you should marry Jeff!” For $400 more, the photographer snapped the perfect shot – the now-fiancé on one knee, bling sparkling, Lauren reaching for the box. Their engagement cost more than the clothes worn by our entire wedding party, my dress and Ryan’s rented tux included.
It seems appropriate that this article appeared in the paper this weekend, as today marks twelve years since Ryan popped the question and I said yes. Ryan had been toying with asking me to marry him, though he hadn’t decided how or when. We went skiing. He had never been skiing before, and I tried to teach him how. I did it in my usual bossy, impatient manner. He took his first run having learned very little, but possibly having decided that he’d rather go hurtling at breakneck speed down a hill than listen to my well-intentioned harangue any longer. As I watched him go, it occurred to me that he was not going from side-to-side – he was going straight. He just might kill himself. I sped up to catch him, and we met at the bottom of the hill. We almost fell over, and we righted each other as other skiers whizzed past us. He babbled for a few seconds about how his first ski run was an amazing experience and he loved it – “and I want to marry you, will you marry me”. There may or may not have been a breath between sentences. Tears of surprise and delight freezing on my face, I said yes. We went back to the lodge to call our families. Because we hatched an idea of Ryan calling my mother and me calling his parents, their first thought was that he broke something (or, perhaps, his whole self) and that’s why it was the ski lodge’s number on their display and my voice on their phone …. Brilliant. Later, we went ring-shopping, and settled on a date about seven months down the road. There was alot of work to do in a short time, but we didn’t want to put off our big day any more than we had to. A waitress at Dunn’s took a picture of us at brunch the following Sunday, which was used in our engagement announcement in the Hamilton Spectator. A photo from a previous trip to Montréal was chosen for the one that went in the Nor’Wester. We framed the Camp Fortune ski passes.
It was the opposite of staged. And I’m glad it was …. Because if any great amount of thought had been put into it, it probably would have been scotched. For one thing, we were the first of our friends on either side to even consider marriage. Ryan was 24, and I was 22. The average age of marriage of people in our generation is somewhere in the late twenties, with children following in the early thirties. We had only been together a year and two months. That’s about the length of your average engagement these days. Ryan proposed during the second half of January, widely agreed to be the most depressing part of the year. Debt. Weight. Bad weather. The holidays too far in the rear-view mirror to cheer us up any longer. Weeks and weeks of winter still to go. Every year, somewhere between January and February, I turn into my own version of Mr. Hyde. He didn’t know that then, thankfully. Then, there are personal factors …. My father had died months earlier, and I had gone home to Newfoundland for Christmas. It was the worst Christmas before or since. The only way it could have been worse would have been if someone else had died during it. I returned heartbroken, bruised, bleeding – and ready to fight with a lamp post if it had looked at me the wrong way. We argued more than once in the days leading up to his proposal. If he had taken that information as any kind of indicator, he would have run in the opposite direction. He certainly would not have asked me to be his other half. But he did, and everything since then has been the rich harvest of that hopeful, ridiculous seed. Our road trips. All those laughs. All the times we’ve leaned on each other. Fiona and Bridget. This house. This life.
I don’t have an axe to grind, or even a point to prove – which makes this different from alot of other BethBlog posts. I just want to enjoy a moment of deep gratitude for the fact that heart was driving the bus on January 18, 2003, and head took a night off. For leaps of faith. For serendipity, whispering “do it – you won’t be sorry”. Here’s to taking chances!