Catching up? Check out Engagement Story Part 1: When Weather Gets in the Way!
Part 2: Raisins for Breakfast?
On the drive back, I gave Mary the food my friends had cooked, and it relieved me to see that she ate it. I talked excitedly about our hike the next morning (in fact, it was already that morning), hoping to inspire some enthusiasm. Mary was clearly not looking forward to it…at this point, I don’t think she was looking forward to anything. I asked her what, if anything, could make her feel better tomorrow. She said, “Coffee,” a response that, in my mind, was better than nothing, although I didn’t have any coffee. I figured that, if there was time, I could stop at Panera Bread (I knew she liked their coffee, and how she liked it) right after stashing the picnic basket. Finally, we got to my house, and I was sure to point out the wildflowers I had picked for her a few days ago, one vase on the kitchen table, and another next to her bed. Seemingly ungrateful, she just wanted to go to bed (not surprisingly, since it was about 2:30 am).
As far as my actual plan to ask her: There was a conservation area (Spring Creek Gap CA) 15 minutes north of my house with several miles worth of trails and some very scenic views. The area is hilly, rocky, and almost entirely wooded, except for a few rocky glades, typical of the Missouri Ozarks. About a quarter mile into the woods on the trail, there was a somewhat open spot at the top of a hill with a really nice view, a perfect place for a special picnic, I thought. I figured I would hide a picnic basket in the woods, so that I could surprise her with a picnic. I would wrap the ring box, and put it in the bottom of a cooler bag that would also have our dessert. After our early morning hike, I figured we could get some wine at the St. James winery to celebrate, and enjoy our favorite treat, frozen yogurt, at Yokidoki.
In the morning, I woke up at 5:00 am to carry out my secret mission. I had planned to get up at 4:00, but figured Mary would probably still be sound asleep at 5:00 due to our late night (the other advantage was that it was light outside). I had everything arranged so that I could leave the house as quickly and quietly as possible. The picnic basket was hiding in the closet with everything in it except for the dessert, which was in the fridge keeping cool. I had intentionally left the truck in the driveway, so that I would not have to open and close the garage door in the morning. All I had to do was get dressed, quietly grab the picnic basket and the dessert, and leave. In a few minutes, I was off, confident that Mary was sound asleep and almost in disbelief that I was finally carrying out the big plan. I hid the basket in the spot I had selected, about 20 yards off the trail on a grassy spot next to a pine tree. I had bug spray in the basket, which I sprayed copiously on the basket and on the blanket, which I used to wrap the basket for extra security against ticks and raccoons (yes, I was THAT prepared). By now, you might be wondering, was I really careless enough to leave a ring worth all the money I (previously) had in a basket in the woods? In fact, only the box was wrapped in the basket. I had the ring safely in my pocket, with a clothespin attached to it for added security.
On the way back, I did stop at Panera Bread to get Mary her coffee, hoping to redeem myself. I snuck into her (actually my) bedroom—I had slept downstairs on a spare bed—and put the coffee right next to her, so that she would wake up to the smell of coffee.
Instead of anxiously waiting for Mary to wake up, I put on shorts and shoes to go for a short easy run, figuring it would be relaxing. For June 28th, 2014, my training log simply says, “am 4.4. Up at 5am. Out and back Mule [name of a running loop]. Felt ok, went easy.” I returned to the house to find Mary awake in bed, drinking coffee and reading “In Style,” which I regularly got in the mail for free for some unknown reason. Mary’s gratitude for the coffee was encouraging, indicating to me that I had perhaps partially atoned for my prior sins.
Unfortunately, I was back in the hole when I only gave her a box of raisins (albeit a big one) for “breakfast” before the hike. I didn’t want her to spoil her appetite before our surprise picnic, but I couldn’t find a way to nicely deny her a complete, wholesome breakfast with a cherry on top. With a bit of friendly prodding, I was able to get Mary out of bed and going. She didn’t understand why I was so anxious to start this hike. I, of course, wanted to get to our breakfast before the raccoons and was anxious to get this proposal thing done, but the (good) reason I gave her was that it would get hot soon and the ticks would only get worse.
On the way there, Mary ate her gourmet raisin breakfast as I constantly checked my pocket to make sure the ring was still there. Suddenly, when we were almost there, we had to stop so that I could move a box turtle out of the road. (Box turtles travel a lot in Missouri at that time of year, and I would often move them off of roads to keep them from being hit.) Mary was slightly annoyed by my need to stop, perhaps because I had already aroused her anger with the whole raisin breakfast thing.
Finally we arrived at the small parking lot in the woods, and we were off. Walking next to an indifferent Mary, I sensed the moment drawing close. I enthusiastically tried to convince Mary of the wonders of hiking in the Ozarks, with minimal success. Before we had gone far, I stepped off the trail next to a rock, which I had placed as a marker, telling Mary that I wanted to show her something. Mary’s response to my efforts to convince her to step off the trail was a simple “No.” First, I dragged her through the tick-infested jungle of southern Missouri, and now I was telling her to abandon all civilization, even leaving behind the only dirt trail in the wilderness. That was one step too far, especially with my record of raisin breakfasts and showing up late at the airport! After a few more attempts, she gathered that I really had something special and worth seeing to show her. “What is it?” she asked when she saw the rectangular blanket blob by the pine tree. As I opened it to show her the picnic basket, the raisin breakfast began to make sense. The picnic, it seemed, paid for most of my offenses, and the ring would surely cover the rest.
Breakfast consisted of some peanut butter and homemade bread (which I made only because I had flour and yeast and couldn’t afford to go to the grocery store anymore), carrots from my garden, and a special dessert in the cooler bag, right on top of the ring box. The dessert was called Hawaiian delight, which Mary had fondly described to me on the phone during a trip to California. It was a hollowed-out pineapple with vanilla Greek yogurt, pineapple and blueberries. I had the pineapple wrapped in aluminum foil with the cut up pineapple chunks inside it, a separate container of vanilla Greek yogurt, and a bag of blueberries, all on top of the box.
After our nutritious breakfast, I had Mary open the dessert bag to find the pineapple, yogurt, and blueberries. Then played music on my iPod to accompany our dessert. It seemed that Mary liked it, but there was only one minor problem—she didn’t notice the box! After she was done eating, I told her there was still something left in the bag for dessert, but she wasn’t hungry. After all my efforts to get her to look into the bag failed (including plainly telling her to look), I reached into the bag myself and gave her the wrapped present.
At this point, she was catching on. She would later tell me her thought at the time: “This better not be earrings!” All in an instant, it seemed, she was holding the empty ring box and I was asking her to marry me. Her response was a plain but confident, “Yes.” In that moment, her “yes” somehow threw me off, and I said as if surprised, “Seriously!?” The tone of her second “yes” was more animated, with a hint of, “Duh, did you really have to ask twice?” As I nervously attempted to slide the ring on her finger, I was actually shocked to see that it fit! A supremely satisfying sense of accomplishment came over me! Adding to that was the fact that she really loved the ring, saying that it was just perfect!
And that’s how it happened!