Where to start, where to start, where to start?
I guess technically it would be appropriate to start at the beginning, which is actually right over there. Or, it might make sense to tell you all about the lead-up, about my miserable, emotional summer of waiting and wishing and freaking the fuck out about everything and nothing, all at the same time.
But both of those natural, rational starting points ignore the fact that I have so much to say right right now about the end of this saga, which also happens to be the start of a new beginning, which also happens to be this past Friday, when I walked out of my office in Washington and saw a limo and a man holding a sign with my name on it.
I was down in DC for work, doing my writing and reporting in an office for the first time in nearly a year, prepped for an evening of girl-filled activities (manicures with my friend Meriel, dinner for six at a trendy farm-to-table restaurant.) Dave was supposedly up in Philadelphia, taking an exam to mark the end of his intensive care unit rotation. And that was really, truly what I thought; that was what I planned; that was why my jaw dropped when I saw that man holding that sign with my name on it.
I should tell you that I was not the happiest camper at first, sitting in the back seat of that limo, all alone. I hadn’t wanted a big proposal, I’d told Dave over and over that I’d be perfectly happy if he popped the question over a homemade meal in our kitchen, I’d clearly communicated how adverse I was to anything overly public or expensive or corny or…did I mention I have some controlling tendencies? Also, plans: I had plans! For nails and dinner and friends and all sorts of things that warranted notations in my planner, in pen. I started texting my friends frantically, pleading for a raincheck, hoping they’d forgive me, since obviously it was no fault of my own I’d been kidnapped by a limo.
To put it another way: I take great pains to anticipate most things in my life. And this just wasn’t the way I thought it was going to happen, not at all.
Rolling slowly through the clogged, rush-hour streets of DC, flushed from a day of work and the shock of my unexpected chaffeaur, schvitzing a little in my kelly green shirt dress, I took a deep breath. I pulled out my ipod and put on the Beach Boys song that years ago became our song. I sat back and I tried to take it all in and, suddenly, I knew where we were going, and I understood why it had to be done exactly this way, and I felt only good things.
We pulled up to the Lincoln Memorial a few minutes later and I saw him right away, standing under a private cluster of trees away from the crowds. And he was smiling. And I walked right over, not even faltering in my three-inch wedged heels, and I said, shaking my head a bit, biting my lip a little, “Well, you got me.” And I meant it in every sense of the words.
And then he asked, and I said yes.
The story behind the Lincoln is that, when Dave and I first started dating, back when I was still new enough to DC to want to play tourist on a semi-regular basis, we used to go to the mall. Time and time again, we would try to head down to the Lincoln but, reflective of the fact that we’re total idiots with horrible senses of direction, we could never find it. Really. And it became this big joke, like, if we ever make it to the Lincoln we’re totally going to have to get married or die or the earth will stop spinning or something huge will have to happen. And well, it did.
Once I actually had the ring on my finger, we walked over to the memorial, for the first time, together. It was totally emotional and wonderful, but also awkward and hilarious, considering it was mobbed by tea partiers, who were prepping for, oh, you know, one of the most right-wing, religious and offensive rallies in the history of American politics. Not to worry though, because they’re big fans of traditional marriage and had no idea that we’re a- not big fans of Jesus, b-not big fans of Glen Beck, and c- have been living in sin for a year. Needless to say, they welcomed us with open arms to the sanctity of marriage, snapping our photos and bidding us well wishes. Thanks, Glen Beck!
Afterwards, there was champagne and dinner at my favorite DC restaurant, and a bottle of chilled white wine waiting for us in a hotel room, and more champagne and toasts and the loveliest of friends – ranging from a fourth grade reading buddy to one of our favorite Philly double date candidates – at a bar on U Street. (Note: I steered clear of the vodka grapefruits and was just fine.)
Saturday brought a little time to breathe, but not much, as we headed further up the Eastern seaboard to New York, for a dinner with more friends and a going-away party for one of my nearest and dearest and appearances by some more college roommates. Sunday was another big surprise: brunch at a restaurant my dad had taken me to as a little girl. In attendance this time: both our families, including his grandparents (one of whom thought to bring along his bar mitzvah invitation, but that’s another story for another day), and even the long-lost brother who had fled Ecuador before I arrived. We ate eggs benedict and toasted with more champagne (mimosas this time; totally morning appropriate) and I felt exhausted and overwhelmed but mostly lucky and loved and really, truly, ecstatic: the happiest I’ve ever been.
It’s five days later now, and the shock has faded, but I’m still totally blissed out. I can’t explain it exactly, except to say I didn’t expect to feel this way. I’m totally overwhelmed by all of the love around me – from Dave, who messed up all my plans in the best possible way; from my dad, who wrote me an email that made me bawl; from Mattty, who hid a card in our apartment for us to open – “check behind Dave’s diploma in the office,” he told us via email; from Megan, who cried almost as hard as I did; from Jon, who screamed out a chorus of “mazel tovs” so loudly on a New York City street that people turned their heads; from my brother, who flew in from Wisconsin; from the kids who made my facebook wall a mess of congratulations and x’s and o’s; from everyone, really.
I always thought the proposal would be more of a means to an end, permission to finally announce what we’ve known for a long time: that we’re a perfect match and ready to spend our lives together. But now that it’s here, it really doesn’t feel like a means to an end at all. It feels much more like a beginning, like the start of something new and wonderful and exactly right.