Alyssa and Payton

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How We Met

Payton and I first met at Rocky Top Middle School sometime near August of 2006. Throughout our middle school days, we shared social studies and math teachers, but our paths never truly crossed. I could point Payton Towns out to you in the hallway, but I didn’t know anything else about him.

After middle school, we landed at Horizon High School. Our freshman year consisted of passing each other in the hallways and sharing mutual friends, but nothing more than being mere acquaintances. It wasn’t until our sophomore year, in AP U.S. History, when I realized I had my first MAJOR high school crush. Assigned seats always worked in my favor since our last names are towards the end of the alphabet, and the more I sat near Payton, the more I started to tell my friends how “dreamy” (yes, I used the word dreamy to describe him!) I thought Payton was. I vividly remember Payton giving a presentation during class while my friends looked at me and made kissy faces as I blushed (I’m talking to you, Tiffany!) From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be friends, and hopefully more than friends with him. I knew our time would come.

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Before I knew it, my crush became my friend due to our mutual friend introducing us to one another (Thanks, Steven!) We began to talk more in class, exchanged numbers, and sat together at lunch every now and then. We exchanged numerous text messages and shared countless conversations full of small talk, and with every passing moment I started to fall – hard. I began telling my friends about “my crush,” and it seemed obvious to everyone except for Payton that I really liked him. While I was busy telling all my friends about our conversations and how much I really liked him, he was busy asking out another girl. Total heartbreak!

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In retrospect, this part of our love story makes me laugh because it truly played a large part in bringing us together. Fast forward to the end of our sophomore year of high school and Payton was dating another girl. The most awkward part of it all was that we shared a large mutual group of friends and we all hung out together. As if teenagers aren’t hormonal and moody enough, try sitting across a table from your crush and his new girlfriend! The school year ended, and I told myself I would take the summer to move on and let go of my faded dreams of being his girlfriend. Much to my surprise, their relationship ended over the summer, and I couldn’t help but feel thrilled that it had ended! I wasn’t over him, nor did I want to be over him, so I used the breakup as an opportunity to be the “consoling friend.” My version of consoling consisted of frequent compliments, loads of flirting, and blatantly obvious evidence that I wanted to be his girlfriend.

We started our junior year of high school as best friends. We texted one another almost non-stop, posted on each other’s Facebook walls to share our flirting in public, and hoped to have classes with each other. My 16th birthday fell during the first few weeks of school, and I invited Payton to my birthday party just to have another chance to hang out with him. I could barely get the guy to talk to me in person (he was SO shy), but I really enjoyed being around him and getting to know him. After my birthday party, we started hanging out more often at our high school’s football games. By this point, our friends practically considered us a couple. I was just waiting for him to pop the question!

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On October 22, 2010, we went to our high school’s football game. I went with my best friends, and he came with his. I sat in the stands with my best friends surrounding me, and he sat behind me with a group of his guy friends. We didn’t talk to each other much, and our friends teased us about “getting together” a good majority of the night. At halftime, Payton asked me to come with him to the top of the stairs. My heart started to beat out of my chest. I had been waiting for this moment, and I was really hoping I wasn’t going with him to pick up some concession snacks. As we arrived at the top of the stairs, we chose a small and quiet corner to stand alone. Payton’s hands were shaking and his voice trembling as he looked down at me and asked, “Will you be my girlfriend?” “YES!” I excitedly answered. “Finally!” I said to myself. We smiled at each other, hugged one another, and one of my best girlfriends was behind me with a camera ready to take a picture of us as an “official” couple (Thank you, Alyssa! I’m so glad you could capture this moment.) I always knew our time would come, and sure enough, it did.

Our relationship continued to grow and transform over the years. As time passed, we started to fall deeply in love with each other. From crazy high school students to thriving college students, to post-grad adults, the one thing we’ve always been able to rely on is our relationship and the love that we have for one another. My best friend always told me that she knew we would get married someday. I told her she was insane, but as it turns out, she really does know me better than I know myself (Love you, Larysa).

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how they asked

Fast forward almost 7 years later to the proposal…

What I love the most about Payton is his uncanny ability to push me outside of my comfort zone. I am uptight, highly structured, and wear my Type A personality in every aspect of my life. He is spontaneous, open-minded, and adventurous. When Payton heard about the Total Solar Eclipse and realized it was happening on my birthday, he was adamant about seeing it. “What better way to spend your 23rd birthday?” he asked.

For months we discussed planning a vacation and chasing the eclipse. I was hesitant about the whole idea, mostly because traveling turns me into an anxious mess, but I did think it was pretty neat that the Total Solar Eclipse fell on my birthday. After doing our research, we decided we were going to travel to the Oregon Coast for the once in a lifetime experience. We decided we would spend the weekend prior to the eclipse in Portland, Oregon, and we would drive out to the coast the morning of the eclipse.

In the weeks leading up to our vacation, I had many friends and family members ask me if I thought we were going to get engaged on our vacation. I told the same story over and over again. “No, we aren’t getting engaged yet. We just started looking at rings a couple of months ago, so there’s no way he has one yet!” Although we had been talking about marriage for quite some time, we had just begun searching for the perfect ring, so I was truthfully convinced that there was no way we were getting engaged on our trip.

Fast forward to the morning of our trip. My mom dropped us off at the airport, and we eagerly talked about all of the fun and exciting things we were going to do when we landed in Portland. Despite my fear of airplanes, airports, and all other travel-related aspects that are beyond my control, I managed to stay cool, calm and collected the entire plane ride. Maybe part of me knew that this trip was going to be an unforgettable one.

Our weekend in Portland was full of endless adventures! We went to Powell’s Books, overate at Alder Food Carts, explored the downtown area, stayed at an adorable Airbnb, toured the International Rose Test Garden, wandered through the Portland Japanese Garden, stayed out past our bedtimes, and soaked in each and every moment we shared together. The night before the eclipse, we picked up some snacks and toilet paper in preparation for our drive to the coast. Payton precisely and carefully planned out 11 different routes we could take that would put us in the path of totality since traffic was predicted to be a nightmare.

Payton woke up at 12:00am on Monday, August 21, 2017, and packed our bags while I slept. He checked traffic maps to make sure we could make it to the coast in time for the eclipse, and unbeknownst to me, prepared for the proposal. Two hours later, he woke me in the middle of the night, covered me up with a blanket in the passenger seat of our rental car, and told me to sleep while he drove us to our destination. I had trouble falling back to sleep at first, so we laughed deliriously and talked through the early morning hours in the dark. Next thing I knew, I had fallen asleep, and when I woke up we were in Lincoln City, Oregon. We drove through Lincoln City until we landed at the Historic Taft District. We parked our car in an empty parking lot, and looked around to find people from all over the United States smiling at one another, excited for the moment up ahead.

We set up camp on the beach and anxiously awaited the eclipse. At the time, it seemed like the anticipation was going to last forever, but looking back, it was worth every minute. We began counting down to the eclipse. 10 minutes…5 minutes…1 minute…30 seconds…

The crowd we shared the beach with roared in excitement as the moon covered the sun. The entire beach fell pitch black! Fireworks were set off in the background, and Payton and I clapped and cheered. I was speechless. Up to this point I didn’t understand why millions of Americans were obsessing over this moment, but when I found myself experiencing it, I finally understood. The buildup to our trip, to this day, to this moment – all of it was worth the brief moment of totality.

As I stood on the beach in awe, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I was to be sharing this moment with the love of my life, on my 23rd birthday! I felt like the luckiest girl in the world, and then I got a whole lot luckier…

As the sun began to reappear from behind the moon and we entered the Diamond Ring Phase of the eclipse, I turned around to find Payton on one knee, with a ring in hand. “I’ve got a question for you,” he whispered. “Will you marry me?” “YES!” I excitedly answered, much like the time he asked me to be his girlfriend. “YES! YES! YES! FINALLY!” I said.

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“Love is packing our bags to chase the solar eclipse for my 23rd birthday. It’s jumping on an airplane without fear of the uncertainties up ahead. It’s arriving at a new airport, picking up our first ever rental car and heading to downtown Portland with big smiles. It’s exploring a city we’ve never been to. It’s staying the night at a loft that’s not ours, but feels like home. It’s enjoying local food, going sightseeing and being tourists. It’s waking up at 2:00am to jump in the car and make our way towards the path of totality. It’s laughing at 3:00am, driving through the dark feeling delirious and anxious for what’s up ahead. It’s arriving at the Oregon coast in time to enjoy the beach before the big moment. It’s counting down to the eclipse together and attempting to take selfies in our eclipse glasses. It’s marveling in the beauty of a total solar eclipse for 2 minutes with fireworks in the background and the crowd cheering behind us. It’s turning around to see you down on one knee with a ring in hand, asking ME to marry YOU, during a total solar eclipse, on my 23rd birthday. It’s getting to call myself your fiancé and soon-to-be wife! Love is making memories with you.”

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