Ashley and Sam
After writing six drafts of this I decided I’m going to save you, readers, some time and yawns, and let you know that our backstory is very complicated and difficult to communicate in a way that isn’t a total snoozer. The important parts are that Emily was married and I was in a bad relationship of my own when we met. Our relationships came to an end and our friendship eventually blossomed into a romance. Both coming from a place of extreme hurt, we dove into our faith and peer groups for support and came out on the other end of things a little battered and bruised, but stronger and more resilient than when we went in. I’ll never forget the day that Emily put down her walls and let me in. It was one of what the “kairos moments” of our relationship; the type of night where you remember every detail vividly.
We went to Cleveland for a date night; it’s our favorite place in the world. We had reservations for dinner and, were going to The House of Blues to see The Gaslight Anthem. I took Emily to a restaurant called Lola. It was the first “nice place” she and I had been together.That night she was candid, honest, and trusting. She let me in emotionally and I could feel her heart open to me. The moment that sticks out the most to me is when we were walking from dinner to the concert and she put her hand in mine, leaned into my side, and rested her head on my shoulder. We’ve never centered our relationship around exact dates, hours, minutes, and seconds. We don’t have a precise moment that we became an item, so to speak. But I think that this night marks the point in which we both knew not only that it was going to be ok, but that we were going to be together forever.
Emily is not an easy one to get one over on. I had to be careful because anything that deviated from a typical day would be a dead giveaway to what I was up to. I had known for a while that I was going to propose. I had talked to my parents, her folks, and already had the ring; in fact, I picked it up from the jeweler the day that I proposed. It’s worth noting, and I think she would agree, that the ring is truly remarkable. I took my grandmother’s stone to a local jeweler that my father had been working with for years. I spent about 2 hours going through rose gold settings and finally came across the perfect band with beading on the edge and a peekaboo stone. I’m really quite proud to have had a beautiful ring made for an even more beautiful woman! I had all of these steps done, though, and still had no idea how I was going to ask her. Like I mentioned before, Emily usually knows when something is up. I tease her sometimes and tell her that she is too smart for her own good! The day I picked up her ring I was due for a haircut, and no sooner did I sit in my barber’s chair than I get a text from Emily announcing that her peers at work had voted her as Respiratory Therapist of the Year for 2017!
Not only was I proud, but my first thought was “a ha! I have my cover!” I knew then and there that I was going to go meet her after work and surprise her under the guise of celebrating her award. We were obviously doing that, but I had way more in store for her! My barber finished cleaning me up and I took off from Cleveland back to Akron to make some final arrangements. I called my parents, her folks, and texted a few other people to let them know what was going on. I changed into some sharper clothes at my apartment and then drove to my florist on the west side of town who helped me choose and then assembled for me an assortment of seasonal fall flowers into an absolutely stunning bouquet. Emily works in Cleveland, so I began the trek BACK up north. Flowers in my front seat, ring in my glovebox, dinner reservations for 8:30, and stomach in my throat – I was so excited! I knew where her parking spot was located and backed in next to her about an hour before she usually got to her car. I had the flowers ready to go, pulled the ring out from the box and put it in my shirt pocket where it couldn’t be noticed, and then waited.
Sure enough, that hour came and went, and I started to panic a bit – we had dinner reservations in 45 minutes! I tried calling her, she ignored me, and immediately texted me that she had an in-service after her shift. It was hard not to appreciate that the universe would throw me a few curveballs on this particular night, but that didn’t change my nerves from firing into overdrive! I called the restaurant and told them what was going on. Of course, they were super gracious and understanding and told me to just show up whenever. Finally, she calls me at 8:45. I was able to play it totally cool and keep her in the dark until she saw my car, now it was game time. I had given myself a few pep talks – I wanted everything to be as organic and easy as possible, as not to tip her off that something more was up. So, I emerged from my Jeep holding what was literally the biggest bouquet she had ever seen.
When we relive this night, she says that it was like a cartoon where the character is trying to pull something out of a small opening, but the item’s diameter meets resistance and suddenly pops open as the holder stumbles backward. Mind you, that’s slightly exaggerated, but we really enjoy laughing over that imagery!I handed her the bouquet and congratulated her on her award and mentioned that it was only right that we celebrate! The excitement and glow on her face had never been more evident! She was so touched – I’ll never forget the way she was looking at me through the whole night. She then got out her phone and insisted that she cataloged the fact that I showed up and surprised her with flowers to celebrate her award. I had to laugh because little did she know she was showing her engagement on her Instagram story! We gathered ourselves and walked a few hundred feet to the city train. It was genuinely perfect for this to be the means by which we traveled into town for our engagement, as it had become a bit of a tradition for us to park outside the city and commute via train into town for Indians games.
Excitement and conversation about her award was the theme of our travels, which I was thankful for because it hid my anxiety – I was nervous that she would see me patting my pocket and ask what was going on. Thankfully she never did. She did, however, ask where our dinner reservations were. Of course, I wouldn’t tell her because I wanted to keep trying to surprise her! We got off the train and walked a few blocks to the alley where the trendy restaurants are concentrated. I told her to guess where we were going, and she looked into my eyes with her soul sparkling and all but shouted, “LOLA?!” I smiled and nodded – it was to be the first time we had been back since the night of The Gaslight Anthem show. Conversation at dinner was perfect. We organically shared our feelings about that night three and a half years earlier when she let down her defenses. We poured into each other the reasons why we were proud of one another for the ways we had grown. The night was out of a fairytale already, but she still had no idea that it was going to get even better!
Once the server bagged up the rest of our meals for us, I started to let my cover slip. Emily kept asking me what was wrong with me. I could feel that I was sweating. And I definitely was not sitting still. I was rocking from side to side and couldn’t get comfortable. It was late October in Cleveland. The 24th to be exact. It was seasonal autumn weather and a little bit cool. Suffice it to say, my behavior was noticeable. As we waited for dessert, the moment had finally come. We reached a lull in the conversation, I cleared my throat, plunged my hand into my pocket, felt the ring (“thank God,” I remember thinking), and pulled it up to my lap. This part is Emily’s favorite part of the story because even though it may not translate here in text, in person I am a very articulate and eloquent speaker. Well, in this scenario, let’s just say I barely knew what words were. I knew going into this that I didn’t want to say something that was clearly scripted; my hope was that it would be organic and touching and sweet. I think I said it a little more completely than this, but I slowly held up the ring and watched her eyes get as big as saucers as her hands came up to her mouth, and the words that my subconscious chose at this moment were something along the lines of “the best part of today isn’t the award, it’s that I get to spend it with you. Days together are good…*panicked struggle to find words* would you like to have more with me?”
She paused for a second, let her shock dissipate, held out her left hand and said: “of course, baby!” I slipped the ring on her finger and it promptly spun stone side down. I went through a whole bunch of trouble to steal a ring that she wears all the time (on her other ring finger) from her jewelry box, have it sized, and replace it without her knowing. It never occurred to me that women wear rings of different sizes or that fingers could be slightly varying in diameter. I was embarrassed, but she loved it so much. We stood up, embraced for a few seconds, and then immediately sat back down because I realized that my butt was about 3 inches from someone’s head at the table next to us. Then the literal moment we sat down, a server came and refilled our water cups. It was one of the most hilarious moments of our lives because all we wanted was each other’s attention and here’s this guy just going about his business and doing his job with no idea what just happened. It’s hilarious to look back on! The first people to congratulate us was the table next to us seating the woman whose head was near my butt during our engagement embrace. Thankfully, the lot of them were beaming with excitement for us! These were the only people we told that night, save for Emily texting a few friends. The next day we went and visited our families and took a few photos together (after having her ring resized, of course). I even managed to keep the surprise the whole time! Our engagement was perfect for us. It was simple, meaningful, and done in a way that emphasized just the two of us. We are thankful and blessed to be marrying each other this weekend!
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