Just a quick note: Julie tells her gorgeous story in the third-person. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!!
It was just an ordinary Wednesday. Julie put on ordinary clothes and made her ordinary drive in to work. Along the way, her day escalated to slightly above ordinary, for even though summer had slipped away to make room for a Pacific Northwest rain season, this ordinary Wednesday was illuminated with rare, bright, warm sunshine. Ordinary was trumped once more when Julie remembered that today was field trip day. She and three other mall management team members would soon be off to explore what the competing malls were up to.
She was convinced to drive, as Kristi, her field trip partner complained that her car was suffering mechanical issues. Their brand new boss, Todd, carpooled with another team member. They all made the short, sunny drive north to Seattle Premium Outlets, where the group explored and made notes before returning to the cars. Then it happened.
New boss Todd looked straight at poor, unsuspecting Julie and said, “We’re continuing on to the next mall. You’re not coming. Kristi is coming with us.” Confused, all Julie could do was nod, say “OK” and try to convince herself that she was not being fired. Kristi wouldn’t even look at her. Kristi, who was her mentor, the mother of her Godson, a long time best friend… she just hid behind her fashionable sunglasses. Julie looked at the others…one of them was actually VIDEOTAPING! Wouldn’t this be a nice addition to YouTube? Julie was happy to have her own sunglasses to hide behind. But her coworkers were nice; they wouldn’t videotape this, right? She couldn’t be getting fired. But then new boss Todd handed her an envelope. Julie glanced again at Kristi. Were those tears in Kristi’s eyes? New boss Todd was talking again. In a deep, slow motion, distorted voice, Julie thought she heard, “Yoooouuuu’re Fiiiii-iiierrrrd.” She kept nodding. She said “Yes” a few times in a monotone voice while wearing a blank expression. But that wasn’t what he had said…did he just say “Amazing Race”? “I love that show!” Julie thought, “It is Michael’s and my favorite show!” but what she said, once again in a confused monotone voice, was “I accept.” She knew it sounded weird right after it passed her lips.
Still being recorded, Julie was prompted to open the envelope; and the moment she did anything ordinary in her life that ever was really ordinary would never be so again. A beautiful, sparkling green card with filmy yellow vellum encased a white note filled with words that would forever change her life. Michael, the man who knew how silly she really was, but loved her for it, not in spite of it…Michael, the man she loved more easily than she knew was possible had written the words, “You’re about to set out on an adventure that will last you a lifetime.” He was sending her on an Amazing Race that would end in a marriage proposal. She knew how it would end, for he signed the letter, “Your future husband.” What she didn’t know was where this, the best day – the least ordinary day – of her life so far would take her.
Clue 1 sent her to the first place they kissed, which also happened to be the moment when Julie knew she never wanted to kiss anyone else ever again. She drove to the small tavern on the river. When she arrived, she didn’t know what to do. She walked in and looked around anxiously. There were a few morning drinkers eyeing her from the bar when she heard a familiar voice from a table in the back. “Julie…what are you doing here at my favorite lunch place?” A smile that felt too impossibly large to fit between her cheeks invaded her face. Gary, her favorite grumpy old man from at work sat at a small table with a cold beer in front of him. “What are you doing here?” he repeated. “I have a clue,” was all she could squeeze out of her huge smile. Gary had her next clue.
Clue 2 sent Julie to the Woodland Park Zoo. Yup, an hour away to the zoo to find… a mountain goat! She was given six dollars and a zoo ticket for this leg of the race. And she was to text a mystery number “I’m here.” when she arrived. She did so, and then she found a zoo map and located the mountain goats. It looked simple enough. She followed a path, though not the right path, for quite some time. She found a Japanese seroh to whom she exclaimed, “I’m getting engaged today!!” The seroh did not reveal any signs of caring. Eventually she found help, got directions and ended up at the mountain goats, where Raul, Michael’s best friend was waiting. He handed her the next clue and Julie set out on the next leg of the race. After stopping for cotton candy. After all, it was a sunny day at the zoo.
Clue 3 had Julie “driving slowly with her windows rolled down” through the world famous Pike’s Place Market. Halfway through, Julie recognized someone. Bryan, Michael’s twin, crossed the street in front of her car. Through her open window, he delivered a huge bouquet of flowers, her next clue, a hug and the sentiment, “Congratulations, sis.”
Clue 4 brought the soon to be engaged Julie to the first hotel the couple ever stayed at in Bellevue. She pulled into the front of the beautiful hotel and saw Tim, Michael’s older brother, at the valet station. He passed her next clue through the passenger window.
Clue 5 was an address. And a number to give the person when she got there. It also said that Michael could not wait to see her face. Hurriedly, because she could not wait to see her handsome husband to be, she plugged the information into her gps and made her way to Kenmore Airlines… and there she saw airplanes floating in the water! She walked up to the entrance, and her best guy friend, AJ was sitting on a wooden chair reading a newspaper. He looked up and said, “Hi.” The oversized smile reappeared. Though she was expecting Michael, she was happy her adventure was not yet over. “Am I riding on a boat plane?” she asked. She’d always wanted to ride in a boat plane.
AJ led her inside where she gave her confirmation number to the lady behind the counter. No one, not AJ, the pilot, or the other two passengers on the plane would tell her where she was going. She waved goodbye to AJ from the plane as she floated away. She saw ducks floating through the sparkling, golden glitter the sun had sprinkled on the sea. The plane began to ascend. She saw mountains, especially enjoying the majestic Mount Ranier. The plane moved on and she soon saw the familiar Seattle skyline, punctuated by the Space Needle she had seen hundreds of times before, but never quite so close and from this angle. The plane circled around and came to a gentle landing with barely a splash on Lake Union. After floating to a wooden dock, they opened the door. She unbuckled her seatbelt while eagerly looking out the window for Michael. He wasn’t there, and a pilot told her that she wasn’t getting off here. “I’ll tell you when to get off,” he instructed. The plane was soon filled with passengers who could not know why her eyes glistened and her cheeks puffed out to make room for that enormous smile. She was in the air another 45 minutes with her eyes soaking up the mountains, the sunshine, the beautiful water.
They landed in the San Juan Islands at Roche Harbor and floated up to the end of a very long dock lined with expensive yachts. Some people deplaned. Julie sat there, once again looking out the window for Michael. “Julie,” yelled the pilot from the open door behind her. “Get off the plane!” She did, and he handed her a final clue. She was to follow the dock and find the secret garden. Overwhelmed with anticipation, and constantly reminding herself to savor each and every second of this wondrous day, Julie began walking down the dock. So caught up in her own happiness, it took her a moment or two to realize she was being followed. She slowed her walk and turned back casually; the sun blinding her temporarily. A slim brunette woman was just steps away. “I’m not following you,” she said. “I just wondered if you needed help.” Julie did not know why she’d be asking this. Was it part of her Amazing Race? The woman must have seen the confusion on her face, and she added “I’m sorry, I thought you were ‘special’, that you might need help. I noticed the pilot had to tell you when to get off and he gave you an envelope.” Julie laughed and told her what was in the envelope. Upon hearing about what amazing thing was just moments away, the woman seemed almost as excited as Julie. In fact, she led Julie to the garden in her clue.
After the woman left, Julie looked around. She did not see Michael, so she followed a path that led down in to one of two gardens. She wandered through the first one, under arbors, past benches and beautiful flowers. Then she made her way to the second, her heart beating faster with each step. As she was walking to the garden’s end, she looked up. That’s when she saw him. All dressed up, walking towards her down in to the garden. She no longer was cognizant of her actions. She failed at videotaping the moment because she was so caught up in it, drinking in every bit of happiness it held. Michael reached her, kissed her, held her, and then he lowered himself on to one knee. As he moved down, a ring box came out. She tried to look directly in his beautiful eyes, but her own were slowly and sweetly filling with tears. “Julie,” he said, she blinked the tears out and saw him clearly. “Will you marry me?” She nodded her head, for if she shook it long it enough in the right direction, the word “YES!” might come out. And it did. He put the most beautiful ring on her hand, but she didn’t see it right away because all she wanted was to be in his arms. Forever.
Photos by Fike Fotography out of Tacoma, Washington.