This past Friday, June 15th, I proposed to my girlfriend of 5 years! What follows is the “Engagement Story”, from her perspective. I’ll be writing my own account of the event (and the weeks leading up to it) in a few days. Until then, enjoy!
I can imagine few activities that leave me more exhausted at the end of the week than working at camp, so when Libby (the program director) approached Mackenzie (my little sister) and me on Friday afternoon, June 15th, after we had spent a week volunteering and asked us to drop off a package in Houston, I suspected no mischief. “Since you’re going to Houston,” she asked, “would you mind dropping this off with Sara? Her mail isn’t forwarding properly, and we keep getting stuff for her here.” For those who don’t know the back story, Sara was the previous program director at Lutherhill, who had moved to Houston at the end of the previous summer. Libby took over as program director last fall.
Privately I thought, “Gee, Houston is kind of out of our way…I visit Houston *so* frequently, though, so maybe it would be okay if we take it now, and I drop it off sometime later when I’m actually *in* Houston rather than home?” When I inquired by when the package needed to be delivered, Libby responded, “Oh…like tonight.” Chalk up another point for sleep-deprivation, because it never occurred to me to question the supposed “urgency” of the package. When Mackenzie replied, “Okay, yeah, we can take it,” the deal was sealed – we were going to Houston, whether I wanted to or not!
We departed camp around 5 p.m. Normally the drive back home lasts about 2 hours (a little longer when I drive, a little shorter when anyone else drives). I texted my mother to inform her that we were on the way but needed to make a stop, so she should expect us around 8 or so. With address entered into the GPS on Mac’s phone and sticky note clutched in hand (another plot hole I failed to detect: Sara’s address was written on a sticky note, but not on the package itself – how the heck did I miss that!?), we were off!
En route, I decided I was excited about the opportunity to see Sara. I had not talked with her in over a year, and she had recently announced her engagement, so I wanted to offer congratulations and ask how the wedding planning was going. I knew the visit would be brief, but I still appreciated the chance to say hello. Since her zip code matched the zip code I had when I lived at Rice (another clue I failed to notice), I wondered about the feasibility of visiting campus, but immediately ruled that out because I thought we should make every effort to return home before dark.
The sticky note read “6221 Weslayan, Houston 77005.” Mackenzie’s GPS directed us to a street in West U. (Weslayan), and I immediately noticed the dearth of houses actually situated along Weslayan. Plenty of residential streets intersected Weslayan, but only a few driveways actually backed up onto the street, and I couldn’t find numbers on any of them. I obsessively checked the GPS, certain we were close, but 6221 simply did not exist. When we got to University Drive, I instructed Mackenzie to turn around and drive slower, sure we must have just missed it because the house numbers were not obvious. When she attempted to drive a different route, I became very persistent (“No! Turn left *here*! We have to go back! You must have missed the house – drive slower this time!”). Mackenzie pulled over to the side of the road about two blocks from where I was certain Sara’s house must be, and reached into the back seat, asking, “Where did I put that package?”
Frustrated by her sudden flakiness, I climbed out of the car, figuring I could maybe find the house on foot – we were only 2 blocks away, after all. As I marched away from the car, Mackenzie called after me, “Wait! Change of plans…you need to open the package and follow the directions!”
Finally it dawned on me that some serious skullduggery was afoot. Why would *I* need to open a package meant for Sara? The truth is – I would *not* need to open a package intended for Sara, which left only one option – the package was never intended to reach Sara, and had been for me the whole time! All was not as it appeared…
Upon opening the package, I found a rock labeled “180°”. My first instinct was to make an about-face, but I quickly realized I was nowhere near any place of significance, and there was no way whoever had sent this rock would know which way I’d be facing when I got the instruction. When I glanced up at Mackenzie, confused, she mentioned that she needed to take me to Stockton Drive (one of the entrances to Rice University). With this final piece of information, the message clicked – I needed to go to the statue in the engineering quad at Rice called “180°” (there are 3 statues in that quad, all labeled according to the angle they make with the ground – 45°, 90°, 180°). Coincidentally, this statue marks the very spot where Kyle and I found ourselves on the morning after his graduation from Rice 5 years previous, talking about “what comes next.” Anyone else see any symmetry here?
Mackenzie suddenly developed a mysterious desire to visit Rice Village and asked where she might park in order to do so. I directed her to the band hall, since it has a visitor’s parking lot next to it, and it’s relatively close to the engineering quad. I was also *finally* developing a suspicion of what kind of shenanigans were under way, and I suspected I ought to visit the ladies’ room – no matter what the surprise was, I did not wish to ruin it by rushing off in pursuit of a restroom in the middle of it. I walked to the engineering quad, and sure enough, there was Kyle, atop 180°, along with a portable CD player, 180 lilies (my favorite flower!), some candles, and a bottle of sparkling grape juice.
I climbed up to join him on 180°, asking if he knew anything about this mysterious message I’d received. He responded by giving me a hug, then pressing “play” on the CD player. I recognized the opening chords to Mark Schultz’s “He Was Walking Her Home”. When the first verse started, though, I heard that the voice coming from the CD player was not Mark Schultz, but was Kyle…and the words had been altered so that the song no longer narrated the story of a hypothetical couple, but described *our* story instead.
When the song described the two people back on college grounds, Kyle dropped to one knee, pulled out a ring, and (at the pre-determined break in the music) asked, “Will you marry me?” For some reason, I was struggling to actually vocalize just then, so I nodded (vigorously, I think), and he stood up to give me the best hug of my life! When the song ended, I recovered my voice and said, “Yes!”
I guess some people celebrate moments like this with wine or champagne; we substituted sparkling grape juice. The ring is made of recycled metal, and the diamond was grown in a laboratory rather than mined, so it is 100% conflict-free!
Before actually proposing, Kyle flew out to Baltimore to talk with my best friend. He attempted to fly to Houston to talk with my other very close friend, but his plane was diverted and he couldn’t make it while she was in town, so he had to talk with her on the phone. The night before he actually proposed, he had dinner with my parents to ask for their blessing. My dad, being contrary, asked “What would you do if I said no?” Caught slightly off-guard, Kyle eventually responded that he would ask anyway, but he’d be extremely disappointed. My dad praised that response as the right answer and (still being contrary) gave his blessing, provided that Kyle promised to learn both how to drive a stick-shift car, and how to ski. (We have already begun to rectify the stick shift issue.)
So now we enter the next adventure of our lives! I am humbled by God’s graciousness in blessing me with such a wonderful fiancé. I know that the years to come will carry many ups and downs, and I look forward to facing both the challenges and the blessings with Kyle at my side.