It's the thing. The thing that is worthy of twenty exclamation points when I'm usually an adamant single exclamation point kind of girl. It's the thing that plasters a dopey smile on my face as I float down the street. The thing that has turned me from mostly sensible to greatly romantic (so forgive me if this whole blog post is a syrupy excessive display of sentiment). It's the thing that caused me to realize that I had stopped folding laundry at work for an unknown number of minutes and was instead staring into the oblivion that was suddenly a slideshow of fancy shoes, a white dress, a pretty cake, and above all, the face. The face that is going to be what I see first thing each morning, the face our children will see as “Dad.” The face that will be behind the wheel and I in the passenger seat while we drive on family vacations and to church on Sunday mornings. The face that will age the same as mine as we grow grey and wrinkled, but only more and more charming to one another. And so, the thing is our engagement and the face is Jake. He is my fiancé (fancy é required) and we are engaged!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I knew that I had found ‘the one’ years before the moment of our proposal. We both knew it shortly after we met that first day of our first design class at Penn State with Bill Kelly, when we shook hands and I watched him doodle on his notebook. I loved his glasses, his adidas sambas and his sincerity. And what a smile. His whole face smiles when he’s happy. But now that knowledge of what was to come is here, we are going to be actually planning and working towards our wedding and our life together after that, as Mr. and Mrs. Nicolella.
For so long I had been telling myself not to think about all this too much. I tend to be the type that gets her hopes up for something once it’s a twinkle of an idea and though Jake and I knew for sure we would get married, there was no ring and so I wouldn’t let myself think too much about wedding colors or who we'd invite or how we'd decorate the dessert table because I’d spiral into a state of discontent. Any other ladies out there who are dating but not engaged might know what I’m talking about. I was happily dating Jake and taking care of him as best I could as his girlfriend. But now? Now we will be getting married and things are real and I tell you what, that’s a dangerously exciting thing. All the pent up bridal energy is here and ready to shine!
While the events of the day of the proposal are fresh, I really wanted to document them. Even if no one else has the patience to read though my catalogued explanation of every action and thought of May 16th, 2013, I know at least I can always come back to it and relive that day that I will always remember fondly. But if you’re the romantic type, or just curious, please do read it because I think it’s beautiful and thoughtful and Jake’s sentiments deserve to be known. Heaven knows I’ve been sharing this story to any stranger or friend who expresses the slightest question of interest. I gush about the man I love and the ring he made for me. And I tell them this story, though usually the Reader's Digest version.
On May 16th, 2011, Jake and I became a couple. That’s a story for another day but it was special and magnificent and seemingly so long awaited. Our deep friendship was now something full of promise and commitment and we had a future we knew would last for a long time. Last Thursday marked our two years together as a couple and Jake was going to come back into town so we could celebrate. He recommended we work on crossing some items off of the bucket list that we made last August for the school year ahead. Due to my difficult work schedule and Jake’s insane work load at school, we only got to do one of the items on the list and that was meet my sister’s new baby. We did this back in September when Luke was born and though this was incredible, there was still much work to be done where the list was concerned.
We made the most of Jake’s days in town, crossing off a hike to the top of Mt. Nittany and making homemade sushi (it turned out wonderfully and encourage any sushi fan to try it!). Thursday night we went out for an incredibly delicious dinner and drinks at the Gamble Mill in Bellefonte. We came back to my apartment and watched the series finale of the Office (Michael Scott!). This show has been important to Jake and I over the course of our relationship and really since it began in 2005. We’re giant fans and at the show’s end I was crying and feeling bummed that it was really over. Jake sweetly suggested we drive into campus and cross off the last thing on our list and lift our spirits. The last thing was a kiss on the top of a Penn State parking garage and I obliged, after changing out of my nice pretty dinner clothes to leggings and a t-shirt (if I had known I would’ve stayed in my nice clothes and maybe thrown on some lipstick, for goodness sake!).
We drove in to State College and up to the top of the Hub Parking Deck. This garage had as much romantic nostalgia as a parking garage really could have. Before Jake and I started dating, when we were still friends, I was a busy bee with the end of the year banquet for RUF, the campus ministry I was involved with. I asked him to help me carry some heavy things to my car which was parked in that very lot. After he helped me, we were saying our goodbyes. We wouldn't have any more class time together before the summer break began and since we weren’t anything official, wouldn’t be seeing each other for a while either. The knowledge that we were both really going to miss each other was sinking in and we hugged and said farewell. It was also raining which makes everything seem more dramatic and romantic, right?
Fast forward two years and Jake and I have just arrived at the top level of the parking deck. It was about 11:30 pm. He said he had a surprise so we got out and he pulled his guitar from his trunk. Sitting there on the warm concrete in the quiet of the May night, he sang to me. He sang two songs I know well, ‘Peach Dress,’ which he wrote and sang to me before we were dating via a facebook video message (my RUF ladies have a pretty vivid memory of this one!) and ‘With No Regard to How’ which he wrote and sang to me as a birthday present when I turned 22. Both songs are ripe with joy and nostalgia and to see Jake singing them to me so strongly while he played his guitar so loudly and confidently was overwhelming. I was proud of him, proud we had made it out of the hell that was this past semester and just so giddy with joy that this man loved me and cared for me so deeply. I cried. It started as wet eyes but grew to gasps of sobs that quaked my whole chest. I’m a hyperventilator for sure. Jake looked up from his song and saw my crying and he started tearing up too. He told me later he thought that at this moment I realized what was coming but honest-I had not a clue. I think this is a testament to the frequency of thoughtful things Jake does. He’s a good man. A romancer. Below are the two songs he sang, written, performed and recorded by himself.
Back to the scene. He finished ‘With No Regard to How’ and we hugged and cried. He told me he had one more surprise for me and went back to the trunk of his car. He put away his guitar and pulled out a box wrapped in beautiful gold paper.
I carefully unwrapped the paper, still oblivious, and saw that on the top of the box Jake had written “Because time is a concept, distance is a measurement, and we real.” Jake, being an incredible writer, wrote many poems before we were dating to express the emotions he was feeling as at the time we started getting to know one another, I was dating someone else. His poems still stir me when I read them because he is overwhelmingly hopeful and at peace with whatever would happen, simply happy he had the chance to know me but ultimately tormented by the idea it might end at that. One poem speaks of his torment and ends with an exchange of words between Jake and I. The last stanza read:
Just before she faded into the blackness of night
She called out to me:
“If there was ever a love that was meant to be, it is here and it is ours.”
To which I could not hold my tongue from asking:
“Why mock what we know He wants?”
“Because time is a concept, distance is a measurement, and I am real.”
The top of the box Jake gave me that night on the parking garage read a line almost the same as the last of the poem, but changed the “I am” to “we are.” I initially thought this was referencing the fact that he’ll be gone for the next three months working at a design internship in New York City and that the box held a gift that would somehow help alleviate the amount of missing we’d be doing being far from one another this summer. In a way, this was exactly what it was but not in the way I was expecting.
One more trip back in time. Two Christmases ago, Jake gave me an amazing little hand painted box, seen below. The box was shaped like a house and when you took the roof off, had a flap reading ‘I promise.’ Inside the box were many little promises he was making to me. Things we would do and have. This gift came at a time when we were both still in school and overwhelmed with work and sleeplessness. It felt like it would never end and this box with its promises, as well as a beautiful amber ring Jake gave me, were a reminder that good things were to come.
Back to the parking garage. I opened the box Jake gave me and inside found the same house Jake had given me two Christmases ago, but smaller.
This was the moment it dawned on me and the moment I started freaking out inside and out and saying "I can't believe this is really happening, I can't believe this is really happening!" Jake took the box and took off the roof, revealing a flap that read ‘Will You?’
He lifted the flap and took out the little blue ring box inside. He got down on one knee and said beautiful, loving things. I was hugging his neck when I realized I should give him space so I could hear what he was saying and take in this scene I had waited so long to see. He asked me if I would be his wife and I, of course, yelled “YES!!! A THOUSAND TIMES YES!”
He stood up and both of us were shaking and fumbling as he slid the PERFECT ring on my hand. He told me the diamond was from his grandmother’s engagement ring and that his grandparents were married for 65 years and so the diamond carried a lot of sentiment and decades of loving memories. This was so moving to me. Jake has spoken proudly of his grandparent’s marriage since I met him. His Pap is still madly in love with his bride though she passed away several years ago and I am incredibly honored to carry her diamond with me every day.
Jake played ‘Harvest Moon’ by Neil Young with his car doors open and we danced slowly, our hearts ready to explode, there on the top of that parking garage.
Our teary bliss was known only to us and to the night parking attendant who stared at dancing us as he walked to his car at midnight when his shift was up, probably confused by all the yelling, crying and music he'd heard over the past half hour.
We wanted to take some pictures and as Jake grabbed his phone I went to blow my nose and saw in the rear view mirror that I looked like a horror movie monster, my face was so smeared with mascara and my eyes so red from crying and allergies. I smiled knowing Jake loved me. A sobby mess. We took some pictures, one of which is to the left, and then began the excited calls to our family and friends.
Jake was worried that proposing on the top of a parking garage would seem too ordinary. If you just read this post you can attest to the fact that nothing about that night was dull or ordinary. And because I have to, I will quote Pam Beesley on this one, when, at the last moment of Thursday’s last episode she spoke about PBS deciding to make a documentary about life in a ordinary paper company. “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”