It’s easy to believe that your best memories are your most perfect ones. After becoming engaged, we’ve discovered that quite often, the opposite is true. Imperfections have an interesting way of leaving footprints in your memory that make a richer story. When we look back on our engagement, there were a lot of perfect things. The leaves were immaculately fall-colored, the weather was pristine, and the excitement was palpable. But who cares, right? We don’t really look back on those details. It’s the imperfections that make our story worth telling and uniquely ours.
I (Jack) still remember the first time I saw Crabtree Falls on a hiking trip with friends. As we got to the top, I saw the most breath-taking view of mountains and trees that I had ever seen. My initial thought was, “This view will be incredible in the fall.” My second thought was, “This is where I’ll propose to Annie.”
Jack and I (Annie) talked a lot about our proposal before it actually happened. This is something that I love about us, we’re so upfront about everything. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to be in on the plans. First, because I think it’s too big of a decision for us not to talk about beforehand. That’s the way we work. But also, I didn’t want Jack to be the only one to do the asking. I wanted to propose too! Our relationship has this beautiful synergy about it, we both give, and we both take. I wanted our proposal to be a reflection of that. So, after we decided to get engaged, it took a bit of finesse to figure out the logistics. For us to both exercise our agency [insert explicit feminist agenda here], but to keep it romantic all the while.
I (Jack) still wanted for some things to be a surprise. Annie didn’t know where/how the engagement would take place, she just knew when. We decided that at some point on October 23rd, 2015, we would pop the question to each other. This would be perfect timing, I thought. Crabtree Falls would be in fall form and we could celebrate our engagement at JMU Homecoming with a bunch of our favorite people.
When the day finally arrived, Jack was acting really weird—quiet, awkward, distant. Usually we fill up the time on long car rides with games of Would You Rather? and plenty of song parodies, but Jack just wasn’t talking to me. I blasted Yeezus through the car speakers in an attempt to ease our anxiety. That usually does the trick, but even that felt weak. This feeling lasted for about two, three hours, until we got off the highway outside of Lynchburg, VA onto a windy mountain road.
I (Jack) didn’t mean to feel cold or distant, I was literally out of my mind nervous. I wanted every detail about that day to be perfect. I thought perfection would make our proposal more special, but now I admit that I was wrong (also about a lot of other things that day!). As we arrived at the bottom of Crabtree Falls, we hopped out of my little red Abarth, changed our shoes, and began the epic walk up the mountain. And by epic, I mean we saw a sign that said, “1.7 miles to the top.” A detail I completely forgot about until 10 minutes after we began our ascent.
I (Annie) want to say here that Jack mentioned casually that I might want to bring comfortable shoes. I thought, “Sure, we’ll probably take a little jaunt somewhere, no big deal.” I didn’t think twice about wearing my sweater dress, tights, and scarf. We were going to look back at photos of this day for the rest of our lives, so I wanted to look fly. Now I don’t blame Jack for this, he was wearing jeans and a sweater vest, so he obviously forgot the deal. 0.3 miles up he was just as uncomfortable as I was. At 0.4 miles, we stopped to sop the sweat from our foreheads with my scarf. At 0.7 miles, the sweat started rolling down our backs. We still had a mile to go. We were out of water.
I (Jack) couldn’t believe how difficult the hike was, it seemed like such a breeze months before. Not only that, but I had planned for the hike to be about 30 minutes each way, so I budgeted 40 minutes just in case. We needed to be at a surprise engagement dinner that I had planned for us at JMU with a lot of my best friends, and after an hour of hiking one mile up a mountain, I knew we were going to be incredibly late. It stressed me out like crazy, especially since I couldn’t call anyone on the mountain (thank you, Verizon). At one point, I even thought that we should just give up and get engaged right where we were. But then I thought, “Heck no! I’m not about to tell my friends that I wanted to take the love of my life to the top of a mountain, but then we got tired and got engaged halfway up.” What a horrible way to start a life together! Dehydrated, uncomfortably dressed, and growing more irritable by the step, we pushed through until we got to the top.
The view was breathtaking. We could see out over what seemed like the entire Shenandoah Valley, autumn leaves blazing. But I (Annie) was so hot from the hike, the only thing I could think about up there was taking off my sweater tights. So, dodging glances from other hikers (did we mention it was a crowded day on the trail?), I tried to discreetly pull them down, over my shoes. That’s when Jack started snapping pictures. Eventually, I got them off, and felt the sweet relief of a cool breeze on my skin.
As soon as Annie was done getting naked in front of random people, I felt like this was an opportune time to pop the question. I remember reaching for the ring in my pocket when an older gentlemen approached me and whispered, “Hey! Are you going to propose?” I nodded yes. “Good luck!” he said, as he began to spread the rumor around the mountain to other strangers, which lead to him, his wife, and a few other bystanders lurking in our general vicinity. We found a place to sit and for a moment, we just sat there and admired the view. Not just for it’s beauty, but for conquering the odyssey that it took to get there.
Then, Jack started talking. He kept it pretty short, and incredibly sweet, and he told me, earnestly, how right, and natural, and happy he felt with me. Then he took the ring out of his pocket and opened the box. The sun hit the antique diamonds and they seemed to light up. We both gasped. It was even more beautiful than we thought. When he asked, I of course said yes. He slid the ring on my left hand. It felt strange there at first, a bit foreign, but very special. Holy, almost. And then, in the heat of the moment, Jack said to me, “Now, just let me embarrass you for a second.” He stood up, and shouted to everyone within earshot, “Excuse me, everyone! I’m sorry to bother you, but she said yes!” The people cheered. They gathered around to congratulate us, to hug us, and to take our pictures.
As soon as the pictures were taken, Annie whispered to me, “Let’s go somewhere else.” She led me to a more secluded part of the mountain and sat me down on a rock. I nearly forgot that this would happen. She pulled out her phone and read me the most beautifully written speech I’ve ever heard. Before I could tear up, she reached into her purse and pulled out a box, opened it up to show me a beautiful silver watch, and asked me to marry her. To say that it was magical would be a complete understatement. To anyone who’s ever been proposed to, I get it. I get why this is such a glorious moment. To everyone else, I highly suggest that you give it a shot. Not just from a gender equity perspective, but simply put, it was the coolest/most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m so glad that Annie gave me an experience that I never knew I wanted until that very moment.
So there you have it. Our proposal. While at times uncomfortable, at times unexpected, and at times a little sweaty, it had all the makings of a great adventure. A harebrained plan, a master feat of physicality, a crisis of conscience, a smattering of female empowerment, and of course, a great love. While it certainly wasn’t perfect, it was perfect for us, and the perfect start to the adventure we’ll live for the rest of our lives together. If we could do it again, we wouldn’t change a thing.
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Annie & Jack
Love. Marriage. Teamwork. Art. Offsetting the patriarchal footprint. These are some of the things we're thinking about.