Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Proposal Story Part III

The time as come for the third and final installment of the proposal story!

I managed to keep my big plans pretty much under wrap, and Andrea just thought we were going to visit Belgium for a few days before I had to go to work. We arrived in Brugge late in the evening, and I instantly realized that this was the perfect place. We stayed at the Die Swaene hotel in a cozy room on the quiet canal.

In the morning, Andrea and I strolled across the 11th Century bridge that connected our room with the hotel’s main building. The morning air in Brugge was beautiful! There were locals out for a morning walk, and folks on their bikes zipping all around town. It was at the cozy European garden breakfast that my proposal plans almost came crashing down!

I got up for some toast and cheese, and when I was walking back to the table, Andrea noticed a large bulge in my pocket (the ring!!). She asked, “What’s that in your pocket? Your cell phone?”

I immediately glanced down at the table and saw my phone sitting there in plain sight. Her eyes followed mine and she said, “Oh, no! The phone is on the table. That’s the camera. Here, let me put it in my purse!”

I looked at her smiling face and outstretched hand, down at the phone on the table, and then down at the camera sitting on the floor beside my chair, which was thankfully hidden from her sight. “No thanks, Sweetie. I don’t mind.” I responded, and sat down as fast as possible.

After our lovely breakfast, we decided to stroll down the road along the canal through town. What was to Andrea a casual stroll through the old Brugge streets was to me a quest to Minnewater Park and the Lake of Love. Not wanting to arouse suspicion, I allowed our walk to meander through the cobblestone streets for a while, as we took in the old-world sights. On our way, we were tempted by the tasty aroma of Belgian chocolate, and stopped in a few shops to look at local handicrafts and art.

As we walked around the picturesque town, I couldn’t help but be distracted by what I knew was coming. I always kept one hand in my pocket, clutching the ring box tightly. Over and over, I replayed in my head what I would say to Andrea at that special moment.

We walked down past the Begijnhof Nunnery where I wooshed us onward closer to Minnewater Park. Around a few more corners, we were upon the Lake of Love. I could feel the butterflies in my stomach, but tried to act as naturally as possible as I searched for the perfect spot to propose.

As we walked up along the lake, I saw the spot. It was just across the lake, under some old trees. By this point, I was getting pretty excited and pretty nervous. Andrea and I sat on a bench alongside the lake for a bit while I waited for a group of people to clear from the bridge (and tried to calm myself down a bit). I just kept thinking to myself how much I love Andrea and how excited I was to spend forever with her! We sat together on that bench for a while, until the crowd cleared, then we meandered across the bridge, pausing in the middle for a moment to admire.

“Sweetie,” I said, “this is called the Lake of Love.”

Andrea smiled and gave me a little kiss, thanking me for the sweet gesture of taking her to a romantically named spot! We looked out at the calm water and onto the old houses along the shore. In the background, the rooftops of Brugge pushed up toward the tall steeple of the Church of Our Lady.

We walked the rest of the way across the bridge, and I led us down a narrow stone path through the trees to a small clearing right beside the lake. As we sat down on the bench under the peaceful trees, I realized that this was it! I was here! All of my plans were about to unfold for Andrea. We chatted as we watched the swans on the lake, and enjoyed midday air. I can’t remember what we talked about at all, in fact I am surprised that I made any sense at all to Andrea. All I could think about was how to find the right moment and what I would say.

I knew Andrea would say “Yes,” and that she loves me as much as I love her, but I still couldn’t help being more nervous than I think I have ever been in my life. I had one hand tightly clutching the box in my pocket and the other on Andrea’s shoulder, probably rubbing it like a nervous twitch.

At one point, I told Andrea how much I loved traveling with her, and how much I was looking forward to our future travel. Andrea responded something to the effect of “yeah, I am really looking forward to seeing the Middle East as well!” Ready to seize the moment, I said, “No Sweetie, I mean that I am looking forward to traveling with you for the rest of our lives.”

Just as I said that, however, I realized that we were both still sitting on the bench. I had planned to propose on bended knee! “ABORT!” I thought….. Luckily, Andrea didn’t catch on.

“Me too!” she smiled, and leaned in for a kiss.

A few minutes later, she suggested we keep walking, and maybe find a café for lunch. We stood up together, and I realized that this really was it. As she turned around to get her purse, I heard the old church bell tower start to toll noon. I pulled out the ring box, and dropped to one knee. As Andrea turned back around, I took her hand and tried my best to give the speech I had planned in my head. Unfortunately, the excitement and nerves overwhelmed me, and my eloquent speech vanished!

“Andrea, I love you more than anything. Will you marry me?”

Silence. I looked up at Andrea smiling.

“I’m um, This was um, I’m so um? Wow! What? I mean um,” she stammered in utter surprise!

I stood up, still holding the ring and her hand with my two hands, and suggested we have a seat. We sat back onto the bench, and after a few seconds, I asked, “So is that a yes?”

“Yes! Of course!” she said. I looked into Andrea’s beautiful face and saw best smile I’ve ever seen! When those words hit my ears, and that smile hit my face, it was like my nerves were instantly calmed. I could feel the excitement throughout my whole body as I wrapped my arm around her and kissed my new fiancée.

We sat on the bench for a few minutes while Andrea tried to grasp for words, which as I recall had still largely evaded her. She stammered through partial sentences for a bit longer until I once again held up the ring box to her, and asked “So do you want the ring?”

Now, for the final moment of truth: Would the ring fit? I took the sparkling 3-stone diamond and platinum ring from its little box, and slipped it onto her left hand. I looked into Andrea’s eyes, and at the same time did my best to hold tears back in mine. That was the happiest moment of my life!