It's February. It's time to talk about love. I have so many romantic stories to share it's a little gross - I pre-apologize.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I had a fairly long courtship prior to our engagement. I know, some people date for a lot longer than we did, but compared to many of our friends, we took our time. I am grateful that Steve gave me the time and space to grow up. I was 19 when when our relationship began and lived with my parents. In the 3 1/2 years we dated, I got my 1st apartment, bought a VW Beetle, climbed the corporate ladder (so to speak), bought my first home, and grew as an independent woman. I wouldn't change those years for anything.
On the Saturday before Valentine's Day, I went to a friend's baby shower in the morning. I was all dressed up for my date with Steve which was to take place in the afternoon. I remember a friend (Deb) asking where he was taking me to which I simply replied, "I don't know, it's a surprise." Deb proceeded to inquire if I thought he was going to 'pop the question'. "No way, I don't think so." was my approximate response.
So Steve picked me up at my condo mid-afternoon. I had been wanting to see Le Miserable which was playing at the Ordway Theater in St. Paul. Steve said he had tried to get tickets for Valentines Day but they were sold out. At that moment, he was being truthful, and I believed him.
As we approached Downtown St. Paul, I just knew he was taking me to see the play. I inquired, and eventually he confessed that a coworker had pulled some strings for him. Whoohoo! Our seats were great. We were so close, I could see the spit coming from the performers mouths but was far enough away not to get sprayed - perfect.
After the theater, Steve asked me where I'd like to go for dinner. I wasn't very hungry and thought just someplace where I could get a salad would be nice. We decided on a restaurant, but Steve kept driving in the opposite direction. I finally asked and he said he wanted to stop by his parents house to grab something first. I just went along with it.
Steve and I hold hands in the car. Pretty much always have. I love his hands. They're usually warm and dry and perfect for my hand to reside in. This day, I noticed his hand was cold and bit clammy.
We pulled into the driveway and Steve said something like,"Hey, remember I was telling you about a project I was working on in the backyard? (Note: this is the dead of Minnesota Winter) I want to show you what I've been doing, is that cool?"
"Uh...ok." (Good thing I was wearing boots or he might have gotten a different answer).
As we approached the backyard, I saw a little spot cleared out in the far corner with a pretty bench and...(getting closer)...a big stone...(getting closer)...cedar chips...(closer)...rose pedals...
This is where I start freaking out just a little. "What IS this? Steve, what IS this? What IS this, Steve?" If he responded, I didn't hear him.
He walked me over to the big stone where I read this inscription:
"This stone forever adorns the location where Steve Erickson asked Jill Melander, his true love and dearest friend, to become his wife" February 11, 2006
Followed by Matthew 7:25: "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock."
Before I knew it, I was sitting on the stone bench with Steve down on one knee in front of me. I was so nervous and embarrassed and genuinely surprised. He asked me to be his wife. As I leaned over to give my future husband a kiss and embrace, out of the corner of my eye I saw a little hand hanging out of the upstairs bedroom window. It was his niece Kara and what appeared to be the entire fam. Still hugging Steve, I give them all thumbs up and a "whoohoo!" When our giggles subsided, Steve presented me with a little black, velvet box. I beamed. He opened it....
"Where's my ring?" I asked softly.
"I think I know who has it. Let's go find it." He replied. We walked across the lawn to the 3-season porch. He turned the light on to reveal the room completely altered for the occasion. The furniture had been removed except the glass table had been moved to the center of the room. And in the corner, my stuffed cat, Snowball, who I've had since age 4, sat waiting for me on a tall, round table. In his paws was a card addressed to me that read "Can we please be a family now?" And there was my gorgeous ring.
This is where I start crying. I am pretty much crying right now, remembering this moment. For Steve to include Snowball meant more to me than I can express. I don't even entirely know why that is.
Steve pulled me close, and we put the ring on my finger. Suddenly, I have this awkward feeling...
"Wait. Are you recording this?"
Sure enough. He had not one, but I believe several hidden video cameras recording this event. This new knowledge kept the ugly cry at bay and we moved to sit at our dinner-table-for-two. His mom is a fantastic cook and had prepared an amazing I-don't-know-how-many-course meal for us. Each meal was presented to us by some of the most important people in our lives: First, his mom and dad, then my mom and dad, then his sister and family, then Steve's best friend and his wife. Each toasted with us and spoke a unique blessing upon our future together.
Although the meal was amazing, the last thing I wanted to do was eat. So Steve and I cooed at each other for a bit and then went upstairs to join everyone else in the dining room. Many gifts and pictures later, we dismissed ourselves to be alone again. We made calls to those especially close to us, drove to Walmart to buy wedding magazines and discussed how we would announce it to the church in the morning.
I truly feel that this is the day my life began.