Almost a year ago, I posted a poem I’d written as a teenager, and mentioned that my proposal had come in a carwash. I promised the story. And about once a week since I made the promise, I’ve thought about what I would post, but it has taken me 48 weeks to actually get back here. 48 weeks in our sixth year of marriage, with life coming out honest and so much more there than “we’re engaged!”
There always was a little more there for Pete and me than, “we’re engaged” and “we’re getting married.” There was always more because I went into our relationship with a broken heart that needed a safe place for healing.
Seven months after we met, I knew I wasn’t probably going to be able to live without Pete, but my heart was nowhere near ready to allow my growing feelings. A month later, however, I admitted it for him because he’d been in love with me for months, and he needed to know the truth that something had changed for me.
Some of my best memories of our romantic relationship came from those early dating days, two friends figuring out what romance looks like, and trying to justify it to a world that was pulling us in a hundred different directions. I’d tease him about proposing, just to pick on him about it. He’d tease me right back. But I wasn’t honestly ready for a proposal. And I didn’t expect a proposal anytime soon. And I DEFINITELY didn’t expect him to do what he did.
On President’s Day weekend, 2005, Pete dropped a VERY surprise proposal on me. We had just returned from a trip to his parents’, driving through February snows from New England to Virginia, and the car was a MESS. And my sister, who was living with me at the time, really wanted us to pick up some ice cream for her. So at 8:30 Monday night, we went out for Cold Stone Sweet Cream ice cream and a car wash.
And Pete decided just after the undercarriage wash and just before the presoak that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. If I’ve learned anything about guys and proposals through seeing so many online lately, it’s that they don’t waste time beating around the bush once they’ve made up their minds. So just as the soap started flying, he tossed his romantic ideals into the spray and looked at me.
“Will you marry me?”
He asked with a look that made me realize that he wasn’t actually joking this time. I collapsed into giggles. “You’re not actually proposing?”
“You’re not joking?”
He tried to absolve himself from his first flustered ask with, “Will you do me the great honor of giving…”
I lost the rest of his sentence as I went off into another round of laughter, not sure if I should dignify his question with a yes or just laugh all the way home. I wasn’t ready to say yes yet. I couldn’t picture myself saying “yes, yes, yes!” the way girls do when their guy proposes to them. I wanted to marry him, though. I didn’t have any questions about that, and I couldn’t see hurting him with a “no” when I wanted to be with him.
Finally, I managed a, “Well, there is a huge part of me that is just… Like DUH!!!”
And THEN he thought of the ring. That He. Didn’t. Have.
So he didn’t get a yes, and I didn’t get a ring. And we got married anyway, seven months later. And that carwash proposal has grown into one of my very favorite memories of us.
It has taken me nearly six years to uncover my heart from its breaking, to tear down defensive walls I didn’t even know I’d built, to find myself again in a soft, young place where love begins and curiosity finds its home in the real. Pete and I are living here in this real, waking new to one another on the other side of many hurts, and we’re talking about another wedding. He’s waiting his proposal this time, waiting until he knows I’m ready, building a real life romance on this side of “I do.”
He’s given me a gift, the gift of time we couldn’t have bought six years ago, time to learn what love and romance are to me, time to discover who I am, who we are, and what we’d do for a wedding that we didn’t have to have. We may be at ten years before I can live this without feeling like I have to justify it, but if you have to have a ten year plan to live into, this one is the one I want.
And to tell you the truth, lately, proposals have been making my heart leap, and I’ve started wondering how I would react if Pete proposes again. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to anticipate a proposal, wondered how a girl feels waiting. And now I get real life butterflies thinking about him, thinking about the rest of our lives together.
There’s this crazy longing welling up in me, a hope for him, a hope for us, and a deep-down solid joy in the knowing that there has been healing, that this is part of my healing, and I am more free to love him now than I have ever been.