Mike finally called Beth and asked her out for a drink — not a date, mind you — in mid May. We talked for hours and planned to have our first date that weekend. Mike quickly planned a big first date for that weekend, including a concert at the Kennedy Center then dinner on the Georgetown Waterfront. But we both couldn’t wait, so our first date was an impromptu dinner and a movie on Friday night. We still went on that grand date on Saturday, but it doesn’t count as the “first.”
The following weekend just happened to be Beth’s mom’s birthday celebration in Washington. So on day seven of our relationship, Mike met Beth’s parents and brother. On day eight, Mike had lunch with one whole side of Beth’s extended family. Mike didn’t realize it was lunch with the whole extended family until he walked up to the table. Surprise! For reasons unknown, he stuck around.
We spent July 4th with Beth’s folks in Cleveland, Ohio, where Mike met more of Beth’s family and friends. Driving back from Cleveland to DC at the end of that weekend turned into a major test of the relationship: what should have been a six-hour drive took twelve hours because of traffic. When we survived that adventure, Mike’s parents knew this was serious and that they needed to come up and meet Beth.
We had a great time when Mike’s parents came to visit later in the summer — we even had dinner with Speaker of the House John Boehner! (Well, he was there at the same time as us, so we’re counting it.) After enjoying the weekend together, Beth was invited to spend Christmas in Atlanta with Mike’s extended family.
In the fall of 2013 Mike helped Beth move for the first (but not last!) time, and managed to fit all of her and Courtney’s belongings into his Jeep. We spent the fall camping, watching movies on Friday nights, and growing deeper in our relationship with each other. By the time the holidays rolled around, we were ready for the 10-hour drive to Atlanta — with Dixie in the backseat.
Christmas was Beth’s first chance to meet Mike’s extended family. She got to share in the traditions of Cousins-Grandparents Breakfast with the Owens family and the Nochebuena Cuban Christmas Eve festivities with the Riveros. She even got an Atlanta Braves hat for Christmas, though she’ll never be seen wearing it.
Following a busy spring, Mike began thinking more seriously about asking Beth to marry him…
Mike: After much thought and prayer, and a few of those “what if at some point in the indeterminate future…” conversations with Beth, I decided to start shopping for a ring. In the preceding weeks, I had managed to surreptitiously determine Beth’s ring size and tastes. (Many thanks to the Gang Girls for getting in a conversation about engagement rings over Easter.) My friend Matt connected me with his “ring guy” and sent me to go talk with him. The jeweler, also named Mike, is a fun guy of strong faith who believes in helping a couple on their path to marriage rather than just selling a ring. He worked with me over a few weeks to narrow down what I wanted and find a few beautiful rings to pick from. When I finally selected the ring, Mike said he’d had a feeling that I would end up with that ring. He said that ring was a good sign. Not only was the diamond the most beautiful one we had seen, but — unbeknownst to me — the band was already exactly the size I’d been looking for. We didn’t need to resize it or anything.
Ring in hand, I began to plan the when and how of the proposal. I picked a Saturday a couple weeks later and started casually suggesting to Beth that we “get out of DC for the day to relax.”
The weekend before the proposal, we were in Ohio for the wedding of one of Beth’s good friends Bailey. Beth was a bridesmaid, and Beth’s parents came out to the wedding as well. With Beth tied up all weekend in bridesmaid duties, I met up with her parents on Friday evening. I got to ask them in person for their blessing to propose to Beth. They graciously and happily welcomed me. We talked about life and family and marriage until late in the night. So late in fact that we had to come up with a “cover story” so Beth wouldn’t get suspicious.
Beth: As an indication of how clueless I was, reading this as we’re about to put it up on the site is the first I’m hearing that the “we were talking global politics and got carried away” storyline was a cover. Well played, Padre.
Mike: Mrs. Thompson was also trying to coordinate something for Beth’s birthday at the end of the month, so over the course of the weekend we manage to convince Beth that we were merely scheming about her birthday and nothing else. Surprisingly, it worked.
The following Saturday, Beth and I drove out to the little town of St. Michaels, Maryland, which sits right on the Chesapeake Bay. During the drive, I even managed to convince Beth to shut off all phones and electronics and take a completely “unplugged” weekend. I’d never been to St. Michaels but had heard it was a cute, romantic bayside town. Knowing how much we both love water and small towns, I thought it would be a good place to propose. We spent the day wandering through little stores, art shops, and antique places. We ate lunch at the harbor. We checked out the local winery and distillery. We spent the day relaxing and unwinding. Or at least she did.
I had the diamond ring in my pocket the entire time. I was not relaxing. See, St. Michaels is situated so there are two public parking lots – one on either side of town. Once we had parked, I didn’t know if or when we’d be back to the car later that day. Therefore, I put the ring in my pocket so I wouldn’t have to force a reason to come back to the car mid-afternoon. Instead of relaxing, I was sticking my hand in my pocket every 30 seconds to make sure the ring was still there.
Beth: I blame the fact that I was having such a relaxing day for not noticing that Michael was, quite uncharacteristically, walking around with his hand in his pocket. Apparently I am quite easily distracted.
Mike: Late afternoon rolled around, and it was time for me to work toward the proposal. St. Michaels has a historic lighthouse that sits right out on the water. It is a beautiful setting but also tends to be pretty crowded. I knew Beth wouldn’t want crowds. So I timed things so we slipped into the lighthouse park right as it was about to close, expecting we’d have some quiet time without many people around. As we walk up to the lighthouse I realize my plans have been foiled. A wedding is set up in the lighthouse park and there are a couple hundred people hanging around! So much for that plan. I tried to hide my frustration. Probably failed.
Determined to find a spot on the water to propose to her, we “wander” our way around the rest of the park and that side of the bay. Then I “suggest” we go check out the far side of the bay and see if there are any waterside spaces over there where we can just “sit and unwind before dinner.” Trying and failing to remain casual, I marched Beth across town (a ten minute walk, mind you, it’s a very small town) to the other side of the bay, trying vainly to find someplace to sit on the water. No luck. I think Beth was starting to wonder why I was getting tense and short with her. And of course why my hand was constantly in my pocket.
Beth: Though I still wasn’t picking up on the pocket give-away, I was wondering why my sweet boyfriend was suddenly incapable of answering my questions with full sentences. I was getting 2-word, snarkier-than-usual answers on a beautiful afternoon and couldn’t quite figure out why…
I finally decide that the water isn’t going to happen, and resort to the backup-backup plan which is to sit in this small, quiet park in the middle of town. We sit down against a stone monument under a small grove of trees. As our conversation continues, I try to bend it toward our relationship and future together so that I can naturally flow into the proposal.
Attempt 1: In which our protagonist is about to propose only to have his love interest completely change the subject and go off on a tangent.
Beth: This is the only time in our relationship that I have done this, so no doubt he was very surprised.
Mike: She jests.
Attempt 2: A few minutes later, in which I again begin to propose only to have a loud group of people walk down the street behind us, ruining the scene.
Attempt 3: A few minutes after that, in which I again again begin to propose only to have a work truck begin backing out of the driveway behind us, beeping and crunching gravel, again ruining the scene. My frustration level is reaching an all time high.
Attempt 4: Finally, in quiet, with no interruptions, I ask Beth to spend the rest of her life with me, pulling the ring out of my pocket and offering it to her. She’s speechless, hugs me, helps me put the ring on her finger, and finally, after what seems like an eternity, actually says the word “yes!” As she does, a band strikes up in the distance (probably from the lighthouse wedding) and starts playing the song “My Girl.” All in all, it was perfect.
Beth: I can’t argue at all with that last statement, it was perfect! The whole day was a wonderful demonstration of how well Michael knows me, down to the adorable French restaurant where we had dinner reservations that evening. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he announced to the waiter that he wanted two glasses of champagne to share with his brand-new-five-minutes-ago fiancee! Our engagement had a wonderful beginning, and we’re looking forward to it’s happy ending as we celebrate our marriage with all of you!