I love Christmas. I love the lights, the music, the smells…everything. Half of my attic is dedicated to housing my Christmas decorations and as soon as Thanksgiving has come and gone, I drag them all out…switch on my Pandora Christmas station and get to work putting garland on every available surface. Josh, my sweet sweet guy, is somewhat apathetic about this stuff. For the past two years, as December rolled around and my excitement hit a unhealthy peak, I would bombard him with ideas of things we could do together. Let’s go to the Christmas parade! Let’s go do a tacky light tour! Let’s make Christmas cookies and drink hot chocolate and have a movie marathon. First up, “A Smoky Mountain Christmas.” Because who doesn’t love a heart-warming story about a country singer (Dolly Parton) and a sexy mountain man rescuing seven runaway orphans from a sheriff and a witch?
Josh, bless his heart, grumbles good-naturedly about wanting a Festivus Pole installed in his man cave (any Seinfeld fans out there?).
This year, the day after Thanksgiving, I started bugging him about Christmas stuff. “One,” he said….”pick one.” I gasped. ONE?? How could I choose?? Now, let’s be honest, this guy loves me and if I REALLY REALLY wanted to do more than one thing he would grudgingly go with me. Torn by indecision, I couldn’t choose. So, knowing Josh’s less than enthusiastic feelings about Christmas activities, you can imagine my surprise when he casually threw out these words while we were laying on the couch watching television. “Hey, so I want to take you to Lewis Ginter to go see the Christmas lights on Tuesday if that’s ok.” If that’s ok!? Of COURSE it’s ok you weirdo. Each year, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens does the most incredible light display. Listen to me people! They have an entire ROOM dedicated to the cutest model trains chugging under bridges and past tiny trees. They have the most enormous and dazzlingly decorated trees that are dripping with elaborately themed ornaments. They have waterfalls of lights, a tree house that gives you a birds-eye view of the entire grounds, and a cozy fire-pit where you can roast marshmallows and drink hot chocolate. Sooooo basically the most magical place ever. Fun fact, the land was once owned by a guy you may have heard of…Mr. Patrick Henry…no big deal…It was also happens to be the spot where we had our third date so I feel extra sentimental about it.
The next day I happened to look at my calendar and noticed that the day Josh had picked for our date was December 15th, our two year anniversary. And then…I started getting nervous, and excited and anxious. TWO YEARS. I couldn’t believe how fast they had gone. We had talked, casually, about getting married some time in the future, but I didn’t want to put any pressure on it and freak him out. But two years? That’s a big milestone…a big enough one to make me pause and wonder…is this it?
Apparently other people were wondering it too. My co-workers asked me constantly that week, do you think this is it? Do you think Josh is going to propose? “I don’t know. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I really hope so.” They were optimistic for me, keeping fingers crossed and sharing in my cautious excitement. Well, most of them were. I have one debby-downer co-worker who likes to crap all over everything I say. “Don’t get excited,” she’d warn grumpily. “It’s probably not going to happen and you’ll just be disappointed.” Ouch. Thanks a lot pumpkin. Appreciate the vote of confidence.
I started to talk myself out of it so that I wouldn’t ruin the date if he didn’t end up getting down on one knee. I felt so anxious, hyper-sensitive, hyper-aware of things. Like the fact that when one of his friends called him, he looked over at me on the couch next to him and said “I can’t talk about that right now.” “Is she right next to you?” I heard faintly on the other end. “Yup.” Josh replied quickly. The topic obviously changed to sports talk and other manly topics, but I sat there going hmmmmm. I also couldn’t get a hold of my family. Calls to my parents and sister went to voicemail. For someone who talks to her family members almost on a daily basis, this was bizarre. These were little things for sure, but my radar was going on full blast. Tuesday came, I was a bundle of nerves. I couldn’t concentrate at work…my kids kept asking me if I was ok. I will be after this night is over, I thought to myself. The day dragged, but finally it was time for our date. I tried to pick out a cute outfit, said a silent thank you to the universe that my nails were painted a festive red, and off we went. We got to the gardens, bought our tickets and started wandering through the pathways.
As we walked, Josh started pointed out different places. “That’s where I tried kissing you for the first time.” He told me, pointing to a little bench tucked into a curve of the path. “Oh yeah?” I grinned at him. “What happened?” “All these people kept walking by.” He told me. I laughed at him. It made sense to me. Josh is a pretty private person, he doesn’t like to bring a lot of attention to himself and isn’t a big fan of sharing personal moments with other people (especially strangers). We walked further along the path, admiring the light sculptures in the shape of zoo animals, the fountains with cascading lights spilling down the sides. He stopped me in the Japanese gardens and wrapped his arms around me. “This is the other spot I tried to kiss you.” And then he did. And my heart was beating a million miles an hour in my chest. I kissed him back and wondered if he could feel my heartbeat through my lips. Disclaimer: You have silly thoughts when you are nervous. I took a quick look around…no one was near us. His hand hovered near his pocket and he started telling me about how much he loved me. “THIS IS IT!” My insides yelled at me. “Calm down Julia! Be adorable so he won’t change his mind. FOCUS!” I scolded myself. I focused. I focused on the way his hand moved to his pocket, I focused on his mouth and the words “I love you so much Julia.” And then I focused on the sound of a rowdy group of people coming along the path behind us. And the way Josh’s hand stopped its progress, halted by the sound of people approaching. “Want to go grab some hot chocolate?” He asked. AHHHHHH….No I do NOT want hot chocolate!!! I WANT TO SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE WITH YOU! “Sure,” I told him sweetly, “That sounds great!” (be adorable be adorable..come on Julia). So we wandered down the path toward hot chocolate and my heart rate started to come back to a normal level. I also started to reason with myself. It might not happen…I need to prep myself for it not happening. I don’t want to ruin a perfectly good evening by getting my hopes up and then getting pissed at my sweet boyfriend when he doesn’t propose. As we were walking, we took a detour to the Bloemendaal House.
One of my favorite spots on the property. I love Victorian homes and this one, surrounded on two sides by a impossibly romantic covered veranda, is so fun to explore. Josh knows I have a thing for houses so he took my hand and pulled me onto the porch to look in the windows. “Look at that.” He pointed through the window. “Look at that weird bird underneath that glass.” “Huh?” I peered closer through the window into the foyer of the house. There was a small table up against the wall and sitting on top of it was indeed a weird bird under display case. “What kind of bird do you think that is.” He asked from behind me. “I don’t know. Ummm…maybe a hawk?” I responded, all the while wondering why on earth he suddenly cared about some old stuffed bird. And then it hit me, he’s distracting me! Play it cool Julia…be COOL. And as I stood there, faking my interest in this stupid bird, I could feel him rustling around behind me. THIS IS IT! THIS IS THE MOMENT!
And then I heard the voices. An elderly couple wandered up the steps behind us and stopped…chatting softly about the history of the house. I could feel Josh pause and walk up next to me. “Wanna go get that hot chocolate now?” I sighed. “Sure. Let’s go.” So we got our hot chocolate and kept walking. And I let go…put myself in the moment and just enjoyed having my sweet man next to me holding my hand. Also, the hot chocolate was pretty damn amazing. We were making our final loop around the gardens when we noticed a little path that was roped off. “Wanna see where this goes?” Josh asked. “Ok!” We took a quick look around, hopped over the rope and wandered down a path lit by an old fashioned lamp post. As we moved away from the main path, the noise quieted and we found ourselves in a small clearing facing the most beautiful gazebo.
(This is a picture of it set up for an event during the day. It’s called the Flagler Garden, though it should really be renamed “Most Romantic Spot Ever.”)
It was lit by a solitary light that spilled down from the center and made the whole thing glow against the dark trees. Softly, beside me I heard Josh say. “It’s perfect.” “What’s perfect?” I asked turning to him. He smiled and took my hand, leading me into the center of the light. My breath caught in my throat as he got down on one knee and held out a ring. He told me how much he loved me, how I made him happy and how I let him be himself. He made me laugh when he very simply and sincerely told me “You’re my favorite.” And he made me cry when he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. And when he asked….well…you can probably guess what I said.
Actually…I’m pretty sure I shouted it at him.
The ring was perfect. PERFECT. And it fit. PERFECTLY. And maybe this was a sign, but the ring my ex got me never fit. It was so loose I was always afraid it would fall of. This one? Like it was made for me.
The icing on the cake of this perfect night was Josh telling me that our whole family was meeting up with us at one of our favorite restaurants to celebrate. Then I really cried. Like ugly cried probably. Family is so important to me and the fact that he would have thought to include all of our people in this amazing night, well…it made me love him even more. I didn’t know that was possible.
Later that night, as I sat at the restaurant looking around me, at my sister laughing at something Josh’s brother said…at Josh’s mom passing a huge bowl of pasta around the table…at the champagne bubbling in my glass…at the ring sparkling on my finger…I felt a kind of happiness I don’t think I have ever experienced before. It is an incredible thing to me. The idea that you can look at someone and say “Out of all of the people that exist in this world, I choose you for the rest of my days.” What’s even more incredible to me, is that I get Josh…and he gets me…for all of the days we have left together.
I don’t think it get’s any better than that. ❤