Valentine’s Day is next Tuesday. (For those who may have forgotten, you’re welcome, and you can pay me later.) My daughter and I were brainstorming possible column ideas, and I said “Sarah, maybe I can use the space as a cyber love letter to your dad!”
“No, Mom," she said, ". It’s been done.”
In my family I have a well-deserved reputation for retelling stories, so I will not be repeating last year’s column. Desperate for new material, and with less than twenty-four hours to submit a rough draft to my editor, I wasn’t exactly “feeling the love.” I began hitting up friends and random strangers for romantic tales of how they met their sweetheart or how they proposed.
Cesar, who pours my morning coffee at , told me he met his beautiful wife in JC Penney’s. My coffee buddy, Wayne, met his in a bar. (I started thinking that perhaps I wasn’t cut out for journalism. So far, my leads weren’t panning out. A department store? A bar? Not the most romantic of settings.)
Then Wayne said that the first time he looked into Cindy’s beautiful eyes, he felt he had found safe haven – a sense of total calm. (“Ok”, I thought. “That’s better!”) He followed that up with a story about someone he knew who climbed atop a ladder, reached high above his head into the crisp night air, pretended to catch something in his outstretched hand, and then climbed back down again. The fellow walked over to his true love, a woman who loved constellations, and handed her a box with a diamond ring, saying, “I pulled this star from the sky just for you.”
Wayne’s next story was about a couple that met reaching for the same chocolate Entenmann’s donut. (Aside: Did you know that Microsoft Word has “Entenmann’s” in its spellchecker? Whodathunkit?) Anyway, the donut fell in pieces as they struggled for possession. For them, it was a bonding moment. Their wedding cake was a tower of Entenmann’s donuts, held together with whipped cream. If only the company had known, perhaps they would have funded the honeymoon. You can’t buy that kind of PR.
Pulled into our conversation, the woman sharing my window table said she was a single mother when her husband proposed. He asked her young son for his permission, and then had the 12-year-old boy give his mother the ring. (Good man, and smart as well. My children beat a path straight to my heart, each and every time.)
My favorite proposal story was one I witnessed firsthand years ago in Terminal 2 of the Oakland Airport. It must have been once upon a time, long, long ago, because it was back in the day you could go all the way out to the gates to greet disembarking passengers. My husband, Si, and I were at the end of the concourse, waiting for my sister to come off a Southwest flight from Washington.
Two lovely young women stood nearby, waiting for another passenger. The first passenger through the gate held a long stemmed red rose. He walked up to one of the two women and said, “Are you Angie?” Angie smiled widely and nodded. The stranger handed her the rose and continued toward baggage claim.
I thought, “Well, that’s odd…” Then I noticed the next few passengers all had roses and headed toward the same young woman. One after the other, people handed her roses until she held almost two-dozen in her arms.
Soon the young woman and her companion started shaking, giggling and crying all at the same time. My sister emerged from the gate with a rose. She handed it to Angie, then walked over to greet us and whispered, “Her boyfriend asked a stewardess to help him propose. People were fighting over the roses! We have to hang out and watch.”
Was she kidding? At that point, the most aggressive uniformed TSA agent on the planet couldn’t have convinced me to move my firmly planted feet.
Eternity came and went, as we stood by the gate expectantly in a gathering crowd. Finally the boyfriend came through the gate, got down on one knee on the gray worn carpet and asked Angie to marry him. Wet-faced and speechless, she nodded vigorously and fell into his outstretched arms. Terminal 2, now standing room only, erupted in deafening cheers. And let me tell you, Angie wasn’t the only one crying.
Hands down, that’s my favorite romantic proposal story, and I was there. It’s first person material. I remind Si of that story now and then when I want to encourage him to be romantic, and he replies, “Yeah, but it’s been done…”
After over thirty years of marriage, he still does a good job making me feel cherished. Just the other day when I picked up our office mail at the UPS Store in Marina Village, I found a heart-shaped Pez dispenser on top of the stack of bills in our mailbox. The clerks behind the counter stopped sorting mail to watch my reaction.
A small bouquet of mums and carnations from 7-Eleven sits beside my computer monitor as I type. (Not exactly two dozen roses from complete strangers at the Oakland Airport, but pretty sweet and thoughtful nonetheless. Si could definitely start a second career teaching husbands how to treat their wives.)
I like to picture the two of us, thirty or so years from now, strolling hand in weathered hand along Shoreline Drive as the sun drops down on the other side of the Bay.
Happy Valentine’s Day!