It’s been just over a year since Evan popped the question and I cant help but reflect back on our relationship and that day. We met just over 7 years ago when a friend of mine (we’ll call her Carrie) asked if I would come to a church youth group because she liked one of the fellas there. I really wasn’t at all interested but after a while my friend wore me down and it wasn’t long before I was working as an intermediary between her and her rather un-interested crush.
As it turns out, Carrie’s fella just so happened to be Evan’s best friend. Carrie liked Evan’s friend Jeff and it wasn’t long until Carrie figured out that Evan had a crush on me but unfortunately for Evan and Carrie neither Jeff or I were all that interested. I would go to the group’s meetings because Carrie asked me to and Carrie went to see Jeff who would only go if Evan showed up. Months passed and before long the group was preparing to go on their big summer hiking trip to Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania. The four of us promised we’d go on the trip but at the last-minute Jeff decided not to come. Carrie was crushed but I think at the end of the day she was glad she came.
That trip was something I’ll never forget. After a long drive, our little group of roughly 10 hiked for hours surrounded by beautifully babbling brooks, flowers, trees and friends. The best parts of our hike were the many waterfalls we spotted along the trail. The biggest and most memorable is Gonaga, it’s huge and the sound of all that crashing water really is/was magnificent.
We created all kinds of crazy memories and had a great time. After the very long hike, our little mostly out-of-shape overly-ambitious and completely sore rag-tag group burst from the brush into the parking lot, scrambled back into our cars and rushed to find a spot for dinner. The area we were in was pretty secluded but we did manage to find just one little rundown but fantastically quaint little country-style restaurant The Rooster. We were completely ravenous by the time we pulled up to the unassuming little eatery but the food was fantastic and it hit the spot after the hike. During the whole trip, Ev barely spoke to me, which wasn’t all that unusual at the time (he was pretty quiet around me back then, I found out later he was just getting over a bad stomach bug so he really wasn’t feeling himself).
Shortly after that trip Evan and I started talking and while we technically weren’t an item yet, he insisted on taking me to dinner to give me a Christmas gift before I left town for the Christmas holiday. On what was our first date, he got me an adorable little precious moments figurine and after wracking my brains for what to give (I hadn’t known him all that well) I decided to go the artsy route and paint him a picture of us on our first trip together. As you can tell by the image below, I was (and totally still am) pretty limited in my painting abilities but I was pretty proud of my work (especially since I’d only begun work on it the night before our scheduled date). I didn’t paint us holding hands or anything partly because painting hands is way beyond my comfort zone but mostly because it represented the day we spent together and our relationship up to that point. We didn’t talk very much but really at the foot of a massive waterfall, what is there to say?
Fast forward through 3 proms, 2 high school graduations, three different colleges, months apart, and 1 college graduation and our lives were very different from back when we saw Gonaga that first time. We’d grown so much as individuals and as a couple, but our experiences had only served to make us stronger.
Just before I’d left for a semester in Washington D.C. Evan and I had casually talked about possibly getting engaged in the near future we even looked at some different rings and came up with a style we liked that was unique to ourselves and our relationship (rose gold because its my favorite-silver is overrated, some embellishment along the band because Evan liked some extra pizzazz and we both agreed that we wanted a ruby as the center stone because diamonds are overdone and definitely aren’t this gal’s best friend. We both love red and didn’t want to be at all conventional in our selection for a ring or in our future).
I realize that it may seem like we over thought that a bit but if you haven’t learned by now (or met us personally) – planning is what we do. We’re two type-A personalities who by some miracle don’t drive each other completely crazy with our separate and joint lists, stresses, and anxieties.
Well when I was away, he asked my parents and siblings for my hand (so old-fashioned but still adorable I heard the story about when he asked later and that was just fantastically hysterical and simultaneously touching). He shared his proposal plan with everyone and solicited Heather’s help with one of the most adorable pieces of the proposal.
I came back from D.C., graduated and was frantically searching for jobs while simultaneously finishing up applications for graduate school when he told me he wanted to take me up to Ricketts Glen State Park because I kept pestering him about doing something fun before I had to decide between school or a job offer. We were all set to go in two day’s time when Evan’s elder brother surprised everyone by buying a ring and proposing to his girlfriend-now-fiancé all in the same day. Later that next night his brother invited us to his birthday bash at a local beer garden and the whole time I was stressing because Evan and I were supposed to go on this long hike the next day and I knew we should have gotten to bed early for the long ride up to the waterfall park in the next state over.
In typical Ashley-fashion, I was completely wrapped up in planning for the future that I really didn’t enjoy the moment (although Evan definitely did). We ended up not going on the planned trip because well, it’d been a long night… I was relieved because I definitely wasn’t prepared for a full day of hiking. I hadn’t thought much of the trip but when everyone started asking why we hadn’t gone and when we planned on rescheduling I got somewhat suspicious. Why did anyone else care about my meticulous plans when they had never shown any interest before… I put off any thoughts of a proposal because Evan’s brother had just gotten engaged and I didn’t think that Evan would propose even if he’d maybe been planning it because if he did, it’d seem like we’d be copying them.
Eventually we did reschedule our trip to the trail and after a good rest, we got an early start on the beautiful day. We’d forgotten how long the ride was (3 hours!) but we enjoyed it plus this time I was ready for the hike, I’d been working out with Heather for a while and felt totally ready for the beastly trail this time around. We got there, parked, ate our sandwiches and set off on the hike. I was breezing through the trail snapping pictures in my usual frenzy and poor Evan was wandering over to every single map to make sure we were on the fastest track to Gonaga. After a few hours we’d made it to the base of the waterfall and began the hike up the side of the waterfall we had last seen 6 years before. We finally made it to a little ledge close to the mouth of the falls overlooking a huge drop when we opted to take a little break.
We had to wait for a few people to leave before I could get the shot I wanted but after they left I started snapping and Evan offered to take my picture while insisting I stand on some far away perilously high, narrow, and slippery ledge. I should have known then something was amiss because Evan’s never been one for photography or capturing the perfect image so his sudden interest -and the far away spot he wanted me to pose in (knowing full well I do not enjoy being photographed)- should have been a huge red flag. I shimmied up to where he wanted me to stand -yelling about how he was going to kill me by asking me to stand there and reminding him that if I fell to my death it would all be his fault. When I’d finally turned around he was on one knee, holding up what I thought was his camera so at first what was happening didn’t really register. I looked past him and saw what seemed to be a paper or book propped up against a rock, I looked a little harder and recognized the painting I’d made for him all those years ago but something was different…
Holy cannoli, the people in the painting! in the painting he was proposing to me!
It all happened so fast when the little ring box in his hand registered in my brain, I really did almost fall to my death trying to scramble back down from the ledge (all that and I never did get that picture) to my proposing bae. I barely remember what he said before I dropped down on my knees (bizarre first reaction I know) and cut off his rehearsed speech with a kiss and a blubbering yes. It was perfect, no one was there but my best friend, the man that mattered most to me and he’d put so much thought and planning into the whole moment. He knew me well enough to know I would have hated a big show in front of a crowd and the painting – what a perfect touch! The ring was (and still is) absolutely breathtaking and exactly what we’d both wanted it to be. After walking (running, skipping and jumping) down the cliff side we headed back to the car and would you believe that we ate at the Red Rooster Restaurant on the way home!
The day may not have been exactly what (or when) he’d planned but I couldn’t be happier. In life things don’t always work out the way we want them to and there is no way to plan for the detours in life (much to my intense frustration) but everything seems to work out eventually. Wedding planning is stressful as anything – especially because the day itself demands that I share the occasion with lots of people as the event’s main attraction (a truly frightening thought for someone who prefers to stand quietly on the fringes of crowds and large gatherings). The day itself causes plenty of anxiety (thankfully Ev has been supper involved throughout the whole process) but I know as long as I’ve got him to stand by my side, the wedding day will happen, it’ll be beautiful, and it won’t be long until we can finally get to the happily-ever-after of every day life together that we’ve been dreaming about. Who knows, maybe someday years down the road Evan and I will bring our kids to that spot on the ledge to mark the next stage of our lives bringing it all back to where our story began. I’m excited to see where life takes us, detours and all!