Second, let me tell you a story.
I've spent six Christmases now with David. Our first year together, he gave me a jewelry box to hold the ever-growing selection of necklaces he was in the habit of giving me. I'd never been much for jewelry before, but he always knew my tastes perfectly. The next year, he gave me a Nightmare Before Christmas purse. I'd never cared for purses before, either, but this one was special, and I've carried it with me every day since. It's showing some signs of wear now from the constant beating it takes. I've used it to carry my netbook and filled it to bursting with books to ensure I'd never be caught somewhere without something to read.
The next year, our third Christmas together, he gave me a ring -- a lovely vintage piece with a cluster of tiny emeralds. I wasn't quite sure what it meant. It made me uneasy, the not-knowing, so I asked him outright, and he told me: "This ring is a promise that, sometime, when the time is right, I'll be giving you a different ring, for the other hand."
|We used to call it "a lovely holding pattern."|
Three years later, he made good on his promise.
I'm not a big fan of surprises. If you threw me a surprise party, I'd be just as likely to punch you as to be happy. It's partially my anxiety disorder, and partially just my personality. So we've been chatting about weddings, on and off, for the better part of three years. "What do you think of a Spring wedding?" "Do you think this dress would look good on me?" "Just so you know, I don't want a diamond ring."
The more I thought about it, the more excited I became and the more insistent my nagging started to become. Because, you see, that's the other side of that pesky OCD: The obsessions. Once I get excited about something, it consumes me, and I can think of little else.
But David's a bit more pragmatic. Sure, he's impulsive about the little things. He's the sort of person who you can send to the store for a gallon of milk and he'll return with a five-gallon tub of Red Vines instead. But for big things, he's the king of caution, and together we make up one of the most risk-averse duos I know.
So it took a lot of poking and prodding and doe-eyes as I leafed through Etsy, showing him every ring I liked, before I convinced him we should buy one.
"I don't know if we're ready," he'd say. "I'm not where I want to be in life. I want an education, or a career, some security."
"Life is a work in progress!" I'd prod. "We're already committed to each other! Love is a product of creativity and work. It's not something you achieve, it's something you do."
Finally, I whittled him down and together we chose a ring.
"I'm not sure," he said, dubiously. "Is that really what you want?"
The ring I picked out was the cheapest on my list, but it was also my favorite. I loved everything about it. It was hand-made from pounded copper. The solitaire was peridot -- my favorite gem stone, a shade of green that matches both my eyes and my beloved Kia Soul. I had been adamant that I never wanted a diamond. Even those that are synthetic or ethically sourced have never appealed to me. They're boring. I wanted something with personality.
And the copper, too, was an unorthodox but appealing choice. Copper isn't just a precious metal; it's also useful. It has healing properties, and it's nutritionally necessary. This wasn't a ring made from status and vanity, it was a symbol -- a symbol of everything I care about, every value I hold dear. That it was inexpensive actually made it more valuable to me.
So we bought the ring. It arrived within days, and he eagerly snatched the box (which, as a nice touch, was also green) away before I could take a peek. "I'll give this to you when I'm ready," he said, so I waited, occasionally casting longing glances at it.
It had been sitting there for months before last night. Finally, we'd gotten hold of some gift certificates to a nice Japanese restaurant in town, and he glanced at me furtively. "Think I should bring that box with me?"
"Only if you want to."
We went to dinner. The meal was free, thanks to the gift certificates, which allowed us to tip generously -- $20 each to the server and the teppanyaki chef.
Afterward, we drove out to Old Mesilla, the historic center of our town. It was lit up with Christmas lights and luminarias (paper bags weighted with sand and glowing with lit candles -- a New Mexico tradition). We went to the fanciest restaurant in town and chose a table in their cozy room, which was similarly bedecked with Christmas cheer. We ordered some drinks -- hot cider spiked with berenjager, possibly my favorite thing on this planet -- and a cherries jubilee, prepared tableside. Watching the sparks crackle from the cinnamon was oddly magical in the dim room, filled as it was with mirrors and garlands.
After eating, we tipped our waitress (also generously) and headed outside. It was cold, but not so cold; the berenjager helped with that. Hand-in-hand, we made our way to the giant Christmas tree in the center square. The tree was decorated with pie-plates, each unique and covered in glitter designs, clearly the product of children in the city. The lights glowed and twinkled, and they and the candles of the luminarias were the only illumination; even the moon was hiding.
"You're the love of my life," David said, taking my hands. I knew what was coming, but my heart was still thudding away in my throat. He hesitated. "I'm not very good at speeches," he admitted, sheepishly, and I laughed and kissed him. We kissed a few more times there, in the shadow of that mammoth tree.
"Some decisions aren't the right ones," he continued, when we surfaced for air. "Like spending money from a check that you know is probably a scam." We paused for more sheepish laughter. "But some decisions you know are right. And this is one of them. Will you marry me?"
He slipped the ring on my finger and we held each other in the darkness and the world could have spun out of its orbit and I wouldn't have even noticed.
Merry Christmas to you all. Hold your loved ones tight tonight, and always. There's magic in love -- old, deep, powerful magic. And that magic is the only thing that can keep the darkness of the long, cold nights at bay.