I haven't written anything new for a couple weeks now, but I've had a good excuse.
So, my girlfriend Aimee and I have been together for over 4 1/2 years now and have been talking about getting engaged for a while... but I've been waiting for just the right moment to pop the question.
A couple weeks ago, Aimee booked a flight for a trip home to San Diego for her grandfather's 80th birthday. Almost her whole family was going to be there (including an aunt from Switzerland and an uncle from Seattle)... unfortunately, I wasn't going to be able to make it because it was kind of last minute and it was a busy time for me at work. So it wasn't really feasible for me to go... which created the perfect conditions for the ultimate surprise (cue diabolical laughter).
I had been waiting for a chance to really surprise her (which is relatively hard to do when you live together. Unless you count that tupperware container lurking in the back of the fridge), so last week I bought a ticket to San Diego.
Almost immediately after, Southern California burst into flames.
I could have seen this as a bad sign... but I was determined. We had love on our side (if not Mother Nature).
Fortunately, we had been up in CT the weekend before so I got a chance to talk to my parents about proposing. They have been so supportive of the two of us and have been amazing parents (as you will see as you read a little further... if you can make it that far), so I wanted to talk to them in person before I really set the plan in motion.
That done, I immediately began scheming with Aimee's little sister. The plan was for her to get Aimee to the Botanical Garden at Balboa Park (a really pretty spot in San Diego and one of Aimee's favorite places) at 2:30pm on Saturday. I told the sister that it was a surprise, but didn't tell her that I was going to propose (this is the first of many exhausting layers of secrecy and deception).
I did, however, tell Aimee's parents about my intentions, and we planned a second surprise for Aimee. Her parents and other family members would gather at a Japanese Tea Garden at another part of the park, so after the proposal we would wander over there and (Surprise!) we would all get to celebrate together. (Though this would have been exceedingly awkward if Aimee had said "no"...)
Above: A schematic of the plan that I sent to Aimee's parents. Luckily for me, they did not veto the proposal after discovering the full extent of my dorkiness. Phewf. The plan reads like this:
Surprise 1: Botanical Garden
(#17 on Map)
2ish: Minh arrives and hides in the Botanical Garden building.
2-2:30: Minh tries not to throw up.
2:30ish: Aimee and sister arrive. Sister pretends to take a call and wanders off.
2:32ish: Minh resumes breathing.
Surprise 2: Japanese Tea Garden
(#28 on Map)
2:15-2:30ish: Family/Friends arrive (preferrably from south side of park).
2:45/3ish: Minh, Aimee and sister arrive for Surprise Part Deux. (unless Aimee says no, in which case, Minh arrives alone to order a very large beer... and buffalo wings, if they have them.)
3:00-on: Commence with Operation Happily Ever After.
So, Saturday morning, I hop on a plane at 6am and fly cross country, arriving in San Diego at noon. I'm heading out of the airport and am about to jump on the shuttle to go pick up my rental car... when who do I see standing there on the curb?
My mom and dad bought tickets the day before to come out lend their support and to surprise me (it's in the genes, I guess).
But that's not all...
My mom and I walk back into the airport to find my dad, who's still on the lookout for me inside... and who pops out from around the corner?
My little sister! Holy Crap! This family is crazy!
She had taken a last minute flight down from Oakland for the occasion. This is made all the more astounding by the fact that I had just gotten my ticket about a week ago... this family acts freakin' fast!
(Unfortunately, my older sister wasn't there because she was in NJ visiting family. But that did spare me a third surprise, which might have given me a heart attack... which would have made it slightly harder to propose.)
So we all hopped into the rental car and drove to the park. The four of us had an impromptu Vietnamese picnic in a remote part of the park (my mom wouldn't let her only son propose on an empty stomach!) and hoped that we wouldn't accidentally bump into Aimee or her family.
Around 1 o'clock, I head over to the botanical garden to set the trap and begin my wait. On the way there, Aimee calls. I had anticipated this. I tell her that it's crappy weather in DC (which it was) and that I was being lazy and watching tv on the couch (which I often do). I am apparently a spectacular liar and everything was going well until we were wrapping up and saying goodbye... and the clock tower in Balboa Park starts chiming. LOUDLY. Crap! I quickly say goodbye and try to cover up the sound of the bells. After I hang up, the paranoia starts creeping in.
"If Aimee heard the bell, then she would know that I'm not at home... and since she loves Balboa Park, maybe she'll recognize the bell and be able to figure out where I am! The plan is falling apart!"
(In retrospect, I realize now how unrealistic this was. My fears can be traced directly to that scene in The Fugitive, where Harrison Ford makes a phone call and Tommy Lee Jones recognizes the sound of an above-ground train in the background and is able to figure out that Ford is in Chicago. Luckily for me (on so many levels), Aimee is not Tommy Lee Jones, nor does she have a team of FBI agents with sophisticated surveillence equipment at her disposal).
So despite this (imaginary) setback, I proceed with the plan and go into the botanical garden. And wait. I'm there a good hour before they're supposed to arrive, so I have plenty of time. During this time, I have a stroke of genius and send Aimee a text message with a picture of our cat, Matisse. The picture was actually taken months ago and is one of the dozens of pictures of our cat that I have on my phone. (Yes, I am one of those people. I'm not proud of it.)
So I send her the picture of Matisse sleeping on the couch with the caption: "That kind of day..." to make sure she thinks that I'm still spending a lazy day in DC. Brilliant? I think so.
At 2:30, Aimee's sister sends me a text saying that they are in the park. The great thing about the Botanical Garden Building is that, because of the lighting, I could see outside but they couldn't see inside. So I watch as Aimee, her sister and dad come walking up to the building. They stop in front of the building, and Aimee's dad walks off to take their picture. I call the sister on her phone. She takes the call, pretending that it's her boyfriend. Aimee is suddenly alone. She turns around to take pictures of little kids and fish. I seize the moment, come out of the building, sneak up behind her, touch her arm, get down on one knee and ask her to marry me.
Her reaction went something like this:
"AHHHHHHH! [Shaking] Yes! [Still Shaking] What are you doing here?! [Shaking] Yes! AHHHHHH!!!!" [Shaking/Trembling/Tears continue for the next 10-15 minutes].
So she said yes! We are engaged!
We walk around the park a little bit, but don't see Ashley or her dad. I tell Aimee that we would rendezvous with Ashley at the Tea Garden afterwards. So we slowly make our way over there, and as we round the corner, Aimee sees her parents, her grandfather, sister, uncle, my parents, and my little sister all sitting at a cute little table in the shade. Now the real tears start flowing.
We spent the rest of the weekend in San Diego with our families, celebrating with family and friends. Aimee's family gets a TON of credit for 1) helping me scheme, 2) keeping a secret better than the CIA, and 3) for being such good sports and rolling with a weekend of Crazy Le Family Style Surprises.
And to top it all off? Sunday night we go out to dinner and the restaurant has "Lobster Truffle Mac 'N Cheese."
Life is good.