By ALEXI VENICE
I cherish the precious moments in life— my personal highlight reel that brings a smile to my face no matter where I am or what I’m doing. These moments don’t come along very often, maybe once per decade, but when they do, they remind me that life is to be celebrated.
My favorite moments are probably similar to yours: That time in high school when I won a music competition and performed a classical flute piece (yawn) to a bored audience. The day I bought my first car—a Mitsubishi Mirage. The day I sold my first car—that Mitsubishi Mirage. The day I proposed marriage to Bill (making him think it was his idea). The day I married Bill. The births of my two children, Bootie Pepper and Teddy. Watching my children play saxophone and piano, tennis and baseball, or receive an award. Celebrating their accomplishments and milestone birthdays. The day I realized that God is present, strong and protective, and there is a Heaven.
These events cascade through my mind as I write this post, excited beyond measure to share with you the latest SUPER BIG EVENT IN OUR LIVES.
Our joyous moment began the Friday after Thanksgiving and culminated on January 2nd. On that Friday, Bootie Pepper was at a social gathering, and Bill and I were eating dinner. We received a text from The Pitcher, Bootie’s boyfriend of six years. He asked if we were home, and, if so, whether he could stop by.
We said “yes,” and agreed on a time. I looked at Bill and asked, “Do you suppose?”
Bill said, “If he wants to talk to us alone, it could only be a few things.”
Not wanting to sound overeager, but my mind racing and adrenaline pumping, I said, “If it is what I think it is, keep in mind that The Pitcher will remember the first thing we say—and the looks on our faces—for the rest of his life, so no joking around!”
As I prepared for The Pitcher to arrive, I found myself growing increasingly nervous and emotional. (If you had asked me to give a spontaneous work presentation to 50 people in an auditorium, I would have been cooler with it.) Instead, the anticipation of sitting down with my daughter’s boyfriend for a serious talk—potentially about marriage—was making my tummy do somersaults.
The Pitcher arrived, and I poured a glass of wine for each of us. The three of us sat down at the kitchen table and made small talk; about what, I can’t remember. During the first lull in the conversation, The Pitcher said, “So, I’d like to ask [Bootie Pepper] to marry me, and I’m hoping for your blessing.” (Or, something like that. I can’t remember the precise words because I was so overcome. In fact, if we had made a video of that conversation, I’m pretty sure my eyes rolled back in my head.)
Once I regained consciousness, I lit up with happiness, and tears sprang to my eyes. Although I can’t be sure, I think I said, “That’s terrific. We’re so happy for you,” then my throat choked up. (I didn’t want to break down like a blubbering idiot, so I whispered to myself, “Engage your core. Engage your core,” which seems to work at the CrossFit box.)
Honest to God, I can’t remember what Bill said, but I remember that I wasn’t embarrassed, so it must have been okay. When The Pitcher came back into focus, he was smiling. In retrospect, I think he was calmer and better-suited for the entire conversation than Bill and I were. We were both so emotional, but The Pitcher is an affable, well-adjusted young man.
The reality is that both Bill and I respect The Pitcher for many things, but especially on that day for being traditional—asking for our blessing before he proposed marriage to our daughter.
I remember muttering something like, “When you have children someday, I hope you’re as happy as I am right now when you have this conversation.”
He looked at me quizzically and smiled. (I think he’s getting used to my kind of crazy.) Frankly, seeing how reassuring and loving he was, I’ve never been more confident in my life that he’s the right man for my daughter. I’m pretty sure I stood and asked him for a hug at some point, too.
We asked when he planned to pop the question, and he indicated he was waiting until the end of December for our vacation on the beach in Hawaii. Uh-oh. That was one month away. I told him that the only flaw I saw in his plan was me! “I can’t keep a secret that long!”
He laughed, more confident than I was at the time.
We asked him if he knew what she wanted for a ring. “Oh sure. This one,” he said, bringing up a photo on his phone. “A princess-cut diamond with a white-gold band.”
Of course, she had texted him a pic of what she wants. I had no clue. However, like every girl over the age of 13, Bootie Pepper has a wedding Pinterest board with all things wedding on it.
(If you doubt this, just ask your daughter or granddaughter. She may not have made it public yet, but trust me, it exists! With a few mouse clicks, the wedding plan will be in overdrive. I can assure you the precise flowers are already arranged in bouquets and the invitations have been stylized, right down to the type and size of font. And, I can’t blame Bootie Pepper. They’ve been together for 6 years, and they’re both graduating from college this spring.)
Bill asked the Pitcher, “Do you have a wedding date in mind?”
The Pitcher wisely answered, “Whenever she wants it, as long as it isn’t during hunting season.”
Bill muttered in agreement. “Yes. That’s right. Not during hunting season.”
(Oh relief, the men decided the wedding won’t be during hunting season.)
Next, Bill and The Pitcher negotiated for several hours on a suitable dowry, finally coming to an agreement late into the night. Whew. (Just joking. That totally did not happen.)
I told The Pitcher I had only one piece of advice for him. (Translation: this is the first piece of advice I will give you over the course of the next 40 years.) “Don’t try to propose on a boat. During the hand-off, that ring will get bumped and go overboard so fast it will make your head spin.”
The Pitcher assured me he planned to pop the question on dry land. I resisted the temptation to ask him if I could video the proposal, but he had to know I was secretly dying to.
It’s been killing me not to tell Bootie Pepper about The Pitcher’s plan to propose to her on our vacation. This is absolutely, positively the longest I’ve kept a secret—about anything from anyone.
A few weeks later, Bill asked me what I thought the chances were that Bootie Pepper would figure out what was happening before we got to Hawaii. I said, “Um, let me see. One hundred percent. Not because of me, but because The Pitcher said she’s been dropping some pretty heavy hints.” (Takes after her mother by clobbering our men over the head with hints).
Shortly before Christmas arrived, we invited The Pitcher over for dinner because he was home alone, and Bootie was still at college taking final exams. I texted him to BRING THE ICE that he had purchased.
I was dying to see that ring, and I’m not even into jewelry or diamonds. He brought it, and, when I opened the ring box, I was SHOCKED to see a light on the inner lid, shining directly onto the diamond, making it sparkle like the North Star in the night sky. The Pitcher really did a spectacular job in selecting this ring. It’s beautiful.
Shortly after Bootie Pepper returned home from college and started working, she got food poisoning (or the norovirus) and was horribly ill. (This was still before Christmas and the Hawaii trip.) Both Bill and I had to go to work the day she stayed home, but guess who came over to sit with my puking daughter? The Pitcher! What a guy. I told Bill that I’m not sure I would’ve done that for him before we were married. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do that for him now–after being married for 28 years.
Anyway, The Pitcher took care of Bootie, including spending the night with her. I tell you, this young man is a KEEPER. The next day, I told Bootie to hang onto him. (It was so wickedly delightful to say things like this to her during December, knowing The Pitcher’s plan to propose.)
After Christmas, The Pitcher asked me to transport the ring to Hawaii for him because: (a) the TSA agents act like random psychos; and (b) Bootie might dive into his backpack in search of gum and stumble upon it. I tucked the box into a blue REI sea to summit waterproof bag that you can roll up and clip. It’s designed to clip onto the outside of your backpack. For my purposes, though, I clipped it to a built-in key ring on the inside of my backpack then tried to adopt the most innocent, neutral I’M-NOT-DIAMOND-MULE look on my face for not only TSA but also for my daughter.
We made it through airport security without any glitches, but I had my phrase all worked out. If a TSA agent asked to search my backpack, I was prepared to whisper, “Be my guest, but let’s go into a private room because there’s a huge surprise in here that I don’t want the people with me to see.” (Motioning with my eyes and head nods in a pointed manner at Bootie.) I’m pretty sure that would have gained me a trip to a private room.
We arrived on the island of Molokai at night on December 30th and basically crashed after we bought groceries and found our condo.
The next day was New Year’s Eve day, and I half-thought The Pitcher would propose then. Bill and I had to make several trips to town, and, each time we returned, I expected to open the door to peels of excitement and Bootie shaking her left hand in my face with the sparkling ice on it. Nothing happened.
He couldn’t very well propose New Year’s Eve because we played a drinking game at the Tiki Bar on the lanai. (Next time you see Bill, call him out for being ridiculously competitive while playing “King’s Cup.”) We were all a little tipsy when we decided to crash a party with a live band in the condo complex across the parking lot.
Pretty sure these retirees pooled their money for a local band that was playing Santana and Chuck Berry tunes. Bill spied the dessert table and strategized how to steal a ‘smores bar. I hit the dance floor and boogied down to “Go Johnny, Go” with a bunch of fun-loving seniors—hopped up on Celebrex and Chardonnay—their Q-Tips bobbing up and down under the strands of Christmas lights strung on the beams of the pavilion. (I think we can all appreciate why this wasn’t the right atmosphere for The Pitcher to pop the question.)
On New Year’s Day, we awoke to clear skies in paradise, and I was again filled with anticipation and nervous energy. Once it was light enough for cars to see me on the road, I clipped my shoes to the pedals of a rented bike and went on a long ride, so I wouldn’t obsess over when The Pitcher was going to remove the ring from the blue bag on my dresser and slap that shiny ice on her size-five-and-a-half ring finger. God, the suspense was killing me!
As the sun got lower in the sky, we all discussed where we should watch the sunset—the lanai or the beach. The Pitcher retrieved the tiny travel box from the blue bag in our room and casually went to his room to put it in the HUGE BOX WITH THE LIGHTED INTERIOR. He came out of their bedroom dressed in cargo shorts with large pockets big enough to conceal the black box that I hoped was hiding in there.
I could feel the nerves jumping to life from my core to my fingertips, like they do when I’m in the water behind the boat ready to water ski. My tummy was churning, but I tried to act casual by making STUPID small talk. Like, “Hey [Pitcher], you might want to try out my bike tomorrow on a ride by the bay.” Blah, blah, blah. The air was humming with electricity as we hung out for a few minutes, preparing to go down to the beach for sunset. Fortunately, Bootie Pepper was oblivious, lying on the floor to stretch out her back.
We all left the condo about 30 minutes before the sun was scheduled to hit the water. (Boy, I hoped it would show up and be on time that evening!) Actually, who gave a crap about the sunset? I was there to stalk The Pitcher and Bootie to grab these great pics and video.
I have to hand it to The Pitcher for timing and execution. (But we already knew this about him, didn’t we? He engages in high level ‘strateegery’ during baseball games.) We took a few pics of the happy couple for pretense purposes—before he proposed—then Bill and I pretended to videotape the incoming waves. Ha!
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw The Pitcher get down on one knee, so I quickly redirected my videotaping to the young couple, and Bootie didn’t even notice me there. (And, yes, she was very surprised!) I caught the whole thing on video, so I’m excited as all get-out to share it with you now. These two kids are fantastic individuals and complement each other to make a delightful couple. May you experience the same happiness and joy in your heart in 2018 that I felt today. Happy New Year!