Some people have grand and romantic stories of how they became engaged. Our engagement story revolves around a call from a French pay phone.
We have never been that lovey dovey type of couple. After all, we barely got along the first six months we were together. I am not sure what changed after that. We just started to grow accustomed to one another, to the idea that it was okay to be a couple. After all, we were getting older and isn’t that what mature people did?
I started law school in the fall of 1999, only a little more than 2 years after we met. Eric and I moved down to Washington, DC, for me to attend school. We moved in to a crappy cookie cutter apartment in Falls Church, Virginia. But, it was our first “real” apartment, away from college, away from roommates.
We moved down to Virginia in March of 1999, and spent the summer living the DC life. I was working as a legal assistant at a large law firm. The law firm threw Friday happy hours on the roof top with free beer and pizza. We met friends. We drank.
In August, Eric broke his arm pitching a baseball the week before I started school. I had to take care of him. I helped him brush his teeth and helped him bathe. I drove him to doctors’ appointments and bought him beer to help him self medicate. I guess it was then that our lives became so intertwined. Once you bathe someone, you become just a little more connected to them.
At one point, I remember there being a fight in that Falls Church apartment. For a brief instant, I wanted to break up. I left the house for an angry drive around Northern Virginia. I also remember being too lazy to break up. I mean, how would we divide up the CDs and collection of video tapes? What would we do with all of the IKEA furniture we just bought? It was easier to just stick it out.
By the end of my first year of law school, I took the opportunity to do a study abroad for about a month. Before the trip started, Eric and I took our first trip to Italy, touring Rome and romantic Venice. I fell in love with Venice, and never want to return. That trip was so perfect, and such a great memory. It was before we had traveled anywhere really, and were looking at it with virgin travel eyes. Now, I am sure I would think it was expensive and over-touristy. Then, it was perfect – dinners along the canals, a gondola ride, drinking wine from a bottle on Piazza San Marco under the Campanile.
Then, my study abroad began, taking me through Germany, France, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. Things soured between me and my roommate on the trip. Factions were formed. I felt lonely. I spent my time with some new friends, Bruce and Sukhman, whom I met on the trip, and the experience was salvaged.
During a celebratory night in Paris, which started with a group dinner cruise on the Seine, and finished at some dark night club, I decided I wanted to marry Eric. So, I called him, told him we were going to get married, and he agreed. Romantic, uh? I told Bruce that Eric and I were getting married, and he roused up a toast to my engagement. Eric was not even there. Yep, definitely romantic.
When I returned to DC that summer, we started to shop for engagement rings, together. We picked one out, together. We paid for it, together. The night he drove out to Virginia to pick up the ring, I knew exactly where he was going. It was pouring rain that night, and as much as I tried to study, and read boring case law, I could not concentrate. I kept looking out the window of our 5th story apartment building in Washington, DC, looking at the headlights, looking for the one car that would make the turn into our building’s parking garage.
As Eric drove home that night, he told himself he would wait to propose. He wanted to hold onto the ring, and act like nothing had happened. He wanted to surprise me, to make a grand romantic gesture. Actually, he thought about proposing in a simple place, where I would least expect it, like on a Metro ride, or at the grocery store. One thing though, Eric has never been able to keep a secret from me. He can’t even buy me a birthday present and wait until my birthday to give it to me. I always got my gifts as soon as he purchased them.
The engagement ring was no different. As much as he wanted to wait, to surprise me, he walked right into the door of the apartment, went down on one knee, and proposed. Maybe the story is a little romantic, in our own way.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.