Amanda and Aaron's Amazing Proposal in Tokyo

How we met: As cheesy as it sounds, Aaron is my Angel. Before meeting Aaron I was lost in so many ways. I had just separated myself from a difficult relationship. While it’s easier to blame that kind of hurt on failed love, I can only hold myself accountable for that chapter. I walked away bitter and guarded. Aaron was that authentic jolt of color and life that I never saw coming. And that’s when you know it’s genuine. When you don’t see it coming. You don’t ask for it. You don’t plan for it. It just happens. This is our story… But just the beginning!

image1Aaron and I are both from the same small home town Simi Valley in Southern California. He attended the blah and hardly mediocre Royal High School on the other side of town. While I hail from the much more grand and distinguished Simi High School! Funny story though, we knew each other back then… He always came to my track meets to cheer on his formal girlfriend! Can you believe that? The wrong girl! And I actually attended his Senior Prom with a random boy I hardly knew. So no, not love at first sight. Not even friends at first site. Just that random boy you meet one day to find out less than a decade later you’ll marry.

So fast-forward some years, Aaron graduates from the Royal Dumpster and is accepted to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. He says goodbye (not to me) and moves to the East Coast for five years. I graduate high school and stay local to attend college. Now it’s the summer of 2013, he commissions as an Officer in the Navy and is sent to San Diego for a couple months of training. I’m currently feeling out my new “Swearing off dating” “girl’s weekend every weekend” persona. Aaron, I didn’t really know his story at the time but it was obvious enough that he loved to go on fun dates with everyone, so needless to say a “relationship” of any kind was NOT on anyone’s radar.

August 21, 2013- Aaron shoots me a note to wish me a “Happy Birthday,” …obviously seeing the notice on his Facebook. I replied with the most empowering romantic response that has ignited this burning love between us ever since…Ready for it…“Thanks Aaron.” Now I think the Happy Birthday wish was just an icebreaker because the next day Aaron comes back with inviting me to sushi to celebrate. “Sure why not” was my heartfelt reply which he never lets me live down. What can I say… he had me at “sushi.”

For our sushi date Aaron asked for directions to my house then knocked on my door to pick me up. Some details stay with you, and that detail does. That old school act might be lost on some men today. I half expected a text saying “here”. Needless to say, I was impressed and surprised. Maybe that should have been Indication #1 that I was going to be writing a Proposal Story someday. When I answered the door I was amazed at how much he had grown up. It’s amazing what the Academy can do with even a boy from Royal High! While we’re at the doorstep my mom is cooking dinner in the background and grown up Aaron asks if he can meet my parents before we take off. Teasing I said, “you could take me to sushi, not win over my family”. Too late, Aaron is shaking hands and smiling comfortably like he’s part of the family. Indication #2, right?

Dinner was great but the chemistry was unstoppable. So remember my “Guarded” battle armor with venomous spikes? (Aaron insisted that I wrote that) Ya, Aaron smoothly side-stepped that game. We both had a genuine honesty towards one another that made it so easy to talk about anything. Small talk was over before the wine came and Aaron was diving into thought provoking questions I would only expect from a best friend. Indication #3. Somehow dinner turned into “let’s go for a walk.” The natural conversation continued as we wandered barefoot on Malibu beach. That long walk led us to a school playground, and now he’s pushing me on tiny swing set talking about the adventure of moving to Japan in two months. (Guarded armor back on.) But you know what, at the time I thought it was perfect. I wasn’t ready for opening this new door. Better for a mystery man to leave. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between charm and compatibility. I had learned to be more careful. Our amazing first date came to a natural close. He walked me to my door, didn’t try to kiss me, and with a smile he said “I hope we can see each other again before I leave.” I hoped so too.

What a roller coaster that followed! For me anyway. Was I interested in being interested? Why would I invest in emotion when he had already purchased his plane ticket for the other side of the planet? Aaron was so patient and let me grow as a person while I turned our progress on and off with each new conversation with a protective girlfriend of mine. We agreed to keep things fun and simple until he deployed. No reason to waste these fun new butterflies in the stomach before the season ended. It was fun, yes. Simple… no, not really. With each spontaneous 3 hour midnight drive to/from San Diego it became more obvious we were both falling for each other. Aaron never tried to apologize for my past, take on the sins of past boyfriends, or let me believe my own insecurities for a moment. He let me be me… and just by being himself, I become a better me. That was exactly what I needed.

One night before Aaron left I was talking with my mom about the obvious doubts I was having. His approaching deployment, how fast everything had happened, the terrible timing, and all the possible wrongs I could find with the great thing that was right in front of me. My mother rarely gives me boy advice, which can be beyond irritating when I really want it. But she knows when I am ready to listen and wanted to raise my sisters and I to make independent decisions for ourselves. The only piece of advice she has ever offered me in any relationship was this one. She said simply, “You know, when I first met Patrick, I knew he would be the one for your sister Alex. Then when I met Michael I knew he was the perfect match for your sister Andrea. When Aaron came to pick you up on your first date, and he introduced himself… I had that same feeling he would be the one for you.” You know what they say, mothers know best, right?…

Two years later, Aaron is still an Officer stationed in Japan, only now the experience is ours. I am no longer in California and I love teaching English at a private elementary school in Tokyo. We have turned our most inconvenient timing into the most worthwhile adventure.

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How he asked: Now before I begin, DISCLAMER: Aaron is always romantic and planning the most thoughtful adventurous dates which fits both of our personalities perfectly. He is SO romantic is melts my heart every time. So when I tell this story, you may shout out, “How did you not see this coming?!?!” But surprisingly, I didn’t! I think all military couples would agree dating someone in the military can be difficult when trying to plan any kind of future. We had casually talked about when might be the best time to wed with new command orders approaching in the next few months. Aaron had convinced me he hadn’t bought a ring yet and I believed him. We didn’t travel home often so I didn’t think a proposal would happen any time soon. And I was totally blind-sided! Completely caught off guard by the greatest surprise of my life…

It’s a typical Monday afternoon but Aaron calls randomly begging me to take Thursday off work. He wouldn’t give me the details but he made a huge stink that I had to be available Thursday. I was excited and we both took Thursday off for Aaron’s surprise date. I was looking forward to the new memorable adventure we would have.  Aaron arrived on Thursday as planned looking handsome as ever, I didn’t sense anything different about him, other than we were in a huge rush (but that is nothing new) and we hopped into the car for Tokyo. He finally admitted that our destination was the Japanese Imperial Palace. Now I knew what he was up to. The cherry blossoms were perfectly in bloom this week and today, Thursday, was the last day of nice weather before a huge storm. My coworkers expressed to me the Tokyo Cherry Blossoms are the most impressive in Japan and attract thousands of tourists each year for the bloom. They only appear for one – two weeks, so the timing is tracked all year long and dozens of “Sakura” festivals are held throughout Japan as the big bloom arrives!

An hour later we’re in Tokyo and grateful to be alive! Aaron was driving like a mad man more so than he usually does and him navigating in Japan is already a terrifying nightmare. We spin into the first parking spot found, Aaron leaps out of the car, throws a backpack over his shoulder, opens my door, pulls me out of the car with one hand, and turns on his phone GPS with the other. I had no idea what craziness he had cooking or why we in such a rush but my first words out of the car were “Ummm I need to pee.” You should have seen the look on his face! You would have thought I told him I was pregnant! My patient angel was NOT a good sport. Huffing and puffing he walked with me over to the only public restroom. I think we had just arrived behind a giant bus of senior citizens because I slipped behind a line of 20 of the slowest moving sweet old ladies I had ever seen. Aaron nearly lost whatever cool he had left and paced about checking the time constantly as the line moved forward at turtle pace. “We’re going to miss sunset!” he kept stammering.

After the restroom Aaron and I raced through crowded downtown Tokyo dodging mini cars and trampling pedestrians. I wasn’t sure where he was leading us, and I don’t think he was quite sure himself. He assured me we were “close” and we scurried about following every wild whim of Google Maps. Finally, we arrived.  The first real view of the cherry blossoms stopped us there. I had seen a few lovely trees in parks around my neighborhood but nothing like this. An ancient mote in the heart of the modern city had hundreds of cherry blossom trees blooming like massive purple and pink umbrellas lining the water. It was truly breath taking.  Aaron led me across the street with his GPS hand stronger than ever and we made our way to the line of trees. Each slight breeze sent a gentle shower of tiny pastel pedals into our faces as we scurried through the park. I couldn’t hide the gigantic smile on my face. I had never seen so many beautiful colors in my life.  If the date had ended there it would have been perfect. But Aaron had more than an amazing view in mind for us.

Inside the park and down to the water’s edge, Aaron led me to miniature boat dock where private rowboats were being rented. In the distance I could see the tiny boats rowing slowly through the beautiful mote. My heart jumped with excitement. And no at this point I still did not see the proposal coming.

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Unfortunately there was a long line for boat rental. The line was filled with families, friends and couples. But I didn’t mind, the view even in line was incredible. Then Aaron pointed out his best friend Mike at the very front of the line. Now Mike is awesome and is always crashing our dates, so this was no surprise to me. I waved from the back of the line completely oblivious. Aaron had planted him there hours ahead of time so he could get us on the water precisely at sunset.  Mike suggested we cut the long line and just stand in the front with him (all according to plan). Of course I said absolutely not! I hate breaking rules especially in Japan. But after the restroom tragedy I decided to give in on this one. We said hello to Mike and moments later we were being escorted across the floating dock to our private rowboat. Aaron stepped in first, carefully laid his backpack inside, and as he reached up to help me into the wobbling rowboat the sun began to set.

To be honest, as romantic as this moment was, I was a little terrified to get into the boat with Aaron. Remember his navigating skills… I could only imagine him trying to take the perfect picture of the cherry blossoms and us tipping into the river. I kept my smile sincere but white knuckle gripped the boat rails as Aaron pushed us away from dry land with his paddle.

Aaron’s heroic attempt at rowing confirmed all my original fears. Mike laughed from his boat and Aaron splashed his oars wildly driving us into peaceful rowers nearby. I volunteered to row immediately. He was nervous (now I know why) but managed to get us away from the other rowers and to more spacious water to open his backpack. His backpack has made several appearances on dates before, each time packed with the personal touches that turn any special moment into a lasting memory. First he pulled out a big white blanket and laid it across my now soaking lap from his previous splashing. Next he uncovers a bottle of red wine, pops the cork, and pours me a glass.  I’m blushing from Aaron’s thoughtfulness and all the attention of rowers as they pass by. He reaches in one last time and pulls out his Bluetooth speaker and immediately a playlist of our relationship’s fondest songs begins to play inside our tiny rowboat. Yup, I still didn’t see it coming..

With more confidence, Aaron pulls his oars through the water again and rows us slowly through the mote, as I, snuggled in my blanket with a glass of wine, breath in every second of the spring air. Each song triggered a memory of our relationship that brought a smile to my face. The colorful trees hung over the mote like a fairy tale painting with us in total privacy, rowing alone through the river of fallen pedals. This was the perfect dream.

Aaron stopped almost abruptly under a canopy of cherry blossoms that hovered over us. It was by far the most breathtaking spot in the whole canal. He pulled in his oars and told me that he wanted to finish a serious conversation we had started the week before. I knew the conversation. It wasn’t about marriage but acceptance and how we could grow to love each other more just the way we are. Aaron reached deep into his backpack again as Mike rowed his boat awkwardly closer to us. I remember thinking can’t we have this conversation later when Mike isn’t here? I didn’t see the camera in his hands…

Aaron turned back to me and revealed the tiny black box in his shaking hands. Immediately then, I knew! I covered my mouth in surprise, blinked back tears that flooded my eyes, as an excited giggle escaped my mouth. This was it. This was the moment I had been dreaming about since he left for Japan two years ago. He opened the box and dropped to a knee (slowly) inside our rowboat. It was so beautiful.

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My smile glowed through my face full of tears. As he held the ring in front of me he continued with his proposal. I remember thinking, “don’t forget what he is saying- be in the moment.” I wanted to remember every detail. His words were the most raw, honest, and loving I had ever heard. It was the most beautiful promise and my heart dropped into my stomach.  Then finally, in a perfect moment forever sewn in my memory, he used my full name and asked if I would marry him. I squealed from excitement, “yes, yes, yes!!!!” With both hands clasped around my face he leaned forward and kissed me again and again. “Yes” I breathed.

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Remember our friend Mike, I didn’t, well he captured every second of our personal fairy tale. The sun fell behind the sky of Tokyo towers and flood lights illuminated the trees around us. For the next hour we rowed slowing through the river of pedals taking in what will forever be my favorite moment.

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The Lord has blessed me in ways I couldn’t imagine. The last two years have redefined my life and my faith in every way. But my favorite gift by far has been my angel, Aaron. This wonderful, thoughtful, and handsome man He has chosen for me. And this blessing has only just started. On January 16th, 2016 I get to marry my best friend, my confidant, and my soul mate. I am the lucky one.

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