How We Met
The story of how Mark and I met began in grade school. Unknown to me until years later, I was the first girl Mark had ever told his mom he had a crush on. He was embarrassed to tell anyone because he was in fifth grade and I was a grade below in fourth and, well, in grade school, that was just not the cool thing to do. My only memory of his apparent love for me back then was when his younger brother ran up to me on the playground at recess and yelled, “My brother thinks you’re the prettiest girl in the world!” and then ran away. Mark must’ve known I would be the one all along, because he harbored that secret crush even after we went off to separate middle and high schools. After he graduated, Mark joined the Marine Corps. After boot camp, he came home for Christmas and New Years. Through mutual friends we ended up going to the same New Years Eve party. Mark and I spent the whole night talking and, of course, flirting. He was cute, funny, and who doesn’t love a man in uniform? I was already googly eyed over him and then, just before midnight, he said he had to leave because he promised to bring in the new year with his family at home since he had been away for so long….*swoon* How sweet is that? I was sad to see him leave, but a little while after midnight, he came back. He was leaving to go back for more training in the morning, but stayed late into the night just to spend more time talking.
After that night we talked every day for the next six months while he was away. We started dating when he returned home on leave. Mark wanted to do something special to ask me to be his girlfriend, but when he was home so rarely and for such little time, his time was valuable and there wasn’t much time for him to plan an elaborate date. So, one day after I got off work, Mark was waiting at my house with flowers and he told me he was going to take me on a speed date. He said the date would include dinner, a movie, dancing, and entertainment and would last only about an hour so that we could finish in time for him to visit with other friends. So we grabbed McDonald’s to go and drove to a beautiful nearby park. While we sat down to eat our food, Mark pulled up a two-minute YouTube clip of the movie, The Notebook. Then he took me down to a private spot by the pond. He started a song on his phone and grabbed me to dance with him. We slow danced for a minute or two and then he pulled out a deck of cards. He said he was going to show me a magic trick so I played along. He shuffled and split the deck, and the card I chose had a message on it asking me to be his. Who could say no to that? I surely couldn’t.
Since Mark was serving in the military, our entire dating relationship was long distance. Some distances were longer than others. A month after we started dating Mark told me that he would be deploying to Afghanistan within the year. As difficult and scary as that was to hear, I knew I had found someone worth the wait. The difficulties the military brought into our relationship only drew us closer together and we happily continued to pursue each other for three years.
The photo below is of the moment we first saw each other at Mark’s homecoming from Afghanistan.
How He Asked
June 7, 2015 we celebrated our three-year anniversary. Mark had been telling me for weeks that he was planning a special surprise date for us the Saturday after our anniversary. Since we had been talking about getting married for a while already and he had recently finished his service in the Marine Corps, I knew the proposal would be coming any time now. So I convinced myself that this surprise date would be the day I had long been awaiting. The day came and Mark had an absolutely incredible day planned for us. Our evening started with a helicopter tour of Chicago with stunning, sweeping views of the skyline. Then we went to dinner at the most adorable little Italian restaurant I’ve ever seen. I was so impressed, when we sat down we were greeted with a champagne toast and I didn’t know how to pronounce a single item on the menu, so that’s how you know it must be the real deal. After our delicious dinner he took me to a chocolate shop to pick out whatever I wanted for dessert. I picked out a bag of chocolates and then he walked me across the street to a horse and carriage. We ate our dessert as we took a carriage ride through the city. At this point, I was convinced he would be popping the question any moment, since I knew his dad had taken his mom on a carriage ride the night they got engaged. But…still nothing…when our ride ended Mark hailed a cab and took me to a jazz concert in the Chicago theatre. After the concert, he drove me home as if it were any other date night. Understandably, I was more than a little disappointed. What was he thinking? I didn’t know how he could top a date as perfect as that one.
The next day, still miffed that I left our incredible date “empty-handed”, I begrudgingly agreed to go with Mark to take his little brother fishing at Centennial Park. Looking back, I was completely oblivious not to pick up on his scheme. When we got to the park, Mark’s mom (a photographer) and a couple of his best friends were there too. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but then he started telling the story about when we started dating. I noticed that he was leading me towards the spot where we had asked me that question three years ago. When we made it to that spot he stopped and his friend handed him a deck of cards. I honestly can’t remember a single word he said, but all of the sudden he was down on one knee and inside the deck of cards was a ring.
I was so surprised and thrilled that I didn’t say yes or take the ring for at least a minute or two. I just cried tears of joy and stood in bewilderment at what had just happened. His explanation for psyching me out on the proposal was that he wanted to take me on a date that would be amazing and elaborate, but wanted the moment he asked me to marry him to be a complete surprise. I would say he succeeded. I can’t wait to marry that wonderful, sneaky man.