Nikki and Dan
How We Met
We always joke that depending on how we tell our story it can either be very sweet, or a little pathetic. Regardless of which version you hear it always ends well – with a very sweet, or maybe a little pathetic, engagement story.
We met on the first day of college. Well, technically we met at orientation. The only thing we remember about that meeting was Dan pointing to my Burger King nametag excitedly saying “I work at Burger King, too!”. My reply? I don’t work there; my friend Kevin stole this for me. We were then out of things to say and would forget about the encounter until he stopped by my dorm room to see my roommate Jess on the first day of school. He, again, noted the Burger King pin and we vaguely remembered meeting.
Throughout college we were best friends. He, Jess, and I hiked Sleeping Giant every Sunday. He was my frequent guest to Sunday dinner at Bob and Elisa’s house. When everyone else was studying we would be building mini snowmen all over campus or grabbing the fleece blanket and a lightsaber for some late-night hiking. We’d often find ourselves chatting about everything and nothing long after everyone else went to sleep. It wasn’t until the final party of senior year that after striking out at a party we had our first kiss. And even then, we weren’t convinced it meant anything.
The following year Dan worked in New Haven and I stayed at Quinnipiac for graduate school. We spent even more time together and eventually admitted that we were in a relationship. It was a hard thing to admit knowing that I would be leaving for the Peace Corps in a little over a year and we wouldn’t stay together. It was a great year filled with silly adventures and a new kind of love.
Sure enough, on October 7, 2009 Dan drove me to the airport to put me on a plane that would take me to Ethiopia for 3 ½ years. We said our teary goodbyes and promised to stay friends. Not much time passed before communication stopped. And then we weren’t friends.
About a year and a half into my service I went to a training and received a letter that I wrote to myself a year prior. At the end of the letter I wrote “Nikki, if you’re not talking to Dan anymore send him a letter. You love him.” When the training was over and I returned to my lonely, dark, rainy village I wrote a letter.
Fast forward to 2013 when I returned to the US. Our friend Jess invited us both to come cheer her on at her first marathon in Vermont. A little reluctantly we decide to drive up together and endure the awkwardness of a weekend together to support our friend. Before we left my parents driveway in CT we were in tears laughing, and still laugh every time we hear Usher’s “Yeah”. The weekend wasn’t awkward at all – it reminded us of our long friendship, before we ever dated, and how much we enjoyed each other’s company.
A few months later Dan was laid off at work, and I was still job searching. We had a lot of spare time and started meeting up for mid-week hiking and meals. One night he asked “so, should we make out or something?” and history repeated itself. We once again accidentally found ourselves in a relationship – but this time with no end date. When we moved to Boston together in 2015 we both knew it was a done deal.
How He Asked
In the summer of 2016 I was at the river with my brother-in-law, Jeff, having a few beers by the fire. I made the announcement to him that if I didn’t have a ring by Christmas, then Dan would have one by Valentine’s Day. If you know me, you know that once I say I’m going to do something it will happen.
The following week Jeff asked Dan a few questions trying to glean some information and it was clear that he did not have plans to propose in the coming months. Christmas comes and goes and I start thinking about how to propose. It couldn’t be a ring – that would be weird for him. It couldn’t just be words, it would seem like a joke. That February my dad and I took a trip to Antarctica and I came up with Operation: Pebble and the Penguin. During a penguin’s courtship, the male penguin presents the female with the best pebble on the beach as a “proposal”. If accepted, they build their nest with it and return there every summer for the rest of their lives. Just like the penguins, I found the best pebble for Dan.
We went to a favorite B&B in Connecticut the weekend after I returned from my trip. On Saturday morning we planned to hike up Lantern Hill (where our friends Ellie and Kevin would be hiding with a camera). When we got to the top we noticed turkey vultures flying around. That was my chance. I told Dan a story about the Ornithologist on my ship and how his favorite bird was the turkey vulture. I then went to tell him how I learned about penguins and pebbles. I got down on one knee and presented the best pebble. Dan replied “Are you asking me to marry you? I’m 80% sure you’re serious.” After I confirmed the situation Ellie and Kevin came out of hiding to celebrate and take photos. Looking back it seems fitting that our engagement was like the beginning of our relationships – neither of us knew what was going on, but we knew it was going to be a good story.