The Proposal
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I wanted it to be a surprise.  We had talked about marriage a little, but I don't think she was expecting me to pop the question quite so soon.  I knew, however, that she was the ONE for me, so my only real task was to make the proposal memorable.

First I had to choose a memorable date.  I had 3 good options, actually.  Valentines Day was near, then in March was our 1 year anniversary of our first meeting, and a couple of weeks later her birthday.  For a variety of reasons I chose our anniversary, and decided that we should go away for the weekend.  I told Louisa that I was going to surprise her with a weekend celebration for our anniversary, and not to plan anything - I would do it all.  This did not arouse her suspicions too greatly, because I had done exactly the same thing for our 6-month anniversary.

Then I had to procure the ring.  This was beset with the usual questions about cut, clarity, color, etc., and rules of thumb like so many months of salary.  However, it was made more difficult by the surprise factor - I had no idea what she wanted.  And after ransacking her apartment for an hour, I discovered she doesn't wear rings, so I couldn't even get the size right.  However, I know that girls talk about such things among themselves, when boys aren't around, so I hatched a plan to let some of her best girlfriends in on the secret.  With their help, I picked out a platinum ring with three round diamonds set in a fairly traditional way.  Then I dickered with various folks on the price, eventually ordering it from Boston.

Of course, each of her girlfriends was sworn to secrecy, but just HAD to tell a friend or two, so somehow nearly all of Louisa's friends knew when the big day was coming.  And I couldn't help but tell all my friends - by the last week or so, I was telling perfect strangers!  It's amazing that Louisa didn't even suspect that it was coming.

I was helped by the fact that Louisa was home visiting her mom for the week before our anniversary, so she didn't talk to many of her friends.  I was able to go visit for a few days as well.  With the ring in hand, I took the opportunity (and the risk) to show her mom and grandmother, and inform them of my intentions.   Of course, I also swore them to silence, and fortunately they both can keep a secret when necessary. Unbeknownst to me until later, Louisa thought her mom was going off the deep end because she was so maudlin when it was time for Louisa to come home and meet me for the weekend - little did she know!

I planned the entire weekend with military precision - or at least that's what I told Louisa.  However, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley - while it didn't work out exactly as I planned, it came off great.  First I picked her up at the airport - met her at the gate, even - and we headed down towards Santa Cruz.  I had allowed time for traffic, which was light, so we arrived early for our dinner reservation.  We took the opportunity to head down to the beach, and happened to be just in time to watch the sunset over the water - a good omen!  We then had a terrific dinner, including a great bottle of wine, at Theo's restaurant.

We then headed down to Big Sur, where I had a reservation at the Ventana Inn - considered one of the top romantic hotels in the U.S., and priced accordingly.  (In hindsight, we much prefer the Post Ranch Inn, right across the street, but we didn't know that yet.)  We checked into our huge room, complete with jacuzzi, fireplace, etc., and turned in - Louisa was still on East Coast time, and was beat.

The next day we had breakfast in bed, and a dozen amazing Chilean roses were delivered during the morning.  Next on the agenda was a hike to a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean.  Nature had other plans, however - it was raining.  Louisa thought I was going crazy - I kept saying  "How about a hike?" and "Maybe it'll clear up", and she kept saying "It's raining!"  Finally we got out of the room to go to lunch over at Nepenthe.

I had the ring burning a hole in my pocket.  If you've ever had a ring in your pocket, you know what I was going through.  First of all, the box is huge, relative to the size of most pockets.  It makes a very distinctive bulge.  I had it in my back pocket, so Louisa wouldn't notice it, and I kept having her precede me through doors and down walks.  She thought I was being chivalrous, but I just didn't want her to see the bulge.  Then we drove to Nepenthe, and sat through lunch, during which time I discovered that sitting on ring box is often very uncomfortable.  I kept hoping that it would clear up and we could hike after lunch.

Of course, it kept raining, so we headed back to the Ventana and built a big fire.  I decided that this was the time to bring out the song that I wrote for her.  It's really pretty sappy, but I sang it for her, and she loved it.  Then I went to her while she was curled up in front of the fire, and asked her to marry me.  She said "yes" so quickly, I didn't even have time to get the ring out of my pocket.  She was hugging me and crying, and I was trying to wrestle this huge box out of the back of my pants.  Finally I got it open, and it took her breath away.  I slid it on her finger (I guessed her size, then went up 1/2 size just to make sure), and she looked beautiful.

The Ventana at that moment delivered the champagne - it couldn't have been timed better!  We talked and planned and tried to call all of Louisa's family.  Of course, fate stepped in again - it was during March Madness, and Ohio State was playing in the Elite Eight.  Being from Columbus, every single member of Louisa's family was out with friends, watching the game.  Even her 86 year old grandmother was at a sports bar with friends.  Her brother was the only one that called back immediately, and it was a short conversation because it was half time.

Later in the afternoon I had planned a tandem massage in our room.  Two women came over with tables, and when they found out we had just gotten engaged, were very excited to talk about it.  After the massage, a jacuzzi, and a shower, we headed to the Ventana's restaurant for another terrific dinner and great bottle of wine.

On Sunday the sun finally came out, so we went for a great hike, punctuated by a whale breaching just off the coast in front of us.  Then we headed home, during which time Louisa totally overloaded my cell phone calling everyone with the news.  All in all, it was a great weekend, and we had a wonderful time!

The funniest part is when we got home, Louisa checked messages on her machine.  She had about 5 messages from close friends that were all exactly the same: "So... how was your weekend?"  Everyone knew, but nobody wanted to spill the beans!  She led a few of them on for a while, calling them and saying "We had a great time, went on a hike, had a massage... oh, and Tom asked me marry him."  She just couldn't believe that nearly everyone knew but her, and had to get back at some of them.

So, months later, here we are, about to get married, and we couldn't be happier.  I can't imagine a better ending for this story than this: we're getting married, and we'll live happily ever after!