On a sunny afternoon – if I remember correctly, it was a Tuesday – in early November, Deborah and I hiked through the ferociously green trails above Ashland. We were lost in conversation, as we normally were, when she sped ahead of me, looked back and said, “I could see myself married to you.” That image stands out in my memory, where the sky, the trees, and the rest of the conversation remains a blur.
The Story of Us
Deborah and I had met in a small Mexican beach town near Cancún, not much more than four months prior to that day. Our relationship was accelerated by never-ending conversations, incredible experiences, and the two of us being completely in tune with ourselves and, eventually, each other.
After six weeks in Mexico, three weeks traveling the US with me (plus a three week gap in between), and nearly two months with my family and me in Oregon, Deborah had to start thinking about leaving the country. She’s a Swedish citizen, and as with citizens of most first world nations, the United States gave her 90 days on an electronic visa waiver, which could be neither extended nor changed. The two of us began creating in pictures the future together that we had talked about previously. We practiced every night by sitting upstairs in my parents’ house, taking something we wanted our future to include, and either finding a picture online to represent it, or creating the image ourselves.
Choosing to Make the Leap
On the fourth or fifth night, after having already chosen a flat in Central London and a dog, the tension was clear and strong. There was something we were both thinking but neither of us was saying. We went back and forth like two bored little kids, “well, what should we add tonight?” “Well, I don’t know. What do you think we should add tonight?”
“Would it make you uncomfortable if I added an engagement ring?” I asked at some point in the otherwise meaningless conversation. “No, not at all,” she replied. We both smiled fiercely. We began looking at engagement rings, and picked one out to put on our vision board. The electronic board became sort of a trade secret at first. We added even more suggestive pictures, like a baby’s carriage, and we looked at more rings for an hour or two on the internet every night after that. It was exhilarating! But, whenever anyone walked upstairs, the computer snapped shut. It wasn’t embarrassing, we just weren’t ready for anyone to know.
During that period, Deborah and I hiked nearly every day, talking about life, love, and what we wanted out of both. Which led to my best memory: the love of my life telling me she wanted to be my life partner, with the blurred green and blue image of the land that made me who I am in the background. It took about a week and a whole lot of nerves, but we prepared a large sit down-type dinner for my family (Chicken Cordon Bleu), and we announced that we were getting married.
Deborah went to stay with her aunt in Toronto, where she was to wait for me to finish University and join her, so we could go to London together to meet her family. Or at least, that’s what she told her mom. She left Toronto only a few days later to surprise her family in London, and I began plotting the proposal.
Everything Comes Together
I wanted to wait to ask Deborah’s mom for her hand in marriage, but Deborah insisted I ask her before the surprise London visit, so that the two of them could begin talking about the wedding. At first, I couldn’t get ahold of Deborah’s mom. The time zone difference made it difficult, and for a couple of days, we went back and forth with good and bad times to video chat. On the day before Deborah was to surprise her family (she was already on the plane), Deborah’s mom told me Thursday (two days in the future) was a good time to talk. I replied at around midnight London time saying, “I need to talk to you asap, it’s really important.” I had lost hope to talk to her that day, but she responded an hour later saying she was ready to talk. I walked out into a snow storm that had just formed, and with nothing but the outer walls of a high school to witness, I video called Fereshteh Hernemar and asked for permission to propose to the love of my life. Deborah arrived in London the next to day to shock everyone again.
Finding THE Ring
Deborah left Oregon from the Portland Airport, which is about a five hours drive north of my parents’ house. The drive would give us our last chance in 3 months to talk face to face, and we used it talk about the wedding, a potential ring, and the like. We hadn’t really found the ring we liked. There was one we really liked online, but we couldn’t see it in person.
“I really want the ring to have a story,” Deborah said amongst the rest of our chatter.
I proposed, “what if I went to, say, Russia to find a diamond, where diamond mining is more common? And then, maybe Bolivia for the silver? From there, I could probably have a jeweler in London or Oregon put it together.”
Deborah responded in kind, “yeah, that seems more like you than just buying a ring.”
Without making any plans, we had set an adventurous precedent for the ring. But, no sooner had we arrived in Portland than we began looking at jewelry shops downtown. Out of all of them, there was one ring that caught Deborah’s eye. We walked around the city looking for more rings, but ended up back to that jeweler again…and again…and again, just to look at the same ring.
Deborah flew to Toronto without a hitch, and I began sending her a haiku every evening. Counting down, I started at Haiku #28, which would land the last haiku on her computer screen Christmas Eve. Here favorite is Haiku #14:
Two hearts become one
Bound by friendship, Forever
United in Love
I didn’t actually know what I was going to do with the haikus when I began writing them, mostly because I didn’t expect to be in London until March. I think I just thought that writing them would be a sweet thing to do. But, I seized the opportunity and asked Deborah’s mom to help me plan a surprise proposal in London on Christmas Eve. Over the course of a few weeks, I built up Deborah’s anticipation of my trip to Bolivia. Of course, the cheapest tickets are on Christmas Eve. Of course, Bolivia is the silver capital of the world, and of course, I know a guy who can hook me up with fantastisch ring for a fraction of the price. Little did she know, I had already ordered the ring she picked out on our trip to Portland.
Traveling to London
I made polite, even friendly conversation with those next to me as jolted onto the British plane, but my hands were trembling and the inside of my stomach was being tickled with a small feather. On the plane, I watched a movie, where an American spy kidnaps the British Prime Minister. Stupid, I know, but I kept running through scenarios where I was not allowed into the UK for fear that I would attempt to kidnap the Prime Minister (sorry, David. I’m a friend, not an enemy).
Deborah was expecting her last haiku to arrive that evening, but instead of sending the image, I printed it out and handed it to her brother, David. The trees in the garden outside the family flat provided the perfect cover. Deborah’s mom, brother and I hatched a plan to lure her out of the flat and through the trees to where I was hiding. Just before I appeared, David gave Deborah her last haiku:
I love you with my whole heart
Will you marry me?
I popped up from behind a red volvo next to the garden. Deborah’s gaze was turned toward David, her eyebrows knitted close together in thought and her nose scrunched up-all cute and confused. A few seconds passed before she turned to me. Even her sister, Dionne, saw me beforehand, but kept her mouth shut.
In an instant, the 9 remaining weeks we would spend apart disappeared. Deborah screamed, ran, and jumped, before I knelt down and asked my best friend to be my wife.