This story started a year ago – February 3, 2012. I had spent the day setting up our booth at the show in Lawrenceville, GA and was doing computer work about 10:00 p.m. in my hotel room, when I got a text from Ryan that simply said “I’m talking with a girl!” He had recently reactivated his match.com account, so I assumed that someone was intrigued with his profile. Didn’t think much about it after that (show weekends are busy). But Ryan and Emily sent messages back and forth for a day or two, then talked on the phone a couple of times, and finally decided to go out – the day that I flew back to Atlanta, picked up the truck, and headed to Clearwater. Then the truck broke down in Valdosta, GA – by the time it was fixed, the first date had begun and I was driving south wondering how it was going.
Two days later, Ryan flew to Tampa, where I picked him up and spent three days with him hitting the theme parks in Orlando – and listening to him talk about Emily. It was clear that he was smitten, but he knew that we had planned this trip together for a long time so he asked my permission to call her one evening while we were gone. I was impressed.
I have learned a lot about Emily over the past year. In many ways, she is a lot like Ryan – just three years younger. So on a number of occasions, I have heard him giving her advice that is word-for-word the same advice I had given him years before. Then Ryan would hang up the phone, note the stunned look on my face, and say “See . . . I WAS listening.”
We have met Emily’s family – she has met ours. They love Ryan – we love Emily. And they started to make long-range plans. Shortly after Christmas, Ryan told me that he wanted to ask her to marry him – he knew that it would have to be a long engagement (probably two years) since neither of them can afford to move out yet, but he wanted to make it official.
They did some ring shopping, and then I arranged for Ryan to meet with a jeweler friend of mine and a ring was purchased that was almost identical to the one she liked best. Emily knew that Ryan had the ring, but he still wanted to surprise her with the place and time that she received it.
The original site was the parking lot at the O’Charley’s where they first met, but she guessed that one and vetoed it. Instead, Ryan decided to pop the question in the middle of the Dayton Mall – at a bench where they spent a lot of time during the early days of their relationship. He enlisted Emily’s mom who invited her out to dinner to get her to the mall, and my nephew Conner who arrived early to “reserve” the bench, take pictures, and (most essentially) keep Ryan calm!
I offered to hide in the shadows and shoot video, but Ryan insisted that all of this had to happen on the anniversary of their first date – which also happened to be the date of of this year’s Clearwater show. So while we were tearing down the booth in Clearwater, Ryan was proposing 1,000 miles away in Dayton.
(Apologies from my nephew, who shot pictures from a distance on his cell phone – if you have ever tried to use the zoom feature on a cell phone you’ll understand how hard it is to get them in focus – some scenes are from two perspectives because I found some pictures that Emily’s mom took)
Emily and her mom and stepdad arrive at the mall, and her mom “notices” flowers on the bench and encourages Emily to read the card.
Ryan emerges from the shadows, decked in his finest, and drops to one knee. I’m told that his proposal was “Emily, a year ago today you made me cuddle with you and I want to cuddle with you for the rest of my life. Will you marry me?”
Since she had been giving him the “sad eyes” for nearly a month trying to get the ring immediately, there was little doubt that she was going to say yes . . .
Ryan explains the whole deception to her – he had been nervous all week because he had to stretch the truth to keep her in suspense.
You’ll note that Ryan forgot to smile – Emily wasn’t terribly happy about that when she saw this picture. But Ryan was a nervous wreck all week (he worries about everything) – he was terrified that he would lose the ring before he got to the mall.
At left is the picture that Ryan texted to me while I was going up the truck’s liftgate with another load of paper from the booth – at right is another that Emily’s mom took later.