July 13th 1992. I skipped work with 2 friends to go to Martha’s Vineyard for the day. We missed the boat by minutes, which led to a great day roaming the Cape aimlessly. The end of the day we found ourselves at the canal. I was standing on the access road alone with one of those two friends – Barbara, embedded in a deep conversation about why we haven’t dated.
Starts and stops, a break up, reconciliation, 4 years later on July 13th 1996, on that same canal road, I asked that same friend to marry me.
We did not feel young, though we were. I see kids that age now and I wonder how we did it. I was 22, I owned a business, I had an apartment, I had bought a ring and had a plan. My proposal plan was simple, a picnic on a beach on July 13th down the Cape, to tie it to that day 4 years before. Hurricane Bertha came up the coast and changed my plans. Though the news was telling us to stay off the roads, I convinced her to come to the Cape with me to take photos of the storm. She was on board, I snuck the picnic basket in the trunk, grabbed my camera, (though I later found out I forgot film) – and we headed south. Getting on a beach during a hurricane is hard. I know this as fact because the armed National Guard at the entrance to Scusset Beach told me so. He did not care about my wanting to take photos, he was not getting my signals that I was trying to propose and change my life, we was very insistent that we leave and find shelter. We drove over the bridge in hopes to find a new location. None found, all blocked, all guarded and pelted by crap weather. She had lost her patience and wanted to go home, I wanted to storm a blockade and conquer a beach.
I am not sure how it happened, but we ended up tuned in to a local radio station where they were talking about stories of horrible engagements. People called in and told their tales of failed love, bad rings, dumb proposals over and over. She would not let me change the channel; she was riveted to these stories. I can’t find a spot to propose, the radio has turned against me, she can’t figure out why I won’t give up, the weather sucks and it is like 10pm… almost July 14th. So, I head back over the bridge, park under the Sagamore, at this point we are in the eye of the storm. It has become beautiful out.
To me, the best part of a hurricane is the eye. Every hurricane since Bertha, I make sure to go out in the eye and smell the air. That smell, that freshness of new air is my engagement. It takes me back to the moment each time, the smell of a beginning. The thing is, the eye brought people out of their houses, they explored, went to rest stops under the Sagamaore Bridge and other places to view the excitement. The stop became packed with people. When we had gotten there it was not that crowded. I surprised her with a picnic basket. She was stunned a bit, but I think hunger made her ok without suspicion. We ate on the bank of the canal. When we were done, I was overly aware of the cars and people were everywhere, watching us. I can’t deal with crowds under normal circumstances, there was no way in hell I am adding a ring and a heavy question to this moment, my solution, a walk. “Let’s take a walk towards Scusett.” I am minutes from giving her the ring and I really have not thought this out. The original plan was blown, 10x over. She wanted to know why I did not want to bring my camera. I tell her I forgot the film, which I had, but still it was dumb to admit, since it instantly erased any reason to be there and the hours prior and caused a bit of frustration on her part.
She was feeling cold. This is key to the whole new plan, though I did not know it at that time. We had grabbed one jacket when we left the apartment. 22 years old, old enough to get married, too young to know you both need jackets without a mom telling you. A few years before I bought an Army coat in a surplus store in Harvard Square. She hated that jacket. It was an old oversized M.A.S.H. type of jacket. It was the only one in the car. So we are walking down the path of the canal, she is wearing my Army coat, the air smells awesome, no one is around us, the ring box is on my pocket. We stop at the 3rd light from the rest stop looking at the canal. I come behind her to hug her and slip the box into the pocket of the Army coat. I turn her around so she is facing me and holding her hands slide them into the pockets. She finds the box. I drop to one knee. We were engaged. In a matter of seconds she said: “Yes” AND “damn, I hate this coat and now we need to keep it!” We still have the coat, Dan wears it.
July 13th is just as important, if not a bit more than October 18th which is our official wedding date. October 18th was pulled from a hat from workable days, negotiated. July 13th was when the universe worked by putting obstacles in our way to put us on that road together twice and in more ways than one. Happy July 13th to my best friend, and my favorite coat.