It was a dark and stormy night, the night Nate proposed to Jo.
Nate had been planning it for months, a carefully orchestrated event that first involved choosing the perfect ring and the perfect location (the roof of the Long Center parking garage where he and Jo go for downtown views and to watch the sun set). He called someone at the Long Center to make sure it would be okay, set up the photographer (one of Jo’s best friends, the talented Aubrey Jean) who would hide and take pictures when he went down on one knee, and coordinated with several of their friends who would arrange flowers and candles before they arrived. He even sent me a picture he drew of the way he envisioned it looking.
Meanwhile, Clay and Benji and me would be waiting at the condo with Jo’s family and a few close friends, ready to cheer and toast them with champagne.
Most importantly, he had to find a date that worked for her parents and brother in Louisiana (Luke, Tory and Ryan), and her sister and brother-in-law (Reagan and Cody) in Dallas to be here. All this planning meant that Jo probably had a pretty good idea the proposal was happening so it wasn’t a huge surprise. We kept asking Nate if he wanted to try and make it a surprise, maybe scratch all the planning and just go crazy and propose on a whim. He wavered for half a second, but held firm. He was certain the most important thing to Jo was having her family there, and the earliest that could happen was the evening of Friday, May 28th. The evening of Friday, May 28th, we could see the roof of the Long Center parking garage from our balcony.
No sunset would be visible to the west, only dark storm clouds that were quickly approaching. Nate and Jo opted out of entrees and wolfed down their salads in an effort to hurry through dinner as our phones buzzed with alarming warnings.
The phrases “ping pong ball sized hail” and “people and outdoor animals will be injured” were especially alarming. I had been texting with Jo’s parents, who were being diverted off I-35 due to the terrible storms and were running late. They were worried they may miss everything. Reagan and Cody were about 45 minutes ahead of them, driving through storms but would probably make it in time . . .
At this point, Jo was pretty aware that this was the night. She had been giddy all day. Her roommate, who was in on the whole thing, was spontaneously bursting into tears of joy and excitement. Jo didn’t know how, or where, but she knew. Nate excused himself from salad and hopped on a call with Clay and his friend, Jaret. I think the photographer was texting at the same time. Their friends met Benji downstairs to pick up the candles Nate bought earlier that day. The wind was picking up. The sky was getting more wicked by the second, but Nate thought maybe if they hurried they could make it. Who cared if they got a little wet? They’d have a story to tell. About then I got a text that Reagan and Cody had arrived at the parking garage, so I went to meet them and bring them up the elevator. The plan was to park Jo’s family on higher levels so when Nate and Jo parked in the garage later, they wouldn’t see her family’s cars.
So Reagan and Cody come up, and they’re changing out of their wet clothes, when Nate and Jo call. The storm has hit, and it’s bad. No way they can go to the roof of the parking garage. They call an audible, they’re coming to the condo. Nate will propose here. The friends are on their way, they want to know if they can decorate on the 10th floor, which has a big outdoor covered area next to the pool. I tell Reagan and Cody to hurry up and hide all their stuff, and themselves, in the closet. I hide all the party stuff in another closet and run downstairs to see if we can use the 10th floor, while Clay takes another call from Nate. Jo’s toe is bleeding after stepping on something while dancing in the rain. He’ll meet them in the parking garage with paper towels . . .
By the time Jo and Nate make it up to our condo her parents have made it and are awaiting further instructions in their car out on the street so they could avoid being seen in the parking garage, her sister and brother-in-law are hiding in the closet, her friends are fiendishly decorating the outdoor area of the 10th floor while a wicked storm rages, lightning and thunder and rain blowing horizontal. We’ve done a good job of removing all traces of any party but now have to stall for . . . I find out it will be another 20 minutes. That’s a long time to wait in the closet. Benji and Clay are running tools surreptitiously to the 10th floor. I get Jo’s parents to the 9th floor garage level and to the 10th floor to wait while Jo and Nate tend to her toe. At one point I’m pouring hydrogen peroxide on the cut and Nate says, “I’m going to get a clean shirt,” and I’m all, “Okay.” I don’t say a word about who he’ll find in the closet. I just wait. I find out later he’s trying to open the door and he can’t, and inside Jo’s sister is blocking it, afraid Jo will see (she doesn’t know we’re in another room), and then Nate sees Reagan and Cody’s heads pop out and it scares the pee out of him.
I’m trying to figure out how to lure Jo into my master bathroom so I can sneak Reagan and Cody out of the closet and down to the 10th floor when she asks if she can borrow my hair dryer because her clothes are so wet from dancing in the rain. Perfect!
While Jo is distracted, I nab Regan and Cody and who dash out of the closet and out of the condo. We’re halfway down the hall to the elevator, Reagan is barefoot, when we realize Humphrey is leaping alongside, full of excitement. I take him back, take them down, and get back before Jo is dry. It isn’t long before Nate gets the go-ahead. All is ready for the big moment. Benji ferries Jo’s family up the freight elevator, back to our condo, while Nate takes Jo down to the 10th floor to “watch the storm.” She was all smiles. She said later, when Nate went down on one knee and asked her to marry him, she all of a sudden wasn’t sure what to say. Was it, yes or I will or I do? “So I said all three!” she said.
You remember how we tried to tempt Nate to go for the surprise? How we thought it would be so cool if he could fool Jo, if she didn’t see it coming? Well, we were wrong. I knew it as soon as I saw the first hug, and then the next, and the next. This girl, she loves her family, and they love her, so, so much. They are tight. It makes me happy that Nate will be marrying a girl who has been loved like that. Jo just fell into their arms, so happy and so complete when she got to share her joy with her mom and dad, sister and brother.
And one last picture, one last footnote to our story. The next day? The sun came out! We caught this pic of Nate on one knee, acting out the proposal, a sunbeam resting right on Jo’s ring. It just feels like a wink from up above, a benediction perhaps? He approves. All that thunder the night before? It was clapping. 🙂