Wonderful things can happen in the cold hush of winter.
Last December found my husband and me moving into our very first house, a milestone for us both. After navigating our new marriage through months of cramped apartment living, we were finally packing up our possessions and heading to our new lives together as homeowners.
We worked all day moving furniture and packing boxes and driving back and forth, and by the end of the day we had things pretty well in order. Boxes were still stacked all over the house, but our furniture was in place and we were able to settle in and go about the business of living.
As the U-Haul pulled into our driveway for the last time that night, the snow began to fall — the gently drifting flakes sparkled in the light from the porch.
We were home.
Two Decembers ago, Hubby was still Boyfriend, and we were setting out for our annual winter date — a fancy early Christmas present to us both.
I took the Metro into Washington, DC, where he lived at the time, to meet him at his apartment. The air was crisp and cool and we held gloved hands on our walk to our favorite nearby restaurant, The Melting Pot. (I am of the opinion that fondue is among the world’s finest foods.)
After we had eaten our fills (and then some), we continued along the streets to look at the Christmas lights that illuminated the city. We strolled along Embassy Row, which had some fantastic displays, including a kangaroo-drawn surfboard at the Australian Embassy. Finally, we arrived at my favorite building in all of DC: The White House’s next-door neighbor, the Eisenhower Building.
I know now that it’s just a government office building, but it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The architecture is grand and Grecian, replete with column after column of stone and flourish. The whole place was lit up and glowing, a magnificent display that I was certain was the prettiest place in the entire city.
“Stand in front of it so I can take a picture,” I said, fiddling with my camera.
He complied, smiling brilliantly at me. And then, before I even knew it was happening, he reached into his coat pocket. In his hand was a little black velvet box. My heart jumped into my throat and we stared at each other for what felt like an eternity before either of us could speak. His eyes were hopeful.
Slowly, deliberately, he opened the box. All I saw were sparkles, reflections of the Christmas lights dancing and skipping across the surface of the loveliest diamond ring I had ever seen. It was simple and elegant and it would soon grace my left hand. I would leave it ungloved the rest of the night in order to admire my gift and to remind myself that, yes, this was happening. Really, truly happening.
“Would you …” he began. “Would you like to marry me?”
Four Decembers ago, I was a junior in college. I had been dating my boyfriend for a couple of months by then, a guy so funny and handsome and sweet I could hardly believe that he was with me. At that point, a lot of our relationship was long-distance, spread between my dorm room in Chestertown, MD, and his parents’ home in Lynchburg, VA. Every night since the one when we met, we spoke on the phone or through emails and instant messaging. We got to know each other conversation by late-night conversation, and every few weeks he would make the hours-long drive to see me.
He was my best friend.
On one of our visits, I was wrapping up my work on a play, and we had gone to the cast party in the basement of the theater with our friends. Suddenly, we found we were the only people left.
We held hands as we crept through the empty building, sneaking through hallways and up staircases until we wove our way backstage. Up a ladder and out the trapdoor and we were on the very top of the theater. Chestertown stretched out before us, bricks lit amber in the lamplight’s glow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the campus so beautiful or so still.
Bundled up in coats and hats and gloves, we talked softly.
“This is one of my favorite places in the world,” I said.
At that moment, snow began to fall. It fell soft and gentle, like a whisper, and tickled at our cheeks. We went to the ledge and looked out, marveling at the transformation. Finally, he turned towards me.
“Molly,” he whispered, “I’m falling in love with you.”
That’s when I knew, right there, that he was the man I was going to marry someday.
“Really?” I whispered back.
On the rooftop, above what felt like the whole world, I held my love and he held me. The snow fell, dusting us gently in fluffy flakes, turning the world white and cold and wonderful.
All I saw were sparkles.