Thursday, July 23, 2009

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Story of My Engagement to Wendie Hooker

The Story of My Engagement to Wendie Michelle Hooker

By Bryce Christian Elder

During the first week of February, I came to a few realizations about where I was in life, and where I was going. It just kind of happened. It wasn’t forced, it wasn’t out of necessity, and it wasn’t out of frustration or desperation. No. Quite to the contrary, it was more like a light bulb turning on—a switch was flipped, and a realization came to fruition. I just knew it was time to ask Wendie to marry me.

Wendie and I have often answered questions as to how long we have been dating with more questions, asking if people want to know the answer in terms of “cumulatively” or “recently”. That’s how you have to calculate for long separated high school sweethearts. The real answer is that we’ve known each other for over 10 years now, and have dated for almost half that time. During those years, whether they saw us together or separate, we found out a lot about ourselves; Our strengths, and our weaknesses… Our tendencies, needs, and wants. All of which seemed to align themselves, and we now know that we understand each other better because of it all, and that it is the right timing.

So, rather than bore you with our reasoning, let’s get down to the juicy tidbits about what you REALLY want to know, which is “How did it all go down”? I shall henceforth indulge you!

As I said before, early February was when I knew. That was nice, because it coincided well with the possibility of being able to construct a proper atmosphere which would be conducive to my prospects of getting Wendie to be just distracted enough.

We had shopped for jewelry on a few occasions prior to this, and I had always played the bumbling idiot who didn’t know the first thing about what a girl wants in a ring, but as of the past few months, I had been getting better at knowing what to look for, and after a year and a half of Wendie showing me what she liked, I had a VERY good idea what that was. However, I did need to verify a few things first. So I visited my good friend Kris at Jared across from the Clackamas Town Center. She was a tremendous source of knowledge, and we narrowed the field to just a few.

Wendie and I just “happened” to visit her the next week, and Kris allowed her to react to some of the ideas we had put together in the days leading up to that point without letting on that we were in cahoots. My estimations were proven correct, and I knew I had made the right gemological decision. I visited Kris again the next day, and we finalized the ring purchase. Without going into too much detail, it is a brilliant oval cut, set in a dainty tiffany style band, with four prongs. A fairytale ring, with quite the bling!

Our Valentines Day trip was to consist of a beach trip, in which we would visit Cannon Beach, Seaside, and if possible, Astoria (where I did a bit of growing up as a child). I figured that since Wendie had recently been very excited about going to the beach and seeing Haystack Rock, that it might provide the right backdrop. If THAT didn’t work, I knew that one of her favorite foods in this whole wide world is Elephant Ears, which can be found at a particular shop in Seaside. I figured it might be an easy transition to go from talking about how sweet the confection was, and then transition to telling how much MORE sweet life would be if she would just marry me…blah blah blah. If THAT didn’t work, then I knew it would be a good idea to take her to the Astor Column in Astoria, which overlooks the mouth of the Columbia River, the Pacific Ocean, and the Young’s Bay area, which is absolutely gorgeous any time of year. I had figured that I might tie the view in with a diatribe about how “perspective is important in life, and now that I have had 10 years of perspective—will you marry me… etc etc etc.” So I had a few different ideas about where this might go ahead of time, but nothing set in concrete.
Again, I wasn’t going to rush it if the right moment didn’t present itself.

So, now that you have the right pretext… Here’s how it played out.

We arrived in Cannon Beach somewhere around noon, and to our surprise, it was packed. Quite literally, everyone and their dog was there. I swear there must have been a dog show somewhere that day! Wendie and I drove around trying to find a parking spot for about a half an hour, and stopped for a bit to admire Haystack rock from the relative comfort of the car. I asked her if she wanted to go check it out (so that I could profess my love for her in front of a huge rock, while putting a huge rock on her finger. Tee hee!) And she said “--nope, I just wanted to see it! Let’s go poke around the shops!” Dejected, I agreed, and we walked down the street to the shops.

As we walked, I realized that carrying such a large box in my inside jacket pocket was a bit awkward. Since if she were to hug me, she would definitely feel the bulge, and my cover would be blown. (Insert dirty joke here). I didn’t want her to see or bump up against it, so I tried my best to keep her on my left side all day long. (This is easier said than done, without performing awkward dance moves.) (Insert awkward Bryce-joke here)

We had walked a bit further down the sidewalk, and I saw a sign for the Elephant Ear shop. Sooner than I had thought! I figured this might just work out, so we went in. As we entered the shop, we realized we were the only ones there, save for the attendant inside who was a bit hunched over. I didn’t realize it, but Wendie poked me (almost in the ring box area) and pointed at him. He was fast asleep on the job. We laughed as he snorted, and just walked out of the shop. Pretty funny, but also discouraged my tactical approach.

We soon tired of Cannon Beach, jumped in the car and headed for Seaside, all the while stopping to check to see if there were any vacancies at local hotels. There were none. No Vacancies all the way up and down the coast. Here I was, prepared to spring on even an expensive one to celebrate, and none could be found, due to my lack of preparation. We arrived at Seaside, parked, and began walking up and down the crowded streets, looking at different shops, and generally having a good time. We found the elephant ear place, and ordered one. We told the attendants there about the sleepy guy at their other store, and they laughed and thanked us for the funny story. We sat down to eat our elephant ear, and I realized that it was just too crowded to be so serious. There was a cacophony of people, arcade sounds, cars, and birds. It was too distracting, and among too many people. I bagged the idea. We finished the treats and decided we should try to make it to Astoria so that we could watch the sun set from the Astor Column. It was a beautiful day on the beach. Mostly sunny and 50+ degrees.

As we drove up highway 101 towards Astoria, I looked to the east, and saw thick sheets of rain. I showed Wendie, and said “I sure hope that’s not over Astoria”. As we drove over the Young’s Bay Bridge, I realized that it was indeed raining in Astoria. My prospects darkened with the skyline.

The closer we got to Astoria, the more I realized I had no idea how to get up to the Column. So we stopped at a coffee hut, and asked directions while simultaneously acquiring needed caffeine and warmth.

After getting our bearings and heading up the hill, it started to rain even harder. Small drops of the very concentrated type. It was also getting to be a little late, and also a bit cold.

Just as we reached the top of the hill, we had to stop, because just to our left, there was a beautiful deer standing in the middle of the lawn looking confused. We watched her for a few minutes, and she bounded away. The light from the sunset was bouncing off of everything, and cast a deep orange hue on the surrounding area. It was absolutely mind bogglingly beautiful, and made us both very thankful that we were able to be there just at the right time.

We parked, grabbed our coats and coffee to keep warm, and started up towards the tower. As we approached the column, we noticed that there were barricades in the doorframe. The tower was closed for renovation. I was pretty sad about that, but was also determined to make use of this perfect sunset, and magical setting. We pouted for about 20 seconds about the column being shut down, and then turn our attention to the West. The sun was just coming out from beneath a cover of clouds, and now illuminated the ocean 15 miles or so away. I had never noticed that it was that close! To each side of us, the orange sunset retreated into deep blues and silvers, and out in the Columbia River, there appeared a rainbow!

As we stood there, taking it all in, it continued to rain. Not having anything but our coats to keep us dry, we were beginning to get soaked. Wendie, in particular, was getting antsy to get back to the car, and watch the rest of the sunset where it was dry. I myself, not wanting her to go, because I was searching for the right words and clutching the box in my inside pocket…

I tried to start in with a pondering of the theme of “perspective”, saying to her that it was “so good to finally get up here and get some perspective… and that perspective in life is good”, and that “so and so” and “blah, blah blah…” but it JUST WASN’T COMING OUT RIGHT. Wendie was nice to be patient for a little bit, but finally couldn’t stand being wet and cold anymore. Understandably so! She said “Ok, baby, I’m cold, and wet… let’s go to the car!” I said, “no, babe! This is just… so beautiful…” trying my best to stall to get more time to think.

I set my coffee down on the metal and concrete map of the area, and put my hands in my coat pockets. She looked at me and asked what I was doing… I told her I was taking it all in. She said “OK, you’re crazy, I’m leaving!”, and just as I said, “No don’t leave…”

Something inside me snapped. Everything became clear and apparent.
I whirled around, grabbed her by her shoulder, and positioned myself between her and the setting sun (in order to maximize impact), and told her “No. You don’t understand. I don’t want you to EVER leave…” Kneeled in the puddle below, pulled out the ring and asked her to be my wife. “Wendie Michelle Hooker, will you be my wife?” I said (with the utmost confidence).

She reacted with a show of disbelief. “What!? Where?! When?! How?! –realizing she had her coffee in her hand and was unable to find the right word…put it down—YES!!!” Came the reply.

We kissed, and hugged, soaking wet and cold, but at that point didn’t care because it was a perfect moment.