Thursday, August 28, 2008

how it happened

Hi, all.

Many readers of this blog already know via other means of communication that Hannah and I became engaged last night. Quite reasonably, it was suggested that I tell the story here in full detail so that it could be easily shared. (I love the information age.)

My main goals in the design of the proposal (obviously, my main goal in the proposal itself was to make official and public our pledge to marry each other) were as follows: surprise Hannah, include a certain piece of music she had requested on a previous occasion, and get it done in time for classes to begin. Clearly the last one was a success by dint of the date; I am happy that the other two worked out just as well.

Let me start with the piece of music, because it came first chronologically in the plan (and essentially at the beginning of the proposal). One day, almost two years ago, we were sitting in Hannah’s apartment listening to Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony. The third movement of this piece is a breathtaking Adagio, starting with a clarinet solo and passing through several swells and some of the loveliest melodies in the orchestral repertoire. While we listened to it, she said “You should play this piece when you’re going to propose.” Thus the kernel was planted. I immediately knew that, when the time came, this piece would have to emerge from somewhere unexpected as a first clue of the event to come. Later, I began thinking of having a band or small ensemble appear as we were walking around campus or out on the Arts Quad. I started thinking about what instruments are played by my friends around here. And I began to converge on a woodwind quintet. As it turned out in the end, I only knew one of the musicians that came to play for us, but she assembled a fine quintet that made the experience a great one.

Last night, at the end of a long day of other activities, we were at Anabel Taylor Hall (for those who don’t know, this building houses the Cornell United Religious Works) for a start-of-year Graduate Christian Fellowship event: the annual ice cream social. I had worked out ahead of time that the social would probably be wrapping up around 8:30, so that’s when I asked the musicians to arrive. Except instead of coming into the meeting space, they set up in the chapel down the hall. I tapped Hannah (who was in the middle of a very interesting theological discussion that normally I would have loved to see continue) and asked her to come check on something with me.

We began walking down the hall, and I stopped by the office, where I had stashed some flowers earlier in the day. When I brought them out, she began looking at me suspiciously, and the musicians (whom we couldn’t yet see) began to play.

Now, Hannah knew I was going to ask her at some point—indeed, I already had and had just warned her that I wanted a chance to make it “official” in a special way. In her mind, however, that point was still some weeks off. I had a “deadline” of Fall Break, which takes place in the middle of October. However, she also mentioned recently that, when we first began dating the day before classes started two summers ago, she delighted in the sudden change in our relationship at a time already so full of change; she appreciates liminal times in life, as she put it. And although the calendar date of our anniversary was last Sunday, the “day before classes” seems more intimately related to the start of our relationship than August 24.

The music drifted towards us as I pushed Hannah (with her increasingly pursed lips) towards the chapel. We walked through the doorway, first halting just a few steps in, then proceeding to the middle of the room. We said only a few small things as the music was playing. (Did I mention I wrote the arrangement for the quintet? The original movement is about 20 minutes long, and I don’t think it had been arranged at all for a small ensemble. I took about a four minute selection and spent several mornings pulling parts together.) After it ended, I spoke with Hannah for a few minutes, talking about the last two years and how just in the last few months we really seemed ready to commit. I got down on my knee, as she deserves, and presented her with a ring. People have asked what exactly she said. Mostly I remember there were at least four “Yes”s. (As she reads this, she says her answer was “Yes, yes, forever yes.”)

After I had stood up again, the quintet began playing a waltz I had written for her a long time ago. We danced, and applauded when they were done. The musicians all seemed glad to have been able to help, particularly since it seems to be a rare opportunity for wind players to be part of an engagement proposal.

And that’s how it went, as I remember it. Since then, we’ve been happy and gleeful and tired and making plans and basking in each other.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Pictures! Pictures!