[D: ] It was early October and it seemed like forever since I’d decided I was going to marry Jen. When was too soon? Did I care about what other people might think (no)? What sort of ring would I get her, where would I get it, how would I propose? I’m not a man obsessed with romance but I understand the importance of creating lasting memories, some dates should be special and drip with that sort of warm gooey feeling that you will always look back at with fondness. It was mid-October and I mentioned this to my coworker and friend, Julie. She told me that she knew a woman that owned a local jewelry shop and I could check it out (and drop her name), and they would treat me right. This turned out to be truer than I could have guessed. I called ahead and after work on October 19th, I went into the Bay Hill Jewelry shop to meet a woman named Doreen, about a ring. She was extremely pleasant, we talked and determined what I wanted was an emerald. Neither Jen or I like diamonds, and I know way too much about the diamond trade and pricing practices to ever buy another such stone.
[D: ] It was two visits later, only 1 week, and I was back at the store (also in downtown Winter Park) to pick up the custom made, emerald ring, that I hoped would soon adorn Jen’s ring finger. Originally I had planned on proposing after Thanksgiving, but once I got the ring in hand it burned a hole in my metaphorical pocket and by that Saturday I had planned out what I would do. Jen and I had been talking about taking the girls to downtown Winter Park on a Saturday since we had met. It’s so pleasant and relaxed, often there are art exhibits going on and on Saturday mornings there is a local farmer’s market. I mentioned it casually to her, that the girls would probably love to go, and that we should go, and that everyone cool would be there, and yes lets go (super casual). She suspected nothing. We arrived around 9:30 and toured the market, picking up delicious gluteny breakfast for the girls, some Aloe Orange Juice (try some!) and got a huge bag of the kettle corn that they make at a stand there (it is delicious). We all sat down in the rose garden on Park street and the girls roamed, restlessly, around the park (eventually receiving a cut from a rose bush, which they had been warned not to get too close to). Jen got up to go get a drink, and when she came back I had the ring in my pocket, ready to go. As she sat back down I noticed that suddenly, the rose garden seemed filled with butterflies, and, what is that, but a local musician on the corner began to play his violin. The moment was perfect, God was giving me the thumbs up, and in what felt like the longest seconds of my life, I raised myself up off the bench, got down on one knee and asked Jen, “Will you be my person, forever?”
[J: ] Honestly, Derrick’s proposal caught me completely by surprise. I remember Derrick asking me earlier in the week if we had plans that Saturday. We did, but they weren’t until later in the day so he suggested taking the girls to the Farmer’s Market in Winter Park in the morning. I said it would be a great idea (we had been talking about taking the girls there for a while). So we went. It was a fantastic morning. The day was nice, the girls were having a great time, we got breakfast… It was just a really great morning. Later, Derrick suggested that we walk through the park on our way back to the car. I agreed–it was on the way and we enjoy the rose garden and the girls love running around. Besides, I had tamales from the Tamale Co. truck and I wanted to sit. So we went to the rose garden and relaxed for a little while. It was beautiful. The girls were running around playing, we had grapes and kettle corn… I realized I’d forgotten to get a drink, so I ran back to the truck–I mean, “I walked back.” (Jen doesn’t run, we know this.) When I came back, a street violinist was playing a bench or so over from us and there were several butterflies floating around near by. It was just the perfect day. I realized what time it was, though, and I mentioned to Derrick that we needed to go or we would be late. I remember him saying, “Slow down. Let’s just sit and enjoy this for a little bit.” I sat back down to relax. We sat for a little while longer and eventually I saw Derrick slide down onto the ground. At first, I thought he dropped something or was hurt, but then he looked up at me and held out a ring. I don’t remember anything he said. I just remember staring at him and asking him if he was serious–completely unable to ascertain if this actually happening or if I suddenly wasn’t in “real life” anymore. It wasn’t until I heard Rose’s loud shout of, “YES! DOOO IT!” that I remember snapping out of it. I’m not sure if I was crying before, but I was aware that I was crying at that point and shaking my head yes. I realized then that the girls were with us and they were hugging us and pushing us together and we were all laughing and crying (although I think I was the only one actually shaking due to the adrenaline). Afterwards, I thought about the violinist, the butterflies, the roses, the market and I asked Derrick, “Really?” In utter amazement. He just answered, “I know, right?” [D: It had all gone so smoothly, more perfect than I could have planned for. I knew that God had wanted it to go well, and I know he has great things in store for our family.]