We were college students. Northwestern in St. Paul, MN. It’s a wonder I learned anything. I found out in 1990 what it meant to fall in love. Now I was in deep, and there was no going back.
Amy was so beautiful. I was so hyper. Phase one… We had a date night planned, but I knew what was coming. That little ring box in my pocket wouldn’t let me forget. It was my habit to stand as close to her as possible, because that’s what you do. But now I had this ringbox in my left pocket. Couldn’t bump into her with it. Couldn’t give it away yet.
As we drove to the big Mall of America for teriyaki chicken overlooking the park rides and a movie, I remember her noticing that I was a bit more hopped up than usual. Man, I was suave. Truth is, this night was going to be the most significant watershed moment in my life so far. And I knew it. The rest of my life all hinged on one word.
After the movie, in the car (we were parked in the Pineapple lot), I began Phase two… with a pack of gum. I had prepped a number of small gifts for her through the rest of the night. I only planned to do this one time. Ever. Only got one shot. So I started in a safe place… with her favorite bubble gum. Then I had a frame for her – to put our picture in. I hoped for a good “engagement night” photo, but I couldn’t let that slip yet. Bide your time, Skogerboe. You are so suave.
Not so much. I was a bundle of nervous energy. But I tried my best to play it cool. It’s just that I live transparent. I’m not claiming that as a virtue. I would be a horrible poker player. It’s just that what I feel you can see. Heart on sleeve. And if this girl would EVER say yes… to ME? This amazing girl. ohmygoodness ohmygoodness.
We made it back to campus. So far, all according to plan. So far, aside from my geeky endorphin rush, I hadn’t screwed this up. I smiled when we drove by the famous “rock” on Northwestern’s campus. Per my instructions, it had been painted black. As was the custom at Northwestern, new engagements and weddings were celebrated publically with a painted message on this big rock for all to see. But not yet. She hadn’t said it yet.
As we drove past the rock, I wondered if my cousin Scot was hiding in the bushes somewhere – just watching for my slate gray 1988 Caprice Classic station wagon to roll by. No sign of him. Stealthy like a ninja. All according to plan. Amy and I parked the car and walked over to Nazareth Chapel. She had no clue, did she? As we entered the chapel, it was all set. Lights low, spotlight on the piano, red and white roses in a vase. Red meant “I love you,” and white meant “You’re my best friend.” I know… a little dramatic. But I only had one shot. Besides, love covers a multitude of cheese. I think that’s in the Bible.
I had her sit with me at the piano and I sang to her. Now let me be clear… I was NOT a piano guy. No way, no how. But I had learned one song. “Go There With You” by Stephen Curtis Chapman. I’m quite sure I botched some of the chords. Don’t remember. But it was OK to be a little bit vulnerable with Amy. She loved me. This was good. I wanted this for the rest of my life. She had to say yes. Please God, let her say yes.
Then it was back out into the cold November air. Walking back across campus toward the dorms on the sidewalk through the trees. Wait… is that my ninja-like cousin hunched down by the rock?! What?! No! He’s supposed to be done by now…
“How about we go in to warm up a bit?” I suggested. Had to improvise. This wasn’t quite according to plan. We were off the map. Had Amy seen him? No. Close call. I was a little shaky at this point. Thankfully it was cold enough my shivering could pass as a reaction to the Minnesota November night air. The watershed moment was coming closer. Everything hung in the balance.
After a little stalling in the nearest dorm lobby, it was time. Back out toward my car on the far end of campus. Past the rock. The sidewalk snaked behind it. Perfect. Hidden there in the shadow behind the rock was my last gift for her. She pulled it out of the gift bag. My heart was beating through my chest. A plaque that said “November 18, 1993. Always remember this night. I love you.” Heart pounding. Ears ringing. Breath shallow. One word…
Down on my knee. Fumbling for the ring box. Amy starting to realize… [the next five minutes are just for us. Too personal. Just ours. But SO SO GOOD.]
When we wiped our tears away and walked in front of that rock it was already done. Thank you, ninja cousin Scot. “Amy and Joshua.” One painted red rose and one white one. Perfect.
Not many moments carry that kind of weight – that depth of joy. I still can hardly believe it. She’s so amazing. How do I rate? She said YES.
Love you baby.
“she said yes” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.