If you go over to their house on a Saturday night, he’ll fix dinner and she’ll tell you the story about how he lost the engagement ring.
“He’s the type where I’m always telling him not to put something off, and he’s always putting things off, and that’s how he got himself in trouble.”
When they have company, he likes to cook something that fills the house up with the smells of pepper and pork and freshly poured wine.
“I knew he was going to propose. I had been telling my mother for two weeks– This man is getting ready to propose. I was waiting on it. One night, he comes home, he’s got a bag with him. A shopping bag. I forget where it was from, but it was from no place I’d be interested in. Dick’s Sporting Goods or something. That was his little plan. Put the ring in a bag that I wouldn’t go looking through. We’d been living together for a year at this point in time. I asked him, ‘What was in the bag?’ and he gave me some answer, but I had my suspicions.”
He chimes in from the kitchen that it wasn’t a Dick’s Sporting Goods bag, but he can’t remember where it was from. She tells him that he can never remember details and that’s why he does the cooking and she does the storytelling.
“Now what he didn’t see was that the bag got wet, because it was raining, and so the bottom of the bag is wet, okay? He doesn’t see that. I don’t say anything, because I’m not supposed to be interested in the bag, but I see the hole at the bottom, and I’m thinking, My ring better not be out there getting wet on the lawn.”
Wet would have been an improvement when she woke up the next morning.
“I wake up the next morning and there’s two feet of snow on the ground.”
What was supposed to be a rainy Saturday morning had instead turned into a full-on snowstorm. The kind that’s made worse by the lack of anticipation. She looked out the window and launched into a panic.
“He’s still asleep in bed, and I’m shaking him, ‘Wake up! Wake up! It snowed!’ I’m not even pretending to not know that he must have had my ring in that bag. I’m hoping it didn’t fall out, but when he wakes up and sees the snow, I can tell from looking at him that he thinks I’m being crazy, so I gotta say, ‘There was a hole in your bag!’ He doesn’t know what I’m talking about, and I have to say, ‘There was a hole in that bag you brought home last night. On the bottom of it! There was a hole in the bag and now there’s two feet of snow on the ground.’ Then I see him freak out, and that’s when I know we have a problem.”
They dispensed with pretending that maybe he hadn’t gotten her an engagement ring, and instead, he ran out to the car, still wearing only what he’d had on in bed. A pair of boxer shorts and a tank. She managed to throw some boots on him before he stomped out to the car, only to report back that the ring wasn’t there.
“That’s when I was like, ‘Okay, Code Red.’”
The two of them put on hats, gloves and as many layers as they could, because the snow was still coming down and it was freezing out. They started digging from the driveway to the front door, but nothing turned up.
“I’m crying, because I’m thinking, ‘My ring is gone. My engagement is ruined. We didn’t even get to the part where he gets down on one knee. I’m freezing my #$%#’s off. Do you believe this?’”
In the kitchen, I hear him laughing, because he already knows where the story is going.
“We dug a whole path to the front door, and nothing. We start digging around the path. We end up digging up the whole front yard almost. Just the two of us. I went inside to call my two brothers, and they came over to help us dig, but they almost got into a car accident on the way over, because the roads were so bad. We got four people now digging and shoveling, and no ring. My mother calls and I have to run into the house. She wants to know what he said when he proposed. I’m crying, ‘Mama, he didn’t propose yet! We gotta find the ring first! If he tries to propose to me before he finds the ring, I’ll kill him before we even get married!’”
Another foot of snow had accumulated while they’d been trying to dig past the first two feet, and they decided to take a break. The couple and the couple of brothers sat down in the kitchen to eat something and warm up. He started cooking something on the stove when he remarked that a stone in his boot had been bothering him the whole time they’d been out there.
“I looked at my brothers like ‘Is he serious right now? Because if this is what I think it is…’”
The boot came off, and there was the ring. It had to have landed in the footwear as he was taking off his shoes next to the front door the previous night while holding the decoy bag.
“We’re all laughing, and I want to kill him, but then he gets down on his knee right there in the kitchen. He tells me he loves me more than anything in the world, and would I marry him? I should have said ‘No’ because he gave me a heart attack with that ring, but I lost my mind the same way I would have if everything had gone perfect. That’s how much I love him.”
If you make a trip to their house on Atlantic Avenue some Saturday night in a few months when we’ll all be ready to sit in kitchens and listen to stories again, you’ll find it’s a place with lots of cooking and music and noise. They have three kids, one dog and losing things is still commonplace.
“Our two sons are just like him. Can’t hold onto anything. Our daughter is better. She’s like me. Thank god I have at least one other girl in the house.”
When she goes to put their youngest to bed, she hands the phone over to him and I ask if he minds hearing that story again, knowing she’s told it a hundred times.
“Nah, I like hearing her tell it. I like the part where she says, ‘Yes’ the most. That’s the best part. Hang on, I think I got to help her out with storytime.”
Meanwhile, on my end of the line, I can hear the food sizzling on the stove, and the sound of three kids all in various stages of getting ready for bed, and a song in the background I know I’ve heard before, but that sounds great all the same.