These past two months have been big. Big fun, big trips, big decisions. Last week, I was presented with the biggest question I ever been asked. And I’m happy to say that it was the easiest I’ve ever answered.
Last Wednesday after taking me out for lunch mid-workday and swinging by the Cupcake Stop truck for a couple gluten-free cupcakes, Chris suggested that we head home instead of returning to work. I happily obliged. When we arrived home, I was advised that I needed to pack a bag and would need two nice outfits, one a bit nicer than the other. We threw together our bag in half an hour and hurried out the door. There was a car waiting downstairs to take us to the airport.
Now, I can’t say that I was entirely surprised, though this is not Chris’ fault. Friday was our impending third anniversary of dating, and I’d been on high alert since first thing on Monday. One of my coworkers sat me down that morning so we could plan out the week.
“So uh, I was thinking maybe we should plan to get stuff done a little early this week. You know, just so that we can take it easy the last couple days. And I might have a….um…conference to go to on Friday, so maybe we could try to get things done by Wednesday morningish….”
To his credit, he really did much better than this—quite well actually—but this is how it sounded to me. I have a degree in acting from NYU. Don’t mess.
So, I knew something was up. It also didn’t help that one of Chris’ coworkers asked us at a company event that night if we were going somewhere that weekend because Chris’ calendar showed he was out Thursday and Friday—oops. Chris went white as a sheet (I almost reached over and checked his pulse) and shook his head. On Tuesday, when he asked to take me to lunch the next day, the “getting work done by Wednesday morning” thing officially clicked. I knew it wasn’t likely that I’d be back to work, so I scrambled and finished all my stuff. I was ready to be surprised.
When we checked in at the airport, I discovered that my first guess as to where we’d be going was correct: Seattle.
No, see, I don’t think you understand. Seattle has become for me this untouchable land where all of my very favorite food writers live and cavort with one another. It’s the place where my foodie heart longs to be, despite the fact that the whole of me knows I could never leave New York. For me, going to Seattle was how I imagine taking the Sex and the City tour through Manhattan is for some—only the characters that I’ve gone googly-eyed over are real.
On the cab ride into the city, my eyes were wide, taking everything in and gushing over it all. I couldn’t believe we were actually there. And though there was thoroughly wonderful, I’m going to spare you those details of our vacation. Just for now. What I really want to talk about now is Thursday night. This was the night that I was instructed to wear my dressier outfit.
When I said that I’d been on “high alert” the whole week, our anniversary wasn’t the only thing on my mind. Pretty much since we started dating, but intensely for the past year, we have been talking about marriage…and engagement, and rings. This past summer we did a bit of shopping, both found something that we loved, and I’ve been twiddling my thumbs and tapping my toes ever since. It hasn’t always been the easiest thing, this waiting. Little girls grow up with this vision of what these moments in our lives are supposed to be. In the storybook version we’re swept off our feet, completely surprised by something unique and grand (no pressure). Anything that makes these things different and breaks these maybe impossible illusions can feel devastating. And, honestly, there were moments of devastation. There were whole weeks where I cried and wondered if it could ever be as good as I’d hoped.
Also, before you all get the crazy idea that I’m one of those girls desperate to get a ring on her finger at any and all costs, I’m not. Never have been. When I sat down with one of my very best friends not even two months into dating Chris, and told him that I knew that this was the man I wanted to marry and how excited I was to start a life with him, he looked at me like, “Who are you?” In that moment, I wasn’t even sure, or maybe I was somehow more sure. All I really knew was that this one person had changed my life irreparably.
Can you see why three years was tough to wait out?
So, I had certain things on my mind, and tonight was the fancier dinner, and it was one night before our anniversary. It was all I could do to keep myself together.
Chris made sure that I didn’t know where we were going until the moment the car pulled into the restaurant. Initially we began driving toward the Space Needle. Inside I screamed, Oh god, not the rotating restaurant at the top of the Space Needle! Breathe, it’s going to be okay…breathe. Just as I started to have a full-blown panic attack, we turned off in a different direction and the distance between us and the tourist attraction began to grow. Nothing against the Space Needle. We went. It was nice. You get it though.
A mere matter of minutes later, we arrived at Canlis. I immediately recognized the name. I was sure I’d seen it tweeted and blogged about a dozen or more times. When we walked in, I could see why. The place was beautiful. I wish I could describe it for you and really do it justice, but I was much more focused on the way that Chris’ hand was trembling in mine. I was also wondering why we weren’t seated for a several minutes after they took our coats, and completely taken aback when the hostess began speaking as though she’d been given our personal profiles. Something was definitely up.
Eventually, we were lead up a staircase and into a top level of the restaurant. It was explained to us that this is where they often host private parties. I thought we may be sitting in this room until we walked straight through it. Just past the last tables and to the right was a door. We were led through that door to find a small room with one round, candlelit table for two and a chaise off to the side. There were large windows with a stunning view of Lake Union. This was where we’d be dining for the evening.
As I sat down, I noticed there were already menus on the table. At the top was written “Our Special Night.” The menu consisted of four courses, which Chris told me he had worked with the restaurant to select. All of our favorite things and all gluten-free.
I wish I could remember the food better. I remember that the heavier taste of the bacon in the salad contrasted very well with the clean bite of lemon in the dressing. The scallops sat atop butternut squash puree and bits of paprika-spiced chorizo. The duck skin was deliciously crisp, with a melty layer of fat in between it and the velvety meat. And the crème brulee was flecked with vanilla beans and topped with a raspberry sorbet that we both agreed was our favorite part of the meal. Most clearly though, I remember Chris’ voice cracking a couple times when we first sat down, and then trying to keep the conversation light and keep both of our minds focused on other things.
After dessert, Chris asked the waiter if he could be shown to the restroom. Only a few seconds later, he was back. Well that was quick! I thought. He sat back down in his chair and began to tell me how much he loved me and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. He then got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.
(I would later learn that he’d called the restaurant in advance and asked them not to take our coats as the ring was in his pocket. Oops. Our waiter was standing outside the door with his jacket when he popped out of the room.)
And all of those feelings that I worried wouldn’t be there because we’ve been together for three years and have been living together for just as long and are essentially behaving like a married couple so it’s just going to be a new piece of jewelry and can I finally start planning this wedding now? Well, I was wrong to ever worry. There were tears on both sides, and laughter, and me saying “Oh my god!” and shaking and taking far too long to say yes because I couldn’t stop crying, and looking at the ring, and covering my face with my hands, and then looking at the ring and freaking out all over again. It happens just the way people describe, and it’s hard to fully understand until you experience it. Everything moves lightning-fast in a single, chaotic blur of emotion.
I feel really silly now, too, for all of my worrying and crying and stressing. The ring may not have been a surprise (which I’m actually thankful for) and I may have been anticipating it for some time, but the real surprise is in actually being engaged. As Molly Wizenberg of Orangette so accurately described it, your head explodes. Suddenly, nothing will ever be the same again. For all the times that I’ve looked at Chris and thought, This is the man that I’m going to marry, it’s a much deeper, dizzier feeling now that it’s real. We’re going to plan a wedding. I’m going to wear a white dress and put a ring on his finger and we’re going to be married. Wow.
Oh and here’s the part of the story I keep forgetting to tell people because we all get so excited about the We’re engaged! thing. After we freaked out for a while, and sat and talked and glowed for a while more, the assistant wine director took us on a tour of the cellar. We walked back through the kitchen and down into one of three of their wine cellars, stocked to the brim. The second cellar is on site but requires a walk outside, and the third is offsite, where they store the bottles that require time to age. Their wine list is unbelievable. Epic, really. A tome, if you will. Seriously, it’s upwards of a hundred pages.
Then, as we were leaving the restaurant, Mark Canlis walked over to congratulate us. We chatted briefly about New York and Seattle (he actually traveled from Seattle to New York to propose to his wife), he took our picture by the fireplace, and was a genuine and completely wonderful person. Everyone at the restaurant that night was incredible, really. Thank you so much to the entire Canlis staff, to Mark, Phillip, and especially to our waiter Chris for helping to make our night so special.
I couldn’t have hoped for anything more that evening, and there’s not a single thing I would change. It was intimate and personal and us in every way.
It’s funny—all at once I feel ten years older, much too young for this, and like the timing couldn’t be more perfect. It’s intense and overwhelming. My whole world seems like it’s gotten bigger and the ground I’m standing on feels more solid. And yet, my heart is flying. Forget jumping off cliffs, this is a joyous, running leap into the rest of my life. Our life. I can’t wait.
We’re getting married!