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  • Writer's pictureBillie Proffitt

The Proposal

“Isn’t it weird how everyone says ‘congratulations’ when they find out you’re getting married?” my childhood best friend asked me, after congratulating me. “I mean, it isn’t like I did something special, or achieved anything?”

“Yeah, so weird,” I agreed. “If anything I feel like saying, ‘Congratulations to me? No, no, congratulations to you! Now that I’m getting married I expect I’ll be less of a bitch.’”

The next thing everyone wants to know of course, is how he did it.

His family’s tree farm straddles a creek in Northern Iowa, which beautifully and symbiotically, provides natural irrigation. The downside being that it also makes it a flood plane a few times a year. Because of that, each of the structures is built up on stilts...

It’s truly an American dream, as you come in on the bouncy, grass-covered dirt drive, which connects to a bouncy, dusty dirt road, that you’ve already easily forgotten is –somewhere out there – attached to a paved highway, and the rest of the world.

Under the main structure, the stilts’ angles are filled with carefully stacked, almost patterned piles of graceful, geometric firewood logs, all cut and dried to fit in a wood stove. It also has two decks: one facing the creek with the open wood-fire grill, and the other, facing the quintessential, lined rows of walnut trees as they grow right up to the turning banks of the creek. It was this deck we walked out to naked, when he pre-proposed.

Yes, pre-proposed.

It was the first week of July and for as far as I could see in every direction – across the creek, above it, all through the trees from the ground beneath us to the tops of the bushy, green leaves – there were fireflies glowing. When I looked up they faded right into the stars playing peek-a-boo in the clouds as they all floated around the growing moon.

“I know you don’t like surprises…” he began as he walked up from behind like the wrecking ball he is, and wrapped his arms around me. “So… What I’m asking is, if I were to propose on this trip… Would you say ‘Yes’?”

“If you actually ask – ” I paused with a raised eyebrow, “then of course I would say yes.”

The following days were Middle America magic…

We canoed up and down the creek, he taught me golf (on a course that is – as opposed to my previous stress-relieving, whack-a-mole style enjoyment of driving range bliss), we ate BBQ and drank beer, watched baseball, spit sunflower seeds, got lost down old country dirt roads… He taught me to drive a tractor, we fishtailed that big, rusted old Dodge Ram when we missed a ninety-degree turn and waved calmly to the combine driver staring at us, we hit Blooming Prairie’s 150th Anniversary celebrations and parade, stopped for wings and drinks at any hole-in-the-wall roadside spot we could chat with locals at, sang out loud to every country song that came across The Bull’s wavelengths as I sat shotgun with my legs stretching over toward the passenger’s seat, and we laughed… Man did we laugh – we always laugh together.

The morning of the Fourth of July I awoke with a mosquito bite, swollen and raised, on my left ring finger. This may not seem like much of a sign to you, but as someone who is historically covered in stings, and a carrier of encephalitis as proof of the obscene attraction insects seem to have to me… I had not one other sting on my entire body. But there it was, itchy and attention-grabbing – a physical manifestation of my emotional reality.

We made it back to Minneapolis as dusk sank down, just in time to get in a tandem kayak and paddle downstream to watch the fireworks over the Stone Arch Bridge – the very same event he took me to my first day being in Minnesota, two years before, for this very event.

He steered us out into the middle away from anyone, just before we went under the glowing green lights of Hennepin Bridge, and he sturdily balanced us right there in the middle of the Mississippi River, as he got up on one knee.

“Baby, we’ve have a lot of fireworks so far, and I know tonight won’t be our last… Will you marry me?”

“Oh my god!” I said, laughing, entirely worried we were going overboard in North America’s second-biggest river, in one of the biggest moments of our lives – “Yes! Yes! Yes, I will marry you!”

He didn’t have a ring, he had something better – a raw stone. A true symbol of what marriage is to me: a naturally occurring, unrefined, beautiful gem that takes desire, direction and effort to carve out and smooth over to personify it’s realistic role in this world.

And then we kissed, awkwardly to be honest. And we never kiss awkwardly! It’s a joke between us how innate and smooth everything that happens between us has always been, but I have to say, with my body twisted around in a kayak seat, paddle hanging overboard and him there, behind me, in the assumed position in the middle of The Mighty Mississippi! It was as awkward as we get. A test to his athleticism because, even with all the intense elements present, we still managed to get engaged without getting wet.

Just like this moment, life is full of treacherous, funny, uncomfortable, arresting events that we don’t know the outcomes of, or if those outcomes will take months or years, or even decades to come to fruition, or resolution – but I believe with this commitment, we have the abilities to balance whatever comes, just fine.

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