The Engagement Day Story, September 11, 2010
While planning for the trip to Switzerland with my parents, Dave found a video from Rick Steves, the guru of traveling in Italy. Rick said that the most beautiful place in all of Europe was found on a bench in Gimmelwald, Switzerland. A perfect place for a proposal.
A few months before the trip, Dave took BBQ over to my parents’ house. On a quick run to get ice, he asked my dad for my hand. When they got back to the house, he told my mom. Brava to her for keeping things a complete secret for so very long! By the time we were actually engaged, she had been bubbling for 2 months with a joyous excitement. I actually called while they were eating. I was suspicious of the lunch, but was completely dumbfounded when my mom cut me off the phone slightly rudely which is deeply out of character for her. When I asked Dave about the lunch he only talked about going to get ice from this new ice machine along the highway. Sigh… I was sure that nothing special had happened.
Fast forward to our trip to Switzerland. It was a rough hoe getting there which deserves a long essay – but one that will never be written. Suffice it to say, we got to Gimmelwald 15 hours later than we had planned, arriving in time for breakfast. However, the kitchen was closing so they fixed us sack lunches of sandwiches, tomatoes and apples. We ate on the deck and literally marveled: we were in the heart of the Swiss Alps. My motion sickness had survived a taxi, two hours on a bus and several hours on a train, another bus and a sky gondola. I was hanging by a thread thinner than the sky gondola’s. So, why I climbed into bed, I watched my Dad and Dave climb into the sky. They went up to the stop of the Schlitterhorn, jig-jagging their way in more gondolas. I awoke refreshed and ready to spend time with Dave. But he was still in the clouds.
My mom and I sat on the deck and then went to the little park area. Mind you, this village has less than 40 houses, so when I say “little” park, it consisted of two benches. We sat on some built in steps and made friends with a 3 year old named Stella. Then we went on a walk, where we eventually met my dad and Dave who had walked down from one of the higher villages. I was so happy to see my Dave. He whispered in my ear, “There’s a bench up a little ways I’d like to take you to this afternoon.” Oh, yes! I knew he had something up his sleeve. Maybe something sparkelly?
We ate sandwiches for lunch and then my parents went off to take a nap. Dave came up to my attic room (yes, the door was cracked open) and lounged on the bed close to the opened window dozing in and out of consciousness. I sat on the other twin bed and journaled and read and just watched him. We talked a little, stretching our hands to reach across the canyon.
And then we were ready for a walk. But there were lots of benches to choose from. Which one did Rick Steves mean? We sat off for a life-threatening adventure, sliding more than walking, down a precarious pebble path. We wound our way to a little farm with the greenest, softest grass. A perfect place for a proposal. Sweet nothings and sweet every things… April Lynn Houk, will you marry me? Yes, David. Yes. Somewhere along the line Dave pointed out the two waterfalls jetting out the mountain across the valley, and how they joined into one. My first comment after Yes was “We’re going to raise children together and die together.” We laughed at my morbid sense of romance.
We continued our walk (after taking pictures) – and yes, everyone expects that I would be bawling by now – but I wasn’t. The whole thing felt completely natural, and at the same time holy and serious. Our walk lead us to another bench where we could look down into the valley. Dave thinks we eventually found Rick’s bench on our way back to the hotel, but this stop – this bench overlooking the Jungfrau valley was lovely.
For those of you who love animals, and those of you who know I don’t… let me introduce you now to the one witness of our engagement: a black and white cat. Who, for the rest of the afternoon felt entitled to be a part of our celebration. Dave, and later my dad, got such a kick out of the cat’s magneticisim. I did not.
While on this beautiful place, Dave and I tried to take self portraits. We had tried at the engagement site – but they were hoooo-rrrrrrr-ible. These weren’t much better, but they made us laugh. I wanted us to look serious. We look like miserable death.
So, back to the village we went. We met my dad along the way who was busy taking his 900 and some-odd pictures. We all stopped in to a little cheese place to taste and to buy. We had to ring the doorbell at someone’s house, where she poked her head out the kitchen window and walked us to the cheese house (which was no bigger than 8 feet by 8 feet).
We made our way to the hotel where we found my mom, again sitting on the deck. I showed her the bag of our purchases: What did you get? Cheese, sausage and a diamond! She was so excited. Hugs and tears and lots of laughter.
Back in March, Dave’s mom had asked Dave if I would like her engagement ring. He gently asked me what I thought and I said, Yes! I have a deep longing to know Dave’s dad, Wiley, who passed away a few years ago. I crave connections to him and if he chose the ring – then I knew it would be perfect. Priscilla (Dave’s mom) described it to me and said I could re-do it however I wanted… but I wanted it how Wiley wanted it. And, boy! Did that Wiley have good tastes. It’s more beautiful than could have imagined – elegant and sophisticated and refined. Perfect. There are other hidden stories within the ring. Dave’s mom has one about loosing the diamond and finding it. My mother has a story about how they tried to figure out my ring size using spies at my house. Ask them to tell their stories.
Sabina, the lady who runs the hotel, brought out her mother’s homemade elderberry wine with little dainty flowers in it. My parents grew elderberries: a tie to the Louisiana roots of my mother. We laughed more and we called Dave’s mom and sister. Then I called my sister. She, of course, was so very thrilled, excited to get a brother-in-law, but even more excited to inherit his nephews and niece.
I can’t remember the next little bit. I think we just sat there and talked until it was dinner time. We went over to a hostel that had a restaurant. I ordered a traditional Swiss dish: racklett, a big piece of baked cheese and potatoes. Everyone else had pizza.
We were all tired… especially the boys. So, seemingly early – was it only 10:00? We all said good-night. And a few minutes later, there was a knock at my door. My mom came in for girl-talk. She had sent my tired dad to bed and wished Dave a good night and told him that they love him and then she had climbed the stairs to find me.
We laughed and talked more. She had been waiting not just for two months… but for well… 35 years for this. I had left my phone book at home and her American cell phone, so we only had a handful of memorized numbers. My mom called some of her sweet friends. I’m going to get a son-in-law! More tears and laughter and finally it was time for the sweet dream of the day to fade into the sweet dreams of a just-engaged-woman.