I thought y’all would enjoy hearing our love story from Neal! I’ll share our dating story this weekend. Enjoy!
Our First Date – By Neal
In true 21st century fashion, Ashley and I met online. I first e-mailed Ashley as I was about to arrive at Nationals Park for a Billy Joel-Elton John concert. I just wanted to introduce myself and say hello. Ashley responded a few hours later, saying that she was with her mom and four aunts at that exact same concert! I still didn’t know too much about Ashley, but I knew she had great taste in music!
A few weeks later, we decided to meet in person. Since we were both sports fans, we chose to return to Nationals Park for a baseball game between the Nationals and the San Diego Padres. The Nats lost, but Ashley and I hit it off. The game was followed by a fireworks show, which made for a wonderful first date! All in all, we had a great time getting to know each other. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my first evening with my future wife.
Our Engagement – By Neal
Ashley and I had been dating for a couple of years, and I knew she was the one I wanted to be with for the rest of my life. Now I just had to propose, which would be a very tricky proposition. You see, I love Ashley, but she’s naturally curious. That’s a nice way of saying she’s a snoop. ;-) Ashley has a way of sensing something’s up and sniffing out a surprise ahead of time. I don’t know how she does it…it’s quite remarkable, actually.
Anyway, I knew I needed to find a way to propose to her where she wouldn’t suspect what was going on. I thought a bit about it, and I decided that I wanted to propose at the Tidal Basin near the monuments here in DC. I heard plenty of suggestions, including that I should put the ring in a glass of wine at a restaurant or something. Well, I spent thousands of dollars on a ring, and I wasn’t about to submerge it in liquid. Plus Ashley might accidently drink it or something! But more importantly, I wanted to propose at a place that was timeless. A restaurant may go out of business and get torn down, but fifty years from now, I’d wager the Tidal Basin will still be around and the cherry blossoms will still be blooming in Washington, DC.
Now I just had to find a way to get Ashley down there without having her suspect anything was amiss. Fortunately, Ashley’s birthday is October 16, and she loves birthday celebrations. I suggested that we extend the celebration to a “birthday week,” where we do something every day the week leading up to October 16. Ashley was excited about the idea…after all, now she’d be getting seven presents!
I told her I’d give her seven presents starting on October 10, one each day leading up to her birthday on October 16. I also told her that the presents would get bigger and better each day. I emphasized that several times. This way, even if Ashley suspected that an engagement ring would be one of the gifts during “birthday week,” she’d naturally assume that the ring would be arriving on her birthday, October 16. Actually, I was going to pull a fast one and spring the ring on her right away on October 10.
October 10 was actually Columbus Day, which meant I had the day off to plan. I told Ashley that I wanted to see the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, a new memorial that just opened to the public a few months earlier. In reality, I knew that the King Memorial was right along the Tidal Basin, so it was the perfect plan. To be honest, Ashley wasn’t that thrilled about the idea; it was supposed to be HER birthday week, and I didn’t ask her what she wanted to do. I just told her where we were going, which should have been her first clue, but she actually didn’t suspect anything unusual.
Ashley and I met at the Metro after she finished work, and I had the ring in my pocket. I didn’t know exactly where along the Tidal Basin I wanted to propose, but I wanted it to be spontaneous and unplanned. I was pretty nervous, but I could tell that Ashley had no idea what was about to happen. We had arranged to go to dinner after we visited the memorials. As we were walking toward the Tidal Basin, Ashley mentioned that after we saw the King Memorial, we should just walk back toward the city rather than go back the way we came. I now knew I had to propose before we got to the memorial.
We got into a clearing, right next to a plaque on a rock that serves as a marker commemorating the planting of the original cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin. I knew it was the place I was looking for, so I stopped and told her that the whole story about birthday week was just an elaborate diversion to set up this moment. I dropped to a knee and asked her to marry me, and the whole moment went off without a hitch. Ashley was so stunned that she didn’t even cry; I had truly caught her by surprise. A few ducks waddled by in the Basin to serve as our witnesses, and we quickly snapped a few photos. The two of us were all smiles as we made our way to a bench to call our families.
By the way, I told her repeatedly afterwards that the statement that presents were going to get better and better during birthday week was only a diversion. I didn’t have six better gifts than an engagement ring at the time. Honestly, I probably never will! The proposal went exactly as I had hoped. Now I joke with Ashley that Columbus Day should be remembered as the most romantic of holidays. Either way, it was definitely the beginning of a new chapter in our lives together.