Twenty years ago today, I proposed to my beautiful bride atop of the St. Louis Gateway Arch.
At the time I was still studying to be a DCE and had not decided to be a pastor. But we had the opportunity to meet in St. Louis that last weekend in March, 1990. I hitched a ride with my classmate, Kris Biar (nee, Peterson) as she was going to visit her fiancé, Henry. So Jennifer decided to fly up so we could see each other for a couple of brief days.
I had in mind that a few weeks later, when I would go back home to Houston for Easter, I would proposes to Jen then. But, I had not informed my parents of that timeline. The ring was safely in Houston and, they thought, perhaps I’d want it for when Jen and I are together in St. Louis.
The trick, of course, was getting it to me – especially when I didn’t even ask for it!
My 21st birthday was a few days away, so my parents had a brilliant idea; send up the engagement ring with my birthday present! They were sending that present (a shorts and shirt outfit, if memory serves) with Jennifer. So, my parents, unknowing to either Jennifer or me, sent her engagement ring with her when she flew up to St. Louis!
So, now, how am I going to get something I don’t know about when the forum for me opening my gift will undoubtedly be in the presence of Jen, without her knowing?
I remember being in a room with Jen before going out for the day. she had brought in my present from my parents along with the card. I opened the card. Besides the birthday wish, my dad had written, “There’s something in the shorts pocket. Don’t let Jen see.”
Somehow I was able to get to the ring in it’s case and get the card away without Jen suspecting. Of course, I was more than a little surprised that the ring was there, too, but I had options now that I didn’t before. If I wanted to propose during our time together, I could!
I had an additional problem, now. How do I carry it around? I didn’t want to just slip the ring into the pocket of my jeans; there could be a hole in them or I could accidently take it out with some change.
I put the ring – box and all – in the side of my boot. It bugged me to all-get-out for the day, but it worked!
We went to the arch that day, though I don’t recall if we had decided that earlier or not, but we went. We watched the (much dated!) film in the museum at the bottom of the arch on how it was constructed. Then we got in line to travel up to the top.
We got to the top and I was getting nervous. Women don’t understand that no matter how much you’ve discussed this beforehand, the is a nerve-racking thing to do.
We were looking out over the Mississippi River through the small windows on the East of the arch. (Not the prettiest side, BTW!) I had worked the box from my boot to my hand somehow, still managing to keep it hidden. I mumbled some weird thing like, “that film about how this was built sure brings to mind a lot of questions, huh?” “Yea,” she responds. “Like what?” I follow up. “I don’t know. What questions did it bring up for you?” she says. “Well, like, will you marry me?” as I hope the box.
She nearly falls down as this hit out of nowhere, then she says, “Yes!”
I get so excited that I start telling the people at the top that she just said “yes,” including a female park ranger up there. she congratulates us!
Later we decide to celebrate with a nice meal and bottle of wine at a restaurant at Union Station. We’re excited and order a bottle of wine.
If you caught what I said earlier, it was three days before my 21st birthday. Sure enough, I got carded.
We showed them the ring and my ID which showed my birthday a few days away, and they brought out a bottle for us!
the last twenty years have had some difficulties and unexpected turns, but I praise and thank God for the amazing woman He put in my life and who has put up with me for over 20 years!
Thank you, hon, for saying “yes!” I love you and look forward to the next 20+!