Engaged amidst the Holidays, but on no one’s terms but ours.

Merry Christmas, 2017, everyone. Engaged, here. Very happy. It helps me to write about big stuff, process it, and then I always end up figuring I might as well post it.
Love is best when shared.

Last Monday night, Rubin asked why I packed up and moved his monster truck and racetrack set.
“I didn’t Ru. Christine cleaned your room up…isn’t that nice?”
“Daddy, she isn’t allowed to touch my toys! You and mommy can touch my toys without asking, but only people from our houses are allowed to do it.”
“Rubin, what if Christine and I got married. Could she touch your toys then?”
“Mmmm…let me think about it.”
There were 10 seconds of thoughtful contemplating, with fingers on his chin, all of this while fully naked sitting on the potty.
“Daddy, yes…if you and Christine get married, she can touch my toys. But if you ever get unmarried like you did with mommy, then she can’t, okay?
“Okay Ru, that’s fair. I promise we won’t get unmarried.”

It’s not just about me anymore. Any life partner I might pick better be good as hell to that boy, and understand the priority list. His safety, happiness, health, and maturation atmosphere comes first. Before me. Before her. He is the cooperative King of this realm, learning how to live with supreme confidence while fitting into the world, hopefully learning utmost empathy for as many people as possible.

It’s going well so far, as he finishes up his 5th year. I genuinely like him. Passionate, he enjoys life. John Fournier, a musical and creative soul I admire, has watched as his daughter babysits Ru for a few different nights.
“That kid, man…he loves everything! Wanna build a puzzle? YES. Wanna watch a show? YES, LET’S DO IT.” John says that’s rare. Says that Ru is a little version of me in that way.
I know John meant it in the reverse, but the truth is that I am flattered by being compared to Rubin.

Christine is a jewel of a woman. Deeply kind, always striving to be the best version of herself, and working to remain as positive as possible each and every day. She believes in putting goodness into the world, and trusting that it comes back to you. She believes in God, she was raised a Catholic, and generally has faith in both a benevolent higher power, and the possibilities for humanity. We can be good. Love can triumph. It must.  Her spirituality dovetails so perfectly with my hippie side.  I didn’t see it coming.

Rubin is going to be blessed with an amazing stepmother.  And we will both be blessed with Christine’s two college-age daughters in our lives.  I will be an instant stepfather, with so much to learn.  The relationships I could have with them are a huge opportunity; how good and strong a man can I be, while also respecting their individuality and growth?

I have thought and lived with her for 7 months. I have learned the value of her spirit in my life, how we genuinely make each other better. We have grown to communicate better than I thought imaginable; this is easily the best relationship I’ve ever been in. Not even close.

I was given a 6 month deadline when she moved in.
“At this age, we should know.”
I get it. But a man can’t truly own his destiny on deadline.

I successfully retook the power of the wedding proposal time frame at the 6 month mark. I needed this to feel like my choice, needed to make sure that by the moment I committed and did this, I was free of any possible regret, concern, or trepidation. Given my lifelong struggle with conflicted emotions, this was perhaps an unrealistic aspiration. But I got there.

I got there because I am in the best therapeutic health of my life. I am in touch with my aggression, and mobilize it whenever possible. I am careful to be quiet and look for my center, my own moral compass, and try to base decisions on what I truly want and need. I am conscious of a lifelong desire to appease others that has been beneficial in terms of getting along with people, but detrimental in terms of holding on to unspoken resentment. I let things out these days, more than ever before.

A wedding proposal is a rare opportunity for a man. It’s a chance to define his sense of romanticism, to express himself aesthetically, creatively, symbolically. I wanted our moment to be memorable, emotional, and unique.

Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years’ Eve, and her birthday all loomed as possible dates to work with. Also present, though, was her need for the clarity of our engagement as she lived through those holidays. The endless questions about her future and our timeline from friends and family have been stressful. I did want to alleviate those soon, and had visions of her enjoying said holidays with relief, pride, and a shiny ring.

So the plan was hatched, for a Wednesday night at 7 pm. I told her there was a show in a tent downtown in Grant Park, a seasonal show I’d heard great things about. We would have to be outside for about 10 minutes, so we needed to dress warmly. No googling! Was she game? Of course she was.

As she fell asleep on the couch at 6 pm, she looked at me hopefully and asked if we HAD to go out. Yes, baby we do. I promise it will be worth it. I made up some more bullshit about the show. This was a lot of lying, and I am NOT good at lying to this woman. That’s one of the best things about us.

Our ride came, we got in it and headed downtown.
“The city looks beautiful!,” she said. “I love that we’re here, I love that this is my home.”
“I know, baby. Remember when we rode bikes, on our 2nd date I think? We went to Buckingham Fountain, and you got emotional.”
“Yes…my dad used to take me there.”
She moved out of the city with husband and daughters for sensible suburban reasons, but now I offered her a life downtown; a surprising 2nd opportunity to live the way she’d always wanted to.

The driver dropped us off right in front of the fountain. It was 7:05 pm, about 35 degrees, clear and cold with absolutely no one in sight. We walked towards the patch of park where I pretended a seasonal tent circus show of some kind might be. I feigned confusion, and we turned around to walk back towards the fountain.

In the distance, a man walked towards us. As he got closer, Christine noticed he had an accordion on. “Oh great,” she says she thought, “he’s gonna want to play a song for us and ask for money. There’s no one out here…this guy isn’t making any cash tonight.”

It would indeed be a weird night to be the wandering accordion guy saying “can I play something for you and your beautiful companion?”

As he approached, he began to play the intro to “Knocks Me Off My Feet” by Stevie Wonder. Christine had never heard this song when we started dating, and she adores it. As he hit the groove, I started to sing.
“I see us in the park…strolling the summer days of imaginings in my head….”
I take out and open a ring box.
“Baby!!!!” She screams. She cries. She covers her face with one gloved hand. I keep singing.
The accordionist is my friend Scott Stevenson, a man I’ve known an intermittent band mate for 23 years. He has perfectly disguised and nailed his role in my romantic gesture, as I knew he would.

We do the whole tune, modulation and all, with Scott singing the backup “I love you, I love you, I l-o-o-ove you.” She cries the whole way through, even as I film the entire 2nd verse. We slightly botch the modulation, and Scott slightly butchers the bass riff mid-choruses, but the totality of it is perfect.

Side note; I am fortunate to have been a musician for so many reasons. But one of them is that the list of people I could have called to accompany this moment is vast. They include perhaps 4 or 5 musicians who I feel as if I know deeply, trust soulfully, and would be perfectly comfortable existing in this memory for ever and ever. We have been fortunate to connect with each other on earnest, delicate levels that allow for bonds like this. I love that Scott is part of this image for the rest of our lives.

She says yes, we are engaged. We have the following day off of work, by sneaky design, to bask in the glow of the moment. It is best to pause the chaos of daily life right here, to share the news with who and how we see fit, at our pace. To live in the happiest of moments, unencumbered for a day. Thursday was wonderful.

As I expect the rest of our lives to be.

Written by Matt Spiegel