I took a weekend away from Brooklyn to go to one of my favorite places in the world, Hartwick College. It was True Blue (homecoming) weekend for all alumni. Since I graduated from College in 1999, I have only missed one homecoming. I loved this place so much, that I took a job there a few years ago to assist with fundraising. The leadership changed in the office I was working in which prompted me to decide to leave and move to Brooklyn. Even with that change, I still donate to and volunteer for Hartwick. I met some of my best friends there and every year I go back, I meet even more people to call friends.
This year was a special year. I've mentioned my boyfriend here a few times. He is shy, so I've been careful not to post his photo. I met him in Oneonta (Hartwick College is in Oneonta) virtually. He was in the area for a job interview. He signed online to kill time in a local coffee shop on a gay phone application. I was in the emergency room at the hospital doing the same thing down the street. Given the fact that I was waiting for a doctor to see me, I couldn't meet him at the coffee shop. He was very sweet and we exchanged photos and phone numbers. For the next few weeks, he called me quite a few times. He was very shy on the phone, but was the one initiating the calls. We would talk for a few minutes and then hang up. I could sense that he wanted to talk more, but wasn't one to lead a conversation. I had my own life craziness since I had just given notice at work that I was leaving
That was February 19. I had a job offer in hand and had decided to move to Brooklyn. I was putting my house on the market, packing, trying to find a place to live in Brooklyn and working to document all that I had done for Hartwick to pass on to whomever took over after me (even though the new VP said he wanted none of it when I left - his mistake and loss). David (my boyfriend), on the other hand, had been in the U.S. for almost one year. He was getting working papers and trying to find his first job here. He has a passion for agriculture and wants to have his own business. He was, at the time, thinking of moving to the Oneonta area to help a start up farm charity to help resettle refugees in agriculture.
Fast forward a few weeks and envision me unpacking a one bedroom apartment in the middle of a snowy cold winter. I had no internet yet, no gas (it took them two weeks to turn on the gas) in my stove, and mountains of boxes. I was texting and calling old friends to talk and watching every dvd that I own. David, for some reason, kept calling and texting even though our conversations were short and lacked substance. I was lonely in Brooklyn, and it was nice to know someone. He mentioned in a text that the one year anniversary of his arrival in the US was that day. I asked if he was celebrating, and he replied that he had no plans. I invited him to join me out for dinner since I had been eating cereal and microwave meals or ordering pizza with a phone (I forget that we used to use phones for that before the internet exploded).
David arrived at my apartment and was dressed so fashionably that I smiled ear to ear. We went to a restaurant (the only one I could find with my phone that looked good) called Peaches. Our dinner was delicious, the place was loud, and he was so charming that I was smitten. He walked me home and hugged me good night. I figured that was the last time I'd see him. He was so handsome and charming and smart and muscular, I figured I had no chance to see him again. He had been so shy at dinner, that I wasn't sure he was interested in me.
But, he kept calling and texting. And I kept falling and falling. As our dates grew longer and more adventurous (kayaking trips, a road trip to see the Smithsonians in DC), my love grew and grew. This man makes me smile. Holding his hand makes me giddy. Being in his presence calms me after a bad day. I'm jealous when other men flirt with him (a sign that I am in love even though it might not be a good thing). I find him so attractive.
Why do I tell you all this? I decided to bring David back to where we met, that place that I love, to propose this weekend. I had a full weekend planned for us. We drove up on Friday night. We stopped by the budding nonprofit farm where he had interviewed and decided not to take the job. I'm hoping as they get all of their papers in order and their farm running, so that I can connect them with people at both colleges in Oneonta to help connect them to resources.
We then checked into the Rainbow Inn, a quaint little motel that has big rooms, reasonable rates, great staff, but could use a little updating. The real reason I stayed there was because the restaurant behind it is an amazing little pub and a place where I have lots of fond memories. We drove up to Hartwick to watch the soccer game. It was too cold, so we didn't stay for the entire thing, but Hartwick won…woohoo.
The next morning, we woke up early to go to the Fly Creek Cider Mill. On the way, we stopped by my old house on Goodyear Lake.
David had never seen Fall leaves changing, so every moment, he was in awe. The leaves were just past peak, but still amazingly beautiful with the rolling foothills of the Catskills. We enjoyed touring the mill and tasting all of the food. We then headed to campus. The big question was happening at 12:20.
David and I walked around campus a little and then headed up to the patio of Yager Library. It's a iconic building on campus with the bell that is a copy of the original from the seminary and an amazing view. I told David that the fraternity that I used to advise and am a brother of needed money and I had given them a donation to sing to us. He said he was embarrassed, but would let them sing. I had messaged a number of close friends and asked them to be there.
We sat on the patio wall and the men started to sing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from the Lion King. David started singing along. He loves that movie and song. I held his hand. I was extremely nervous. My stomach was doing somersaults. David had no idea what was coming.
We had seriously talked about marriage the week before (the day of difficult conversations blog that doesn't mention that) and had a small misunderstanding about that conversation. I was prepping him for this day, but he didn't know that at the time.
As they wound down the song (the video is on Facebook, not sure you can see it based on privacy settings), I stood up. I pulled the ring out of my pocket and got on one knee. I asked David to marry me. He was in shock.
I feel like he took hours to say something. He stood up, said, "yes, my baby," and then nodded his head so the people watching could see. We hugged and tears ran down my face. We aren't much for showing affection in public other than holding hands, but people around us were encouraging us to kiss. We did. Then we got a barrage of congratulations and hugs. David was in shock for quite a few hours after and didn't know what to say. We were surrounded by people for the next hour and couldn't really talk about things. I was nervous that he was so freaked out about things. We all went up to have some Brooks BBQ under the tent for Hartwick. I'm not a huge fan, but most people love it.
I asked him if I could post the news to Facebook and let my family know. He said yes. This was the official announcement to my world with only the words "he said yes."
Immediately my phone started to explode with texts, Facebook messages, and emails. I would advise anyone else who does this to wait a little while before posting the news. We loved all the support, but I was struggling to respond to everyone while still being "present" for the friends and my new fiance who were with me.
David and I left the barbecue and walked to my car so he could just have some alone time. I'm an extreme extrovert and am comfortable being surrounded by people, but he needs quiet time now and again. He explained that he was surprised, but very happy. He was processing and still didn't know how to react. "You killing me, my E," was his exact reaction.
The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. We hopped from reception to reception all afternoon. We then had dinner with my best friend from college at Simply Thai in Oneonta. Following dinner, I took David to his first contra dance. He was exhausted, but I insisted he go. He laughed and smiled, and messed up, and learned to dance thanks to one of my closest college friends who loves contra dancing. I had been many times and also love doing it. The caller was new at calling and the music was faster than I was used to, so I ended up only dancing a little.
We capped off our night with glasses of champagne courtesy of my friends at the bar called My Father's Place behind our hotel.
We woke up early again (I am an early riser) and went into Oneonta to grab breakfast at the Latte Lounge. I wanted to make sure we visited there since that was where David was when we met. I was there most days for breakfast or lunch for the years I lived in Oneonta and the owner is a good friend. We were greeted by quite a few friends who frequent the place as well. It was a great way to start our day. We then hiked up to Hartwick's table rock overlook to get more photos of the leaves. It was fun to have some alone time and enjoy the beauty that is nothing like Brooklyn.
Then we headed out to meet my friend Kristin, her boyfriend Ron, and a tour guide for a private guided history tour of Cooperstown. As a lover of history, I support many groups. I had purchased this tour at the annual auction to support the Oneonta Historial Society. Janet, our guide, is friends with other friends of mine on Facebook, so she had heard about my proposal. We walked around the village and had a delightful tour. At the end, Janet and her friend Christine (a Class of '64 Hartwick alumna) treated us all to hors d'oeuvres, dessert, and champagne on the lake shore of stunning Otsego Lake. Other friends happened to be walking along the lake shore and joined us as well. It was really a beautiful day to enjoy the sun and the Autumn.
After that, David and I joined another couple for lunch on the deck of the Hawkeye Grill at the Otesaga hotel overlooking the lake. I tried to pack as much of what I love about the region into two short days. It was a success. On our way home, we stopped and purchased a fresh baked pumpkin pie from the Green Acres Farm Stand.
I dropped David at home, drove to my place, unpacked my car, and crawled into bed. It was a jam packed weekend full of love for my boyfriend, from all my friends, and I will tell this story for years to come.