The fourth of July has different meaning for different persons, and I would wager that if you are not from the United States (and it is not your birthday), July the fourth is “just another day” to you. For the majority of my life, Independence Day was a day that Dad had off of work, so it would be spent with family, possibly friends, watching fireworks, and spending time outdoors. Of course July fourth has its historical and political significance for me as well, but it never ranked up there with the religious holidays of Easter and Christmas. On July 4, 2005 J.R. and I became engaged to be married, so over these past two years the holiday has taken on additional significance in our lives.
In 2005, Independence Day fell on a Monday (long weekend from work, hurray!), and while I cannot recall all that my weekend consisted of that year, I do recall the hours prior to when we became engaged and J.R.’s proposal well. In the late afternoon, my family, J.R., and I attended a house-warming/Independence Day party at my cousin’s house. Later that evening, J.R., my brothers, and I attended a bonfire and fireworks extravaganza (courtesy of J.R. and my family) at our friends’, Sarah and Tiffany’s, home. Although J.R. is in a pretty good mood usually, with the occasional exceptions of when he is tired or has been facing trials (I think most people’s mood falters some in those situations), he was in an extremely rare, pleasant, happy (almost giddy) mood that night. There is something infectious and delightful about the warm summer night and celebratory atmosphere, along with the bright mortars coloring the sky, that makes the night of July fourth extra-special (kind of like that scene in Sandlot where all of the boys are entranced by the fireworks as they play baseball), even romantic under the right circumstances. I imagine that a number of couples have become engaged on July fourth, though I have never heard of another couple doing so.
The whole group sat around the campfire chatting and having a splendid time, but the hour grew late, and as J.R. and I were scheduled to work the next morning, we decided that it was time to leave. I had rode over to Sarah and Tiffany’s house separate from J.R. with my brothers, and as such my brothers decided to stay and visit awhile longer. Honestly, I cannot say that J.R.’s proposal came as a surprise to me (we had discussed our relationship and the possibility of marriage prior to this time), and most obviously, J.R. made up one of the weakest excuses of his life in order to have a “reason” to stop by his house on the way home that night. I believe his excuse had something to do with how he needed to stop and check on his dog, however, he lived only about five minutes from my parent’s house, so it would have taken him only ten extra minutes to drop me off and then go home to check Rosie.
J.R. drove up the long driveway to his house, and I saw a strange glow coming from the grass in front of his house immediately. As J.R. had learned earlier in our courtship, I enjoy glowsticks (have you ever heard of anyone else celebrating their twenty-first birthday by playing cards by glowstick light?). With this in mind, J.R. had purchased many glowsticks and used them to write “Marry Me” in the grass. J.R. had me get out of his Blazer, close my eyes, and he led me over to the glowing spot in front of his house. He knelt down in front of me, pulled out the engagement ring, and told me that I could open my eyes. I know that J.R.’s proposal was probably the most eloquent and perfect speech of his life (though neither of us can recall exactly what he said, as he had neither practiced it or written it down, he just knew what to say and how to say it when the time came), in which he declared his love for me, and his desire that we spend the rest of our lives together; the look in his eyes at that moment very similar to that which he had in his eyes when we were joined in the sacrament of marriage, eleven months later. I told him “yes” immediately, and then he placed the engagement ring on my finger, explaining to me that the crosses on the ring were to symbolize our commitment to God and to one another. I remember him standing up and us sharing an embrace – we felt a great peace and joy concerning the new stage of our relationship that we had just entered into.
Next, J.R. and I went to share our good news with our families. We told his family first, his mother and brother were genuinely happy for us, though J.R.’s father had gone to sleep already, so J.R. told his father about our engagement the following morning. Then J.R. took me home, where we shared the news of our engagement with my parents. I remember my mother being very happy and excited for us (she enjoyed telling the story of how we got engaged for some time thereafter), and my father congratulated us heartily as well. My brothers had not gotten home yet, but they arrived shortly thereafter, and then we shared our big news with them. My parents had the presence of mind to take a photograph of us on the day that we became engaged (actually it was after midnight at this point, but the photo was taken within about an hour of when J.R. proposed to me). J.R. and I told my little sisters the next day after work, though as a two-year-old and a five-year-old it took a little bit of processing before they grasped what this meant. Most of the remainder of our family and friends were told within the following week. We began marriage preparation with Fr. Timothy within a week or two of becoming engaged, and the rest is history.