The day started out like any other. I woke up at the usual time. My clothes were pretty casual. I went to the studio to do some work. But unlike any day, this one was going to have a special ending. With some well-wishes from my coworkers and a ring in my pocket, I made my way down to Olwen’s office to pick her up. On they way, I called Desmond to confirm the plans for tonight. Last year I was the cameraman when Des’ proposed to his schoolteacher girlfriend at her elementary school (think Meet the Parents). I wanted Desmond to be a part of this proposal, so I also asked him to videotape my proposal. He was in Yakima for an interview and was finishing at 4pm, so we needed to make sure that he was going to be beat to the house before us since Thanksgiving traffic can be unpredictable. We created some “signals” to use for the trip to time ourselves in the form of two phone calls from Des. The first call would be to chit chat about his interview; that call would let me know that he was leaving Yakima. The second call would be to talk about hanging out in Portland with his wife during the long weekend; that call would let me know he was a half-hour away from Portland. It was kind of cool plan to be covert with the fake calls, but like all well-thought-out plans, we never used them. Turns out Thanksgiving traffic never showed up on his route, so he beat us home by a good hour and a half.
When I arrived at Olwen’s office, she met me in the parking garage to load her bags. She needed to use the restroom before we left, so we went upstairs to her floor. In the elevator lobby, we ran into one of her coworkers, Melody. Olwen then went into the restroom while Melody and I made some small talk. When she asked me about our weekend plans, I put my finger to my lips, reached into my coat pocket, and pulled out the ring. Her face lit up and loudly whispered, “Is that what I think it is?” I nodded, and hid the ring. We both smiled right as Olwen walked out of the ladies room. “Ready to go?” Olwen asked. Melody exclaimed, “I do NOT like your boyfriend!” as she walked off. I simply smiled as Olwen was left confused.
By the way, my roommate Jae designed the ring. The ring is made up of three platinum bands. For the engagement, I’ve given her the middle band first. Here’s the final design of the ring:/p>
Thanksgiving traffic between Seattle and Portland was terrible. Cars were bumper-to-bumper in a never-ending stream of red lights. If Olwen didn’t have to work a full day, I would’ve left the day before or early in the morning to save the two hours that I wasted on the road. But I had Olwen with me, and that made the trip so much more bearable. I heard somewhere that a good litmus test for finding a good spouse would be someone that can go on a long road trip with you without making you want to scream and throw kittens off a bridge. Someone who makes the ride enjoyable and would even make you wish the trip was even longer just so you can spend more time with her. We talked about a number of things, and at one point, the topic of marriage came up. “So,” I said, “when do you want to get married?” “Right now,” she joked making her eyes big and wide. Oh, it’s going to come sooner than you think…
We finally arrived after 4 hours later on what was supposed to be a 2 1/2 hour trip. I grabbed a couple bags and went into the house first as Olwen was getting her things from the trunk. Mark’s family was at the house visiting from the Bay Area. I walked in to find all of everyone milling around the kitchen area either chatting, eating, or cooking. Whenever Aunt Ruth and Uncle Doug, Marks’ parents, would come to visit, there would always be a ton of food to go around, and tonight didn’t disappoint. There was my Dad cooking his famous sourdough waffles, hot congee was bubbling on the stove, colorful fruit platters were on the table, and even a couple slices of leftover pizza were heated up.
There were almost a couple hiccups when we arrived. Even though Desmond was supposed to be hiding in bedroom with the camera, I spotted him chowing down on a waffle. Fortunately, I slowly went back to the car to briefly stall Olwen as he made his way up the back stairs. Dad almost had a slip too. When we sat down to eat, there was a bag of oranges sitting on the table. Mom picked up the bag and asked Dad where the bag came from. As Mom handed the bag over to her, he said, “From Rex.” I looked over at Olwen and she didn’t respond, so I assumed it was too noisy for her to notice. I went over to Dad and told him about his slip-up. He stopped and paused to think. The gears finally clicked when his eyes got big and exclaimed, “AIYAH!”
I tried to make everything seem pretty casual as we ate and relaxed from our long trip, but there was so much that was going to happen in the next few minutes. What Olwen didn’t know was that her parents as well some family friends from Vancouver, Uncle Dick, and Auntie Lydia, were hiding in the basement. I had also instructed my brothers earlier to set up a laptop in the room with webcam that fed down into the basement, so her parents were able to watch the whole thing. There was also another laptop with a camera that was fed to Olvie all the way in Toronto. Olwen also didn’t know that all the stuffed animals I had kidnapped in Toronto was sitting upstairs in Daren’s room. I was planning on waiting for about 15 minutes until we go upstairs just we don’t keep everybody waiting for long. Unfortunately, someone served us two big bowls of congee, and I couldn’t just up and give her a birthday gift when we haven’t eaten yet. I tried to make it seem like I wasn’t in a real hurry and tried to pace myself. Occasionally, I went upstairs to check on things, even bringing food up for Desmond as he hid behind a clothes rack. I didn’t go downstairs to check on the parents, since Olwen was nearby and might wonder where the Cantonese was coming from.
Afte a while I finally decided that we needed to get things going. I turned to Olwen and told her that I had a birthday gift for her upstairs. In my parents’ house, my brothers and I used to share the whole attic together, so there was a lot of space. After Galen and I moved out, Daren was left with the room all to himself. We walked up the stairs to Daren’s room where I sat her down on an old chair. Daren was also around just doing miscellaneous stuff like checking his email, cleaning up the room here and there. Behind the chair were a bunch of clothes thrown in a big pile, but underneath it all were all her stuffed animals. While she looked the other way, I reached behind the chair and pulled out the Puddles doll that I brought with me to Toronto. She was pretty excited when she received the doll after which I presented her with the book. She started reading it page by page. Daren had not seen the book either and I told him to read it with her just to keep the atmosphere casual, or as Daren would say, “keepin’ it funky.”
I had planned for someone to call me downstairs to do a chore just so that it looks like I’m not leaving awkwardly. I headed downstairs to my sister’s room where Galen and Mark helped me put on the Puddles costume. Once in the costume, I stood at the base of the stairs listening for my cue to head upstairs. Olwen was talking out loud as she was going through the book saying things like “He’s crazy!”, “Is that my house?”, and “Did he take my stuffed animals?”. I couldn’t wait to see her face when she sees Puddles in real life, but that enthusiasm was tempered a bit when it took her a little longer to get through the book than I expected. It was also starting to get hot in the suit. Daren pretended to clean up the room while Olwen was reading, but what he was really doing was unveiling all the stuffed animals.
Finally, she finished the book, I made my way up. She was distracted at first when she noticed all the stuffed animals behind her. When she saw me approaching, she started laughing and telling me how crazy I was. She gave me a big hug, thinking it was a extravagant birthday gift. I then drew away, held her hands in my paws, looked at her through Puddles’ mismatched eyes, and got down on one knee. Actually, I grabbed the her right hand, started to put the ring on, then fumbled to grab the left hand when I realized I had the wrong hand. As I was slipping the ring on her finger, tears were forming in her eyes. I slowly took off the mascot head, looked her in the eye, and asked her to marry me. Two of months of planning and hard work concluded with a soft-spoken “Yes.”
I’ve witnessed a couple proposals before, and there was always a thrill of excitement when watching two people commit themselves to each other. Now it was my turn, and I never expected the moment to feel the way that it did. It was the happiest I have ever seen her. As we were still hugging, everyone was making their way upstairs, including her parents and their friends. We turned off the screensaver on one of the laptops to have Olvie join the celebration as well.
Two months of planning was worth it. Happy Birthday, Olwen, and here’s to many memorable days together. Love ya.
I’d like to thank a bunch of people for their help in all of this: to God for watching over this relationship and not letting me get caught by the Royal Mounties for stealing toys; HUGE thanks to Sammy for making the suit and the bear, you’re just as ridiculous as I am; to Desmond for returning the favor, you’re NOT invited to the bachelor party ;P; to Candy for planning and housing me in TO; to Phil, Johan, Donny, Darrin, Kitty for helping out with the photos and the gifts; to Mike for the crazy early breakfast at 5am; to Galen, Daren, and Mark for transferring the goods and prepping things for the big day; to Olvie and Olga for keeping everything under wraps and surprising the parents; to Jae for designing a beautiful ring; to Derek for his “consulting” ;) ; to Rex and Polly for the planning and even flying all the way out to Portland to be part of the surprise; to Mom and Dad and my sisters for their support through this endeavor; and finally, to Olwen, for saying, “Yes.”