It is Thanksgiving weekend (also close to my birthday) so we were up in Alabama celebrating by eating turkey and cheesecake (my cake of choice). Lance decided to surprise me by taking me to the Opryland hotel in Nashville to see all the Christmas lights. So Merriem and Danny arrange for Lance’s folks to watch their two boys and we’ll all go to Nashville on a sort of double date.
Danny pulls out on the road in his Honda and about ten seconds later, he gets pulled over by a cop. A $180 ticket later, we are back on our way. I am already feeling bad. I begin the “we don’t have to go”, “I’m so sorry”, “honestly, I’ve seen Christmas lights before-every year in fact”…but nothing I say will change Danny’s mind. So we head on down the road, just a tad slower.
We arrive in Nashville and meander our way to the Opryland hotel. Now, for those of you who have never had the pleasure, The Opryland hotel is a ginormous building. It is beautifully decorated, especially in the winter and worth the trip. Lance and Danny, ever the gentlemen, drop us at the door and go park the car. Merriem and I scoot inside because it is wicked cold outside. We sort of wait around, watching the door and glancing at our watches. An hour later (!) Merriem has a light bulb moment. “I know!” she exclaims, “I’ll call Danny on his cell phone!” So she shuffles away to have a quick conversation with Danny. She hangs up and walks back to me. “They couldn’t remember which door they dropped us off at and are in the next room.” Sounds plausible, as this place is HUGE.
So we worm through the crowd to the next room (room is such a vague concept, more like room the size of four football fields) and crane our necks looking for Lance and Danny. We finally see them and sigh with relief, let the festivities begin.
After stopping at a large rock with giant fern fronds, Danny snaps a picture of me and Lance, our arms around each other. It is my favorite picture of us. Anyways, after the picture, we decide to head our own ways. We promise to meet up at a certain time and split up. Lance and I stop and take pictures of all sorts of neat things-giant Christmas trees, gazebos covered in thousands of white Christmas lights, cool stuff we see. We stroll hand in hand through the crowd and find ourselves on a little bridge overlooking the whole room. Lance is looking deep in my eyes, and I into his, and he is saying the sweetest things. I am just sort of soaking it all up and enjoying the moment when all of a sudden, like fifty people walk up, loud laughing people who ruin the entire moment. Shaken from our romantic cocoon, I look around and who do I see on a nearby bridge? Danny with a video camera. He sees me seeing him and tries to do a little paparazzi hide in the bush trick, but I can still see the red blinking light. I point at him and say “Hey, there’s Danny! Why’s he taping us?”
(Ok, side note, you, my very smart readers, are probably beginning to see where this story is heading. I, on the other hand in real life, was clueless.)
We walk over to where Merriem and Danny are hiding behind the Jurassic Park fern fronds and they come out of hiding smiling sheepishly. “Umm, we just new that you’re not a really sappy person so we wanted to catch it on video…hem…haw…” I just shrugged and thought, you guys are weird.
Lance began to take us through the series of mazelike rooms hunting for a perfect “picture spot”. By this point, we are all beginning to show signs of fatigue, hauling around our winter coats in the sweltering heat produced by the masses of warm bodies surrounding us at every turn. It was like Disney World in there. No matter where we went, ninety people stood in our way. All I kept thinking was, these guys are doing this all for ME, I feel so responsible, must stop the insanity and have a Diet Coke before I waste away to nothing…
So after the 18th failed attempt to find a secluded spot for a “perfect picture”, I pull Lance aside and say, let’s just go, we’re all hungry and tired and I feel bad for all the effort. Lance, however, was a man on a mission, and said “No! We are not going to stop until I find the right spot!” It was the first time Lance had ever said anything in a raised voice. Now I really felt bad. We finally found a semi-secluded spot on a bench and I smiled this very perfunctory smile and the camera flashed and we found ourselves alone. Merriem and Danny disappeared.
On the bench, Lance begins again with all the sweet nothings he had been whispering on the bridge before the Attack of the Tourists. All of a sudden, in the waning light, I see Lance kneeling on one knee and he is holding a diamond ring. (I couldn’t really see the ring, try as I might, because the room was only lit by the bazillions of white Christmas lights. Turn on some lights, people! We’re not living in a cave!) He asked, I said yes and at that moment above us on a balcony, I see dozens of camera flashes. Looking up I see Merriem and Danny and a whole bunch of tourists aiming their camera and flashing away.
OOOOhhhhhhh, it all makes sense now. Danny and Lance drop us off and pretend to lose us so they can find the perfect spot to propose, Danny scopes the good paparazzi spot, that got ruined by the mutant tourists, Lance goes on a hunt for the perfect “picture spot” and … I get it now.
Over dinner, Merriem and Danny tell us the video should be hilarious from me spotting Danny hiding in the foliage to the tourists standing with Merriem and Danny as Lance proposes. Apparently, some outraged tourists who happened to spot us thought we were making out in the twilight-lit room. “Can you believe that? They’re making out!” Merriem, the Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon, turns to them and says in her I’m-mad-but-my-mama-taught-me-to-still-be-nice voice, “That’s my brother and he just asked his girlfriend to marry him!” They exclaim, “How sweet! Let’s get a picture!” Hence the dozens of flashes. Somewhere in the world, we are chronicled on film.
On the way home, back in the speeding Honda, Lance told me that after his parents met me that first time, they were all in agreement that he had, indeed, met his wife. So the next week, Lance had gone home to do some family stuff, Ginger had pulled him into her room and said, if he wanted, he could have her mother’s wedding ring set to give me. Somehow or another in the next few weeks, he had discovered my ring size and sized it and got it all cleaned up so it was super sparkly.
We drove back to Merriem and Danny’s house and popped in the video. Sure enough, the scene where I spot Danny was hilarious, as well as the moment when Lance had proposed. The only downfall was, the ONLY thing you could see the entire video was my khaki pants. You can see me walk, sit down, cross my legs, all the things that legs do.
It had only been two months since that weekend to Atlanta. We knew it was fast, our families knew, our friends knew, and yet everyone all just knew this was right.
Seven months later, we dressed in our finest and said “I do”.