I flew out to Dallas on Friday morning for a long weekend with Jason, having left my class in the able care of two fabulous substitutes for Friday and Monday. I had no expectations of a proposal during the weekend. All conversations between us had pointed to maybe sometime around April because Jason kept talking about saving for the ring and all sorts of other hedging comments. Sneaky man, he had completely thrown me off track. Which is no easy feat, believe me! I can be very suspicious and I'm always thinking ahead of things.
Jason told me he wanted to take me to this cool place he'd heard about from some friends, "some kind of park or something." He acted like he'd never been there (a lie) and that he needed to use the Mapquest map he'd printed out to find it (another lie.) We pulled up to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens on a finally sunny, but cold and windy afternoon. I had on something like five layers of clothing, so I was comfortably warm if not slightly bulky. We wandered around and spent a lot of time playing over in the Texas Pioneer Adventure area. It was a village of really cool log cabin playhouses with all sorts of props inside for kids to play with. We were the only kids around so we had the entire village all to ourselves...
We left the village to wander around more of the gardens. They were absolutely stunning with immaculate beds of pansies and daffodils, sprawling fountains and pools, and an infinity pool with a lovely statue for me to chat with. I remember thinking that I was just so content in being here in this gorgeous place with Jason. I didn't care about the cold, I didn't mind the wind, all that mattered was that I was finally with him again.
Jason then steered me towards another part of the gardens. We approached a wide walkway lined with cyprus trees that led towards a very unique fountain consisting of four giant toad sculptures that each spit streams of water towards the middle. Now, unbeknownst to me, this was where Jason had planned on proposing to me. Oblivious of this, when I saw the fountain I excitedly turned to him and said, "Oh my gosh, look at those cool toads. They are absolutely perfect for jumping on top of and taking pictures! Let's go do that!" The romantic value of the moment now thoroughly destroyed, Jason gamely shifted gears and went to Plan B in his mind. In the meantime, toads were posed with and pictures were taken. My favorite part was when Jason was waiting for me to take the picture, the wind suddenly shifted and the stream of water blew back onto him! Poor guy, obstacle after obstacle...
We headed away from the toads and Jason wanted to go look at yet another part of the gardens. I remember thinking, "Ok, I'm all about this, but could there really be more to see? And now I'm not sure I can feel my nose or my fingers." Still, I was in a beautiful place with the most handsome man around! So I smiled broadly, quit my mental whining, and decided to go along for the ride. Jason was steering me directly down one path when I spotted the quaint English cottage. I had to physically pull Jason towards it and I couldn't figure out why he was being so resistant to heading that way. I oohed and aahed over the cottage while he seemed thoroughly unimpressed. I commented on the thatched roof that was done completely by hand and Jason's response was, "Looks like a bunch of brooms to me." I was starting to get slightly irritated at his sullen behavior. All of a sudden the warm car was looking pretty good to me. Still, I did manage to get him to snap a quick picture. Ah, ignorance is bliss...
Finally we headed down a curving path towards the outdoor amphitheatre. At each curve was a large stone marker with a song lyric etched into it. Ok, I'm a romantic and a music lover so that was totally my thing. The first one had "The hills are alive, with the sound of music, with the songs they have sung for a thousand years." Then came John Denver, "Sunshine on my shoulders almost always makes me high." And then "Celebrate, celebrate, come on everybody and dance." I was totally enchanted with the place at that point and we stepped onto the stage to gaze at the beauty around us.
Being a drama queen and unafraid of the spotlight, performing comes easily for me. But one of the best things about being with Jason is knowing that I never have to perform for him. I can unapologetically be myself and that is one of the most freeing things I have ever known. I was just reflecting on that when Jason commented, "So, we're on a stage. Is there anything you would want to perform?" I told him no, I was fine just looking out and enjoying the scenery. He came behind me then, to wrap his arms around me and I noticed that he was shaking. I started to think that maybe it really was too cold and we should head back to the car. Just then, he spun me around to face him and started talking sweet to me. The tone in his voice was earnest and sincere and very, very serious. Inside my head the conversation went something like this, " Oh my gosh, I think he's going to propose. No, he can't propose. He doesn't have a ring. But oh my gosh, he sounds really serious! No, he can't really be doing it right now. Oh my gosh, I think he is!"
And then I heard him say, "So there's just one question I need to ask you..." And as I watched astounded, he bent down to one knee, pulled the ring of my dreams out of his pocket and said, "Leslie, will you marry me?" And I answered, "Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!" It was lovely and simple and perfect and better than I had ever imagined.
After that, we headed back to the car where I realized with a start of disappointment that I hadn't brought my cell phone with me. Jason reached back into the backseat with a sly smile and handed it to me. Sweetest man ever. When we got back to his apartment, he opened the door to reveal the lovely picnic we couldn't have outside because of the gloomy weather. We feasted, toasted, cried and kissed and just reveled in the moment.
I can't wait to be Mrs. Jason Petree. I am so lucky to be marrying this amazing man and so incredibly grateful for the blessing of his love and how it mirrors the love of Christ. For so long, I've dreamed of what my love story would look like. This story, our story, is the best one I could ever hope for and the only one I want.