"You and Mike have been together forever; you got a baby. Are ya'll getting married?"
I've been dodging this question, and ones similar to it, for about three years now. Forever, in this case, began at a cook-out in 2002. My mother and Mike's aunt are friends. He and I teamed up to play spades against a couple who kept dealing from the bottom of the deck. I had never been dealt a hand that bad before or since. We lost the game, but Mike won my phone number.
Our daughter will be four at the end of the year. With her birth, came a meshing of lives of which neither of us was quite prepared for. You learn a lot about your partner at 2 a.m. when the baby's crying nonstop. Mike's gentle, unselfish nature became even more apparent. He would offer to sit up with Elyse so that I could get some rest. The next morning, I usually would find him on the sofa with the baby sleeping on his chest.
But living together has not been all hearts and butterflies. Our quirks began to show almost immediately, and we have had to navigate them as we created our family. I work days. He works nights. I'm a neat freak. He's a slob. I eat quasi-healthy food. He could live off Top Ramen noodles, homemade cookies, and anything covered in a cream sauce.
The quirks are still there, but we've found a way to respect those characteristics that make us who we are. The single-story house that we moved into right before Elyse was born now feels like a home we've made together, as long as I steer clear of the basement. The neat-freak/slob debate is still a hot-button issue there.
To be honest, I was starting to ask the "when" question myself. I figured that 2008 would be the year or bust. After all, it has been six years. A girl can only hold out for so long.
I came home on Monday feeling far far less than glamorous. I missed my hair appointment the weekend before, and I needed a relaxer. Bad. When I shampooed my hair. I didn't remember that I was out of conditioner until my hair was soaking wet. I used some Blue Magic that I have for Elyse, and the reaction between that and my chemically-treated hair brought about an invasion of acne that I haven't seen since high school.
Mike emerged from the basement, saying that he was on his way to work. I wondered just how junky the basement was this week. I went to our room to change. I could hear our daughter, ever-in-motion, running down the hall.
"Mommy! Daddy said marry me."
"Daddy said what?" I looked down, and the first thing I noticed was how beautiful Elyse's smile was. The second thing I noticed was that she was holding out a ring box.
"Seriously?" Mike entered the room smiling.
"Yes, seriously." He got down one one knee. "Will you marry me?"
We spent the next 15 minutes lying on the bed. Elyse was bouncing up and down while singing nursery rhymes. "I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to keep building our family." The puffy hair, the pizza face, and the junky basement all faded away in this moment. And I felt like a princess.