Early in the spring of 1986 Mary came to me and told me it was time; we either became married, or we needed to split up. I was a bit surprised because we had only been dating just over a year. I felt, probably like many other men, a year is not a lot of time to entertain the thought of marriage.
However, the deal was on the table. I needed to weigh my options, but the choice was not hard. I was living with an attractive and accomplished woman who held a strong sense of family, just as I did. Mary’s house and grounds had become an open palette for my creativity. I fell asleep thinking of the next even better project. Currently, I was in the middle of building a walkway and deck system that ultimately extended around the house. I wanted to be able to walk around the outside of the house in my stocking feet without getting oak leaves and foxtails caught in my socks.
Finally, the most important piece of knowledge pushing me to the proposal; Mary exhibited a mature, settled outlook. I was tired of going fishing and getting bit by the fish. Although to be fair, I am a clumsy and ill-equipped fisherman, I admit it. Nonetheless, I felt there were no surprises with Mary. And she carried little emotional baggage, I reasoned. She had no previous entangling relationships, and more importantly, she had no children from prior marriages. I never felt her expectations would leave her expecting me to be someone I wasn’t, that both she and I were up to the task of creating a future life together.
Deciding to stay, I knew I needed a marriage proposal. And I very much disliked the idea of an engagement ring. Whenever I saw a woman announce her engagement to the world, I couldn’t focus on the excitement garnered by the bride-to-be sharing her dreams of future happiness, feeling the type and quality of the ring were the real reasons for the proposal excitement. Now I realize how cynical an outlook that is, but that's what I felt about that stuff then. Probably this was a result of the embarrassment I garnered when I married Mel because it was so garishly ostentatious, that's why I found countless reasons as to why I no longer wore it.
It was as if the excitement of the ring was the guarantor of the couple’s future happiness. I needed another idea. Luckily for me, Mary was open to a gift other than a ring. We shopped around and picked out an attractive piece of jewelry we both liked.
By summer I saved enough to purchase the gift. Mary was in Los Angeles to help promote the tourist industry of San Luis Obispo at a tourist convention in the LA Civic Center. Explaining I was flying down to check out some veterinary equipment; I asked her to have dinner with me. She agreed, and I arranged for an outdoor dinner on Olvera Street, the oldest part of Los Angeles. I suppose I had gotten the idea from Sunset Magazine.
I flew to LA International Saturday afternoon and took a taxi to Olvera Street. I was pleased; the place exuded the nostalgic ambiance I was looking for. I walked along wide brick-lined pedestrian walkways. Colorful Mexican shops and restaurants stood on either side of the walkways. Piñatas, taco stands, and seating for some of the restaurants dotted the brick walkway. I saw Mary; we met to have dinner outside.
At the end of dinner, I reached behind me and fished out a large jewelry container, opened it.
"Will you marry me?" I asked her, displaying a beautiful pearl necklace.
Mary agreed to marry me.
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