If you're catching up: read part one here and part two here.
We drove home from the creek house on Saturday night. I spent the entire ride tucked in the back seat of my father's truck next to my grandmother. I had a notepad out and I was asking her questions and taking notes about her childhood. (The child of Icelandic immigrants with seventeen siblings has plenty of them.)
We neared Fredericksburg, and my dad said he needed to stop by the clinic. After we dropped him off and headed home, my mother started talking about how he was going to the hospital to do some inductions:
"You know how he does that sometimes, right? I mean, gets some pregnant women started on inductions on Sunday night so he can go in and deliver a couple of babies on Monday morning? You know? Get the week started off right?"
"Sure, mom." I remember thinking how strange it was that my mother was all of a sudden talking about this. (Certainly, labor-talk is all the rage at this point in my life, but as a single 23 year old, I didn't just start up conversations about Pitocin and ripening cervixes.) The fact that my father, who has doctored for 60+ hours a week in this small town for the last thirty years, needed to stop by the clinic had not struck me as strange at all. But this nervous chatty mother of mine...that was unusual.
But again. I was oblivious to the import of the day and to the fact that my dad had actually stopped in town to have a chat with my husband to be. Everyone in that truck knew exactly what was going on, but not me.
As we made our way back to the house, I made some hyperbolic remark about how I hadn't showered all weekend on the river. My grandmother was appalled. I grinned and pushed the scandal - I admitted that I had gone swimming and slept in the t-shirt and gym shorts I was still wearing.
"Well, I hope you don't smell." She said, and my mother quickly changed the subject.
After we got home we began unloading the truck, and I helped with the general bustle of returning from a trip. Soon my grandmother came and got me, and she seemed legitimately concerned about something. She brought me to her house and said there was something strange in the master bedroom (Her master bedroom is like a museum because she's never slept in it and prefers her couch in the den.) She walked me back to the bedroom, pointed to a black suitcase on the floor on the far side of the bed, and asked if I knew who's it was. I told her I'd check, and as soon as I opened the suitcase my eyes settled on a very familiar khaki t-shirt sporting a plaid number 7, and I stopped breathing.
[ASIDE - Now before we go ragging on my grandmother for "ruining" one of the biggest surprises of my life. I will come to her aid and say that even though she knew THAT Jacob was coming and she'd figured out WHY he was coming, the fact that he might have left his stuff at her house to be a little stealthy never occurred to her and in her 88 years was simply confused and concerned. And besides. This is how stories are made.]
So there I was staring at Jacob's clothes and was in complete shock. I stood up and walked out of her house as she repeatedly asked about the suitcase. I couldn't even respond. I didn't understand what was happening. I felt like a wave was engulfing me in slow motion as I walked out onto her porch and across the driveway. Some family friends were there retrieving their daughter who'd come on the creek trip with us. The mom flagged me over to say that she'd just found a picture of me in her Bible from the time we went out on their boat. I smiled, said a few words, and walked away. I headed into the house and wandered through it to the back door and saw my brother who asked if I wanted to go on a run with him. I said sure. I then saw my mother and somehow managed to communicate that I'd just seen Jacob's suitcase at Nan's house. She was quiet for a minute and then said, "I was just about to go out to the garden. Would you like to come with me?" I nodded. We walked out to the garden and looked at the bolting romaine and the tomato plants
I'm giving you all these details because they're all very huge in my memory of this event. You see, I believe this experience has given me a unique insight about insanity. I think - speaking without any authority whatsoever - that an element of going crazy is not being able to put details of experience into a hierarchy. Imagine if you were here with me as I type and everything you saw mattered the same amount and it mattered a lot. The fact that there is taco seasoning and flour residue on the counter and that the muffins are about to burn in the oven and that I am a mother, would all have about the same significance. But they don't, and they shouldn't, and if they did the world would be a very confusing place indeed. You might be suspicious of everything. That's how I experienced the ten minutes between seeing Jacob's suitcase and the moment he drove up.
When Jacob got out of the car with my dad, I ran out of the garden and into his arms. He was surprised to see me galloping toward him since he'd hoped to sneak into my grandmother's. He handled the thwarted surprise pretty well, especially considering I was spewing words at him and making absolutely no sense:
"Robert wants me to go running and he's never asked me to go running ever. And the pepper plants aren't doing well at all. WHY is your suitcase at my grandmother's? And Mrs. Taylor has a picture of me WATER-SKIING in her Bible!!?!"
He looked down at me and brushed the matted creek hair from my forehead and told me to go inside and that he'd come get me in a few minutes.
I went inside and started to collect myself. My head was beginning to clear, and I began to embrace what was happening. I sat in the living room with my mother for awhile before going into my bedroom to be alone and to pray.
Jacob was back in about fifteen minutes dressed to the nines. He took my hand and walked me away from the house. We walked around back, out of the yard, and along the stretch of land along the creek. We went through a cluster of bushes and turned a corner, and I could see a circle of torches Jacob had lit underneath an old oak tree. The tree sits high on the banks of where the two creeks on the property meet. To get there we had to hike through some tall cactus ridden grass. Jacob picked me up and carried me.
And so we walked through the evening. Jacob in a shirt and tie and me in his arms in my creek attire. He set me down in the middle of all the torches and got down on one knee. He held up the loveliest of rings and said a couple things that I forgot almost immediately before he said:
"Katherine Suzanne Ramsay, will you marry me?"
I remember breathing in this moment. I loved how he'd said my whole name, how he'd summoned every syllable of me. How perfect this moment. The cicadas and the warm August night, the glow of the torches and the small bouquets of white daisies and baby's breath secured to each one. I couldn't believe this was happening. One of the biggest moments of my -
"So?" said the man still kneeling down.
And my eyes widened in embarrassment. I had one line in this whole charade, and I'd missed my cue. I blurted out "Oh! Um. Yes. YES!"
He stood up and put a ring on my finger - the same ring his grandfather had given his grandmother years and years ago.
Thanks for reading! Happy weekend!