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The $65 Question

Valentine's Day is a celebration of romance, but even after the holiday has passed, Charlottesville writer Deborah Prum likes to muse about the people she loves, and how they got together. 

The last time my folks visited, our whole family swapped tales around the dining table.  Our topic?  Marriage proposals: who proposed to whom and how.

My husband, Bruce, asked me to marry him on top of Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire. We rode a cable car to the summit in a fog so dense you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.  As he unpacked a picnic lunch on a ledge which, in theory, overlooked a lovely mountain vista, Bruce decided he wouldn’t ask for my hand until the fog cleared. In retrospect, given the density of the fog, that seemed to be a risky decision.  However, right before dessert, the clouds miraculously parted. A brilliant sun shone through. Seeing this as a sign, Bruce popped the question to which I answered, “You bet!”
Bruce, ever a stickler for proper procedure, responded, “You’ve got to say ‘yes’ for it to count.” And, of course, I complied.
Our oldest son persuaded his future fiancée to make a chilly, dark, pre-dawn hike up Humpback Rock in Virginia. As the sun rose in splendor over the Blue Ridge, he proposed to his future wife.

Our middle son, Eric, chose a lovely spot in the Borghese Gardens in Rome.  However, when he and Bianca arrived there, members of a brass brand were raucously rehearsing for their next gig. Plan B? Eric took Bianca to a quieter part of the garden. Then on a hillside overlooking the ancient city, he asked her to marry him.

As we each told our tales, I realized I didn’t know anything about my father and mother’s engagement story, so I asked my dad.
“We were sitting in the front seat of my car, and I told your mother, ‘I have sixty-five dollars in the bank.  Do you want to get married?’ Then, a cop came along and told us to get moving.”

Seriously?  He wooed her by mentioning he possessed sixty-five dollars in assets? My father is a teller of tall tales. I looked at my mom and asked, “Really?”  

Mom shook her head.  “No.  No.  That’s not right at all.”

Relieved, I waited to hear a recounting of a far more romantic event, one involving moonlight, stardust and roses.

“Sixty dollars, your father said sixty dollars, not sixty-five.  The policeman part is accurate, though.  He told us to get going even though we were right in the middle of planning the wedding.” She shook her head in annoyance.

I kept quiet.   But I thought, lucky thing Bruce and I did not discuss bank accounts on top of Cannon Mountain.  Each of us was in our millionth year of school which meant we likely didn’t have sixty-five dollars between us.

My youngest son is in his second year of college.  His story is yet to be written.  Regardless how he proposes, whom he asks or whether he has money in the bank, I hope his marriage winds up much like the great one my parents have built.  Romantic or not, my father’s proposal kicked off over sixty years of a good life together.  They couldn’t ask for anything more.

Deborah Prum is the author of "First Kiss" and "Fatty in the Back Seat."


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