As Kara and I approach our ten year wedding anniversary I thought I would share some key parts of the road that got us here. It took three proposals to marry my wife...and I thought I would share all three in different segments with all of you. These stories are completely true.......
Back in 1996 Kara and I were like most college students, full of love and empty with cash. I was working as a forklift driver making a wonderful $8/hour doing rough work and Kara was a preschool aide. We were both going to college and spending the majority of our time dating each other rather than getting schoolwork completed. We met at a church function where I couldn't speak English very well because I had just returned from spending two years as a missionary in South Korea...and I met Kara just about 5 days after returning. I asked her out and took her to Koreatown for food in LA, and then to the beach where we held hands. We ended our first date slow dancing in a church parking lot to music coming out of my car stereo with the doors to the car open. No fancy stereo, just whatever song came on the radio. I kissed her on the forehead and gave her a note written in Korean...and I told her that I wouldn't tell her what it said until the time was right. The note in Korean said, "I will marry you someday."
We dated for about 5 months when I decided it was time to pop the question. My personal name for Kara is, "Kay," and I went into the local mall and found a wedding ring for about $400...at Kay Jewelers. I really didn't plan it that way...it just worked out that they were agreeable to give me a credit card for the ring. So I bought it and as I left the store holding that black velvet box in my hand I was certain that our date that night would be unforgettable....
I thought it would be so unique and fun to make our "average date night" into a scavenger hunt. So I picked Kara up and we went to the Claremont colleges where the grounds are very pretty...and you take walks there when you don't have a lot of money. We parked the car and walked to the tree where we shared our very first kiss about 4 months ago. I asked her if she remembered the tree and she smiled and said she did. I told her we should carve our initials into the tree to commemorate the event....and so I took out my keys...and one of the keys was broken in half from when I tried to use it to fix (un-jam) my lawnmower at home, so it was a little bit sharper and perfect for carving.
We started carving our names into the tree and while I was carving the letter, "J" I heard police sirens and saw lights shining directly our way. We turned around to see a cop walking straight towards us and gave us the command to, "Freeze." I asked him what the problem was and he said we were destroying public property and were in possession of a weapon. He asked us if the green 1977 Pontiac (a hoopty looking car I had been given by my Grandma) was my car, and when I said, "Yes," he ordered Kara to go sit in the passenger seat and ordered me sit with my hands behind my back on the sidewalk.
I couldn't believe what was happening. The cop said, "So, what are you doing with this car, did you steal it? Why are you parked in handicapped parking....did you steal this car from a Grandma?" I replied, "No, I am legally handicapped and have a leg problem that I've had since I was 7 years old. Check your records and you will see the disabled placard is registered to me. This car was my Grandma's car but she gave it to me about 5 months ago. Why are you doing this?" He replied, "What's with the weapon?" I replied, "You mean the broken key? Are you serious?" By this point he had confiscated my keys and requested a second car for backup. I proceeded to tell him, "When did carving in a tree like they used to years ago....become criminal man? Don't you have a wife?" He replied, "Is that girl your wife?" I said, "I was hoping she would be as I'm preparing to propose to her tonight...but with your help maybe that'll never happen. What's the deal man, do I look like a gangbanger to you?
The cop replied, "You're going to propose tonight? If so, where's the ring?" I said, "My girlfriend doesn't know about it...can you keep it down? The ring is under the driver's seat...go check for yourself but don't let her see the ring." He replied, "I'm waiting for backup, there could be a weapon in there." At this point it was so ridiculous that I just let out a huge laugh...not to mention the fact I found it hilarious that this cop was afraid of me and my girlfriend in some hoopty style Pontiac Bonneville. This really made him angry and he proceeded to handcuff me behind my back and told me to lay down on the sidewalk! I told him it really hurt my leg to be in the position that he placed me in because of my handicap, and then he laughed and told me to, "Shut up."
At this point the second car showed up and it was a female cop. I was relieved hoping she would be more understanding. He explained the situation to her and then she came up to me and asked me if my story was really true. I responded, "Yes, it is true...I can't believe this guy is ruining tonight. Go check for yourself...the ring is under the driver's seat." She asked Kara to get out of the car and wait by the police car...and then she went and checked under my seat and found the ring. She discreetly put it back and told Kara to go back into the car. Kara asked her, "What are you looking for?" and the cop responded, "Don't worry about that Miss...go to the car and stay in your seat." She then ordered the cop to get me out of the cuffs. I thanked her and the she said, "We're still giving you a ticket for vandalism." At this point I just wanted to get out of there so I didn't say anything. The male cop protested her decision and she whispered to him, "This guy's story is true....we could be looking at a lawsuit....so just be quiet."
She gave me the ticket and told me I was free to go. The cops had me out of the sidewalk for 45 minutes...just ridiculous. They told me I couldn't have the broken key back because it was a weapon. I just laughed under my breath and went back and sat in the car. Kara said, "What in the world just happened? What did she look for under the seat?" I replied, "These cops have nothing better to do...they were just looking for more weapons." She replied, "Why did she look only under your seat." I responded, "Well, I guess it's because I look like such a gangsta (which really if you've seen me....I don't)."
Determined to not let this ruin our evening I decided to skip all the other stops on our scavenger hunt (they were all the meaningful places we had together during our courtship) and skip straight to the end. We headed to Huntington Beach where we went on our first date and held hands together for the first time. I made sure to buy Kara a large drink while we were driving down there so she would have to use the restroom. We walked along the beach and when she said she needed to use the restroom I told her I would wait for her. While she was in there I got the velvet box and buried it under about 6 inches of sand...dusted myself off and waited for her to return. When she returned she said, "I know the cops ruined our scavenger hunt, but is there anything else we can do?" I said, "Well there is one last item on the hunt and it's buried under the sand right there."
Kara bent down and moving the sand aside she found the velvet box. She started tearing up and said, "What is this?" I smiled and said, "Remember that note I gave you? It said I would marry you someday." As she started to open the box I knelt down on one knee and said, "Will you marry me?" She started crying and jumping up and down and said, "YES!" We shared a kiss and the scavenger hunt was over....for that night...because little did I know that this wouldn't be my only proposal...just my first to get the girl I would be with forever....but that story is for another post.
By the way, about 4 weeks later we received a letter from the Mayor of Claremont apologizing for the extreme inconvenience we had been subjected to and he cleared us of all vandalism charges. In the envelope he sent the broken key saying he didn't think it presented too much of a threat to the community at large. Case closed.