Saturday, September 15, 2012

Happiest Place on Earth

Let’s start with this: Jimmy is a terrible spy. Absolutely awful. If I ever need to hide a body, the very last person I will ask is Jimmy. 

This story is the perfect example. I pretty much figured out he was planning to ask me to marry him when he asked me to wander around the mall and tell him which rings I liked, and by the way, what’s my ring size? Subtle, my darling.

And it’s not like we hadn’t talked about it. The subject of marriage had been broached on a number of occasions. Early on it was the subject of massive fights, as I had burned the bridal T-shirt many years ago. Jimmy is a traditional fellow, though, and he wanted me to make an honest man of him. We’d talked about the practical aspects of marriage, the emotional side, the commitment (gulp!), the religious components. In most things we had reached a good rapport.

He was acting all squirrelly, and there was that day at the mall about a month before we were supposed to go to Florida. He was definitely up to something. And there would be a number of opportunities, including the highlight of the trip: Disney World. 

As we got closer to the Florida trip, it became harder and harder to keep him from telling me what he was up to! I was reduced to covering my ears and chanting, “Hush! Hush! Hush!” Worst. Spy. Ever.

We planned our day at Disney World carefully, because we could only afford one day. We determined we would spend the whole day at Magic Kingdom, since the park-hopper tickets cost more. I purchased a guidebook that gave a very specific plan of attack that gives you the maximum opportunity to see the major attractions with a minimum time in line.

Of course, we were going the day after Independence Day. Lines were pretty much inevitable. Still, we had good luck: crossing the lagoon within minutes with my dad, my stepmother Karen, my niece Alexis and her boyfriend, and of course Ian, my son.

It was so exciting to watch the castle grow big as we approached the park. Quickly stashing our stuff in lockers, we hustled to Space Mountain, which we’d identified as our top priority.
Even first thing in the day, the line at Space Mountain ate most of an hour. We chatted in line, looked for hidden Mickeys, and enjoyed the hell out of one of my favorite rides.

Dad couldn’t ride Space Mountain, so we caught him with my folks afterward. The plan was to go on to the castle and get a family picture taken, because our next stop was the second-longest line: Splash Mountain. We wanted to get our photos taken before we got wet. 

So we approached the castle. A few words on this: I love Disney castles. I grew up a Disneyphile; when I was young, my family would go to Los Angeles every other year to visit my dad’s family, and we’d usually do a couple of days at Disneyland. It isn’t just the happiest place on earth for me; it’s also my childhood bound up in one place. It was history, adventure, imagination and magic all in a fantasy kingdom ruled from a castle. 

From the time I was a little girl, I had a daydream about a proposal at Disneyland. A Cinderella coach whisking me away to the drawbridge was a frequent theme; dancing on the drawbridge was another. 

In almost every way, I prefer Disneyland to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Disney World has much more to do overall, but the Magic Kingdom is a smaller version of Disneyland, with some of its best attractions scattered in other lands. 

But the castle at Magic Kingdom is so much better than Disneyland’s castle that it takes my breath away. Blue spires topped with gold rising above white granite – or that’s what it looks like, and I don’t care about forced perspective or optical illusions. 

We wanted to take the family photo, but there was a parade going on. We discovered later that this parade occurs three or four times during the day. It was a really cool parade, with catchy music and dancing characters. The noise was so loud we couldn’t hear each other at all, and the crowds were heavy, so we decided to wait out the parade before taking the picture.

I sat on the curb and waved to Donald Duck, family emblem. Jimmy wandered about, talking for a few minutes with my dad. Finally the parade ended with one last refrain and blew Mickey-shaped foil confetti into the air, which Karen and I quickly gathered up for later scrapbooking.

Then we took the family photo, and fortunately a stranger agreed to take our group shot so I could be in the photo too. We were standing in front of the castle, not on the drawbridge, but the plaza below it. 

Then Jimmy drew me away from the others, and I tried to point where we should head next – either the side passage to Adventureland or through the castle.

Instead, he held my arms and started to speak. I heard about every fourth word, because it was still loud and he was speaking very softly and very quickly. I tried to get him to talk louder, and he leaned in and spoke… very quickly and very quietly in my ear. Something about “I’m asking you…” and something else about begging.

And I got the hint when he dropped to one knee. 

He was still talking too quietly, but I figured out what he was asking. Even I’m not that thick. He pulled out a small gray ring box and opened it. 

There was a lovely silver promise ring I had seen when we were at the mall that day. It was small and subtle, with a row of blue and white sapphires. 

He caught my left hand and started to slide the ring up my finger, and I had to suppress a mental giggle: I hadn’t said anything yet! Later he told me he was hedging his bets. I also heard that my friends told him to a) tie me to a chair and/or b) glue my shoes to the floor before asking me to marry him, but he settled for getting that lovely ring on my finger before he finished asking me. 

“Yes,” I told him. I was pretty sure whatever he said was agreeable to me. This is not the entry to explain why we’re getting married, of course – that’s a different post. This is about the proposal to end all proposals. 

He stood up and kissed me, while my family took a zillion pictures and cheered. Then he held me, and I held him, and it was a little while before we remembered there were other people in Disney World that day.

We turned and saw my family, all beaming at us. My niece was madly texting, and my stepmother was holding a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. One was white, with a tiny tiara and veil. The other was black, with a tuxedo front and mini top hat. They were already stitched with our names. It seems someone had the inside track!

In fact, the rest of the day proved everyone was in on it but me. Ian had spilled the beans to my mother and stepfather a week before when he was visiting them. I don’t know how my sister found out, but my dad and stepmother had planned ahead. Not only the ears, but when we got back to the condo that night, they had a bottle of champagne chilling in our room beside engraved flutes with our names on them. Disney, of course.

It was absolutely perfect, romantic and beautiful and imbued with all the sappiness at which Jimmy excels. Later I made him repeat what he’d said at the foot of the castle, so I’d know for sure what I was getting into. It was beautiful, and the fact that he was so nervous even after all the talking and the unwavering support of my family was frankly adorable.

He’s all sniffly right now, because next to me he’s working on his version. As I said before, this isn’t the time to talk about why, just how. But the shorthand is, I love this man. I intend to be with him until death do us part. And may God have mercy on his soul! 

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