I’m a very lucky lady. And the evidence is on my left hand.
Six years ago, the Cardinals were playing the final game of the World Series and I was at home working into the late hours of the night – as I often did with my job at the time. Adam was at a bar watching the game with friends. He called me as soon as the game ended with the Cardinals as champions. I drove to the bar to pick him up, but instead of coming out to the car when I asked, he made me come into the bar.
I was braless and wearing pajamas. I humored him. After all, he explained, this was a once in a lifetime celebration. The Cardinals might not ever win another World Series in our lifetime. (Uh huh.)
A few of his friends were there, including one childhood friend who was very, very drunk. She pulled me aside and said, “Adam loves you so much.”
“I know,” I replied.
“No! I mean, like, he loves you SO much,” she insisted.
“Yeah, I know. I love him too,” I said.
“Annie, I have to tell you something,” she said. “Adam is going to propose to you in Mexico!”
And that’s how I learned Adam would soon ask me to marry him.
A Modest Proposal
That December, were on a plane with his family, headed to Riviera Maya, Mexico for a vacation. I had been anxiously awaiting the trip and possible proposal for two months. I envisioned it happening on the beach at sunset, or in some other sort of cliched setting.
Only about 20 minutes into the flight, Adam nudged me. I was annoyed because I was trying to fill out my customs paperwork. He had his hand on my tray table, a ring on his finger.
“So, what do you think?” he asked expectantly.
“What?” I replied, utterly caught off guard by the unexpected query so early into our trip.
I’m not totally sure what we said after that. I remember trying really hard to cry, but being unable to get any visible tears to appear. Then I dropped the ring under the seat and had a minor heart attack trying to retrieve it.
But here’s where my romantic story takes a shameful turn.
I wondered why the diamond wasn’t bigger.
In a Material World
There’s no nice way to put it. I was a materialistic asshole. Even now, I wonder what the hell I was thinking. Who did I think I was? I had a person who loved me, and I wanted a bigger diamond.
To put my state of mind in some context, several of my friends and coworkers had been getting engaged lately. During meetings, the enormous, brilliant diamonds on their hands distracted me like I was a magpie. At the time, I was going through what I imagined to be a crisis of image. I had a hard time getting the respect I needed when my target audience often thought I was one of the students at the high school where I worked as the Director of Marketing and Recruitment. I figured a giant rock on my left hand would solidify my position as a grown woman.
I became obsessed with finding out why the diamond wasn’t bigger. I constantly asked Adam where he got it, thinking I could find the ring and price it out. I went so far as to ask him how much he spent under the guise of wanting to get it insured.
Did I mention I was a shamefully materialistic asshole? I was.
Eventually, I wore him down. One night as I was interrogating him, he finally snapped.
“Why do you need to know?” he said, agitated.
“Because!” I shouted.
“Because I want to know how much I’m worth!”
Even as the words left my mouth, I knew they were among the worst I’d ever uttered.
Adam got quiet. He looked hurt. I didn’t blame him.
“Do you want to know what that ring is worth?” he asked, looking defeated.
“Yes,” I answered, sheepishly.
“That ring is worth more than you will ever know. There’s blood and potatoes in that ring,” he started. “The middle diamond belonged to my great-grandfather, who was the first of his family to come here from Ireland. He gave it to his daughter, my grandma. She passed it on to my mother. At my uncle’s funeral, she approached me and handed me diamonds from my grandpa and my uncle, telling me to have an engagement ring made for you. That ring represents how much my family cares about you.”
In my entire life, I’ve never felt smaller, lower or guiltier than I did at that moment. What was I doing? What was I thinking? How did I become so obsessed with appearances?
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, tears streaming down my face.
“I didn’t want you to think I was cheap for giving you family diamonds instead of buying something.”
“But all this time, I’ve been wearing a family heirloom. That’s worth so much more than anything you could have bought. Had I known, I wouldn’t have thought you were cheap at all.”
I was ashamed of myself. And I deserved to feel shame.
“Someday, I’ll get you a bigger diamond,” Adam said.
“No, I’ll never take this diamond out,” I assured him.
I was lucky. Somehow, he forgave me. And his family did too. I will always be grateful for their generous gift – not only for the diamonds, but for accepting me into their family and sharing their son.