I had asked my sweet Jeanne to give up her beautiful home and active life in Atlanta. In return, I offered her a new life with me in a small town in Tennessee and an old fixer upper house. Not a great trade for her. She wanted a marriage proposal, but the best I could come up with was a weak "Let’s see how it goes." I was 40 and never married.
Jeanne moved to Centerville in October and it was now past mid December. I wanted to propose to her and run over to Gatlinburg over Christmas and get married. I was having a hard time telling her of my plans. She was being patient. Centerville isn’t a place where unwed couples can live together without drawing attention. I wanted to do the right thing, but my feet were like ice cubes.
I finally came up with a plan. I would propose to her at the mall, where we could shop for a wedding ring. I talked her into going with me to finish up our Christmas shopping. When we got to the mall, we split up so we could buy presents for each other. I had something else to do.
I did my shopping quickly and then I concentrated on where I was going to propose. I found an area with benches that was right across from a jewelry store. Now I had to get up the nerve to do it. I wanted to do it. I would have never asked her to move if I wasn’t going to marry her. My intentions were honorable, but my feet were chilly.
We met up at our rendezvous spot at the appropriate time. Totally unaware of what I was about to attempt, Jeanne asked if I had all my shopping done. I responded, "I have one more thing to buy." This was true. I still had to buy my sweetheart a wedding ring.
She asked what store I needed to go to. I replied, "I’m not sure, but I think it is down this way." She followed me as I wandered around the mall. I had lost the jewelry store. We walked around some more, Jeanne obviously tired of lugging around all of the packages she had acquired. Finally it appeared on the horizon at my 12 o’clock. I told her it was straight ahead.
I started walking toward the benches. I still had some work to do before the ring shopping commenced. As we neared the benches, I told her I needed to tie my shoelaces. She looked down and said, "They look tied to me." I knelt down on one knee and asked in a trembling voice, "Would you like to go over to that store and pick out something." Thinking that I was talking about a Christmas gift, she said, "No, surprise me." She noticed that I was shaking and I kind of nodded my head in an awkward attempt to get her to notice that I was not tying my shoelaces, but kneeling in the customary proposal stance. She started crying and asked if I was asking her to marry me. Unable to speak, I just nodded up and down.
By now several of the women at the jewelry store had noticed us, and they began crying as we approached the store. They thought I was proposing, but were not sure (for some reason). We picked out the rings and were married at a little chapel in Gatlinburg on Christmas Eve.
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