6) Wrapped in Brown Wrapping Paper

I first met Andrea in 1995 when we were placed
on the same mission team in a small town in Ukraine. To pass the
time while we rode trains across this former Soviet country, we
would read to each other from an old book I had found containing
local fairy tales. It became a special thing between us, and over
the next two years we grew to be very close friends.

In 1997, soon after returning to the United
States, I invited Andrea to my hometown of Pensacola, Florida to
meet my family. That weekend
I also wanted to show her one of my favorite places, so I took
her to a beautiful, secluded spot on Pensacola Beach. As we sat
on the beach watching the sun near the horizon, we were approached
by an old vagabond who was meandering down the beach putting
trash in a large bag. He struck up a conversation with us and told
about love lost in his own life, and challenged me to hold on
to Andrea, no matter what! He then said that he had something for
us and, much to our surprise, began digging through his sack.

As he rummaged through his bag, Andrea nervously
scooted a little closer to me and put her arm in mine. He finally
retrieved his
treasure, a flat package wrapped in brown wrapping paper. He
slowly handed it to Andrea and then turned and walked away,
while we wondered
what to do with this strange gift. Andrea was a bit nervous,
but I told her I thought it would be okay to open it, and when
I did
we were shocked to find a beautiful handmade wooden book with
leather binding and parchment pages. As Andrea watched the
old man walk
away, she asked me, Do you think its an old family album? I
dont know, I told her, lets open it and see. We opened it to find
an old fairy tale with charming hand-drawn illustrations and
a large
ornate letter beginning each page.

I began to read the story aloud and we learned
that it was about a beautiful young girl named Odette. As we read
on, Andrea
that the drawing of Odette as a little girl looked just like
she did when she was 8 years old, and that the story sounded
very familiar.
It eventually dawned on her that this was not mere coincidence
this was a set-up. As she saw me begin to smile, she realized
that it was me who had made the book (the old vagabond was
really an
old friend of mines father who eagerly played the part!)

The fairy tale told of Odettes life growing up, her travel
to a faraway land, and how she built a relationship with
a young
named Jonathan (who looked amazingly like me!)

The tale also
told of how Jonathan had traveled to ask Odettes father
for his daughters
hand in marriage (something I had done a month earlier
without Andreas knowledge.)

The story progressed to a moment when Odette and Jonathan
sat together on a serene beach watching the sunset, when
all of
a sudden an
old vagabond approached them. Mirroring the moment that
had just happened, the drifter in the story talked of love
he gave
them a special book and inspired Jonathan to kneel upon
the sand and
ask Odette for her hand in marriage. The beautiful maiden
looked into his eyes, and with heart overflowing, said.
. . From there
on the page was blank because everything up to this point
had happened to Andrea, but this was new.

I closed the book, knelt on the sand, and asked
Andrea if she would be my wife. She tearfully replied yes and kissed
me while
in the
background my vagabond friend and his family began cheering
and clapping (they also secretly took lots of pictures
our special

After a lot of hugs and a closer look at the
book, Andrea also realized that each of the ornate letters at the
each page spelled out MARRY ME ANDREA. Six months later
we were married,
and weve been very happily married for seven years. We
also continue to work in eastern Europe, but our family
is bigger
now with
three daughters the first named Abigail Odette.

Story By:

Bob Burnham


The founder and president of Diamond Cutters International, is one of the worlds top diamond experts, as well as a three-time Guinness Book record holder in jewelry design.
Fred The Diamond Guy
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