Eight years ago, all I wanted for Christmas was an engagement ring. And I didn’t care if it came out of a gum ball machine, I just wanted the question behind it to be asked. Noel and I had known each other for close to a year and I was anxious, impatient really. Marriage was something we had discussed, but Noel gallantly wanted to tie up a few financial loose ends before we made anything official. Several couples we knew had met and married during the period of our courtship (we did live in Utah after all) and the jealousy was poisoning me. I tried my best to be supportive as Noel paid down his debt (an amount that seems almost laughable now), but I knew that even after it was gone it would take a good long while before he had enough money to buy a ring. I told him it didn’t have to be anything fancy, even just a twist tie around my finger would do the job, but he insisted he wanted to “do things right.” As Christmas neared, I was irritable since I knew I wasn’t going to get the gift I really wanted. As we shopped for gifts for family and made plans for our Christmas break I was unhelpful and snappy. Noel’s patience was admirable. It was a miracle we didn’t break up.
After finals were over, we loaded our stuff in Noel’s car and headed to Southern Utah where his parents currently resided. Noel really wanted to stop and go on a hike in Canyonlands National Park. We’re pretty outdoorsy, so this wasn’t unusual, even for December. I had resolved, once again, to have a better attitude and not ruin Christmas, so I humored him. We headed out on the Grand View Point trailhead laughing and talking. When we got to the overlook, Noel bent down to tie his shoe and started rummaging in his pockets. I was about to ask him what he was doing when he pulled out a box and said, “Well, while I’m down here, about your Christmas present . . . I was wondering if you would like it now; will you marry me?” I ecstatically said “yes” and got swept up in the joy of the moment and the sparkle of the diamond ring for several minutes. After my brain stopped swimming I turned to him and demanded to know where the ring came from. He told me about how his grandma, whom I had not yet met, but Noel described as having the personality of 60 grit sandpaper and a heart of gold, had heard through the family grapevine that we were considering marriage. Completely unaware of the financial obstacle standing in our way and not even knowing if she would like me, she sent Noel her wedding ring saying she would like him to have it so he could give it to me. Noel had it in his possession for three weeks as he dealt with my moodiness, studied for finals, and plotted how to get my parent’s blessing before he proposed. The night before our trip to Southern Utah, he told me he and his roommate were going to install a roof rack he’d recently bought off a friend, but instead travelled to my parents’ house in a bundle of nerves to ask for my hand. Afterward, he and his roommate stayed up past midnight installing the roof rack with fingers frozen beyond feeling so I wouldn’t be suspicious.
I have a lot of fond memories of Christmas, but I will always remember the love fueled miracles that happened that year to make it possible for me to answer the most important question I’ve ever been asked.