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I happened to have a TempurPedic mattress stuffed into the floorboard of my car waiting to be unpacked in my new apartment. We grabbed it along with seven blankets and four pillows for the bed of the truck. No one does drive-in movies quite like Heath Padgett. The nearest drive-in theater sits in the middle of nowhere Texas, a solid two-hour drive from Austin.
On our first date, he concealed our destination as we drove into the sunset down country roads where it would’ve been easy to murder me, which I half-expected to happen. But I trusted him and we pulled into the theater for an amazing and memorable first date. That’s how we learned how many blankets are necessary for a drive-in. The February air froze us then, but now we snuggled warm on the soft cushion of the mattress under a fortress of blankets.
The whole date was my idea, or so I believed. I thought it would be fun to recreate our first date to celebrate my return to the city of Austin. I don’t know how, but he used his trickery to throw me off the scent. He planned the whole thing months earlier. (In July. And made me wait until December!)
It might seem kind of silly, but we watched (and loved) Disney’s Frozen. Later we would laugh about all of the awkward marriage references in the movie and the irony of it all. When the credits began to roll, Heath jumped up next to me letting cold air into our fortress of warmth. He said he needed to go to the bathroom. He seemed pretty urgent about it, but I assumed he’d just been waiting to go so he could watch the end of the fabulous princess movie.
I snuggled deep into the blankets watching the credits peacefully and tried to figure out a way to grab a handful of popcorn without my hand actually escaping from the warmth. But then my dear friends Sean and David gave me a slight heart attack as they popped up on either side of the truck bed yelling obscenely. I don’t what they said, but I froze in the dark recognizing their voices, unable to see their faces.
Once I regained my composure, I wondered if they happened to be on a man-date and maybe Heath saw them on the walk to the bathroom so they thought they’d come scare me. I wondered if maybe this was it and that somehow Heath would propose here…
But I wasn’t sure. Heath was so cool all day and Sean and David chatted easily with me. The credits rolled on and we talked about the cast and how cute the movie was. Just before the (excessively long) credits finished, the screen cut black. Heath’s voice echoed across the open lot. Sean handed me a bright yellow umbrella, something I’d be “needing.”
At first I wondered if Heath was talking over a microphone somewhere, but the image of our friends Chelsey and Jim popped up on the screen. They wore familiar outfits sitting curled up on the couch in a living room. Chelsey dawned khaki pants with a pink sweater and Jim wore a green shirt with a grey jacket. They repeated the familiar words from the pilot episode of How I Met Your Mother.
You see, this past Valentine’s Day was my favorite Valentine’s. Heath asked me on our first dinner date…except that he also invited my best friend Meredith. We all planned to meet friends downtown afterward to celebrate our singleness, but Heath and I connived and conspired and told our friends we would “drive ourselves” and “meet them there.” We lied.
We watched How I Met Your Mother until nearly 2am. He hadn’t seen much of the show, but I already loved each episode. I showed him my favorites and we agreed to watch the entire series together. Even during our long distance relationship, we would call and text each other to keep up on episodes. We even would hit play at the same time while we Skyped and watch the episode together. We laughed together and would comment on the plot during Netflix’s 20 seconds between episodes. It’s just a television show, but the characters helped us stay connected across 500 miles.
And so Heath’s proposal video began (video at end of post) with the complicated, beautiful romance of Heath telling our “children” how he met their mother. I’ve never seen anything more perfect. His narration brought laughter and tears as he perfectly noted our friendship, how we hated each other momentarily, and how we drank “juice” together. My heart raced. I didn’t want the video, our story, to end. I knew seeing Heath on one knee would probably stop my heart completely.
“Can’t you just cut to the part where you propose to Mom already?” Chelsey’s voice complained in the final scene. The screen cut to black and a shadow followed by the spotlight of a camera emerged from the trees aiming toward the truck bed. Heath jumped up onto the truck and knelt in front of me. I cursed the blanket fortress on top of me, because I already wanted to leap into his arms.
Luckily, it’s on video, because I can’t remember what he said. I just stared into his eyes waiting to hear those four words so I could squeal yes and kiss him. And that’s exactly what happened. I kissed the heck out of my fiancé until I heard my mom’s voice, which stopped me in my tracks. A crowd of shadows surrounded us and I heard my sister’s boyfriend yell into the crowd, “She said possibly!”
A blur of laughter and cheering surrounded us. I hadn’t even climbed out of the truck before my hand was grabbed and everyone cooed over the shimmering, flawless diamond.
Our brilliant friend Jim produced the entire video and formatted it especially for the huge drive-in screen. Major props to the iPhone 4S because even our silly home movies from Heath’s phone dazzled on screen. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of the friends and family who traveled hours to the middle of no where Texas just to watch our engagement!
“The best part of living a good story is you never know what twists the plot will take next…For the life of me, I can’t comprehend why she decided I was worth the risk. She could’ve said no, that I was crazy or that it was too soon…These memories weren’t supposed to be part of my story, but they were. They are. They are the most beautiful parts of my story.”