The Date October 8, 2006
The Place Soons Orchards in New Hampton, New York
Here is Marisa's version: We were at our friend Elizabeth Richman's parents' home in New Jersey for the first days of the holiday of Sukkot. The Richmans hosted us, along with our friends Ben, Joelle, and Ethan, for a song and discussion-filled visit... then... Sunday was already warm and brightly sunny as Russ and I piled into the car, waving to Elizabeth and Ben as they danced around the porch, singing, as a goodbye. We drove and listened to the soundtrack from Stand by Me, singing along to the do-wop background lines and melodies and generally having a grand time. When we had listened through the whole thing, we left it in and harmonized again; I was hyper and happy. I put in the soundtrack from West Side Story but quickly fast-forwarded it when I realized that it was beginning at the “sappy wedding part.” When we arrived at Soons Orchard, we headed over to the picking area. Whereas the year before, the orchard had been nearly empty when we arrived (it had been drizzling and late in the season), this year the parking area was packed and we had to jockey for a place to leave Brain (Russ' car). As we waited in line to pay for our bags, Russ took one look at the crowds of people leaving with their huge hauls and mused, “I hope there are enough apples left for us!” We strategized that the ends of the rows and the furthest rows would have more apples left on their trees, which was indeed the truth, and I was happy to get away from the crowds by the entrance. In hindsight, Russ did not seem quite as invested in the actual apple-picking as I was at the time, but I didn’t really notice it then. It was warm and the sky was a tremendous bright blue. The narrow rows of trees created dappled shadows and I marveled, as I had the year before, at how each apple variety hung slightly differently on the tree. The ground was littered with apples that people had picked and discarded, bitten and discarded, or that had simply fallen, too ripe to cling to the branch any more. I was a bit overly enthusiastic at first, filling my bag quickly, while Russ was more conservative in selecting apples. We snapped photos of each other picking—my favorite was one where Russ pretended to be terrified by a gigantic Jonagold we had found. When we got to the row of Red Delicious, Russ said, “Would you say these are your favorite apples?” I replied with a long, detailed explanation about how Red Delicious were my favorite dependable variety for everyday eating, but that since we were in the orchard with so many different varieties, I didn’t want to commit myself, etc. Russ waited patiently through my schpiel and then repeated, “But you would say these are basically your favorite apples, right?” I nodded. “I have this poem,” he said, “that I’ve been working on. And I was wondering whether you would listen to it and give me your opinion.” “Uh… OK,” I said, thinking that either something was up or that it was just Russ being Russ and wanting to work on his poetry at odd moments. A tiny part of my brain started to bounce up and down, saying, “He’s going to propose! This is it!” but I squelched that voice because I didn’t want to disappoint myself if it wasn’t true. I had vowed to be patient and wait until Russ decided that it was a good time to ask me—that is, I was going to be patient for the next four weeks, at least. I had declared to myself that if he didn’t ask me by his birthday, I would just ask him. I put my bag of apples (already bulging) down on the ground as Russ took out his notebook. At first, I couldn’t tell whether the poem was a proposal or not. The title didn’t really seem to be me-focused, but then as the poem unfolded, it became clear. I just tried to listen carefully to the words and enjoy them. I was really touched, because it was a really beautiful poem, and I was near to happy tears too. Mostly I felt blessed because I had someone in my life who was so wonderful and who wanted to marry me and who had taken the time to figure out such a sweet and lovely way of proposing. At the end of the poem, sniffling, Russ started to get down on one knee and take out the ring box and ask, but it suddenly struck me that I did NOT like the idea of starting out marriage with an act of submission or chivalry or whatever weird thing getting down on one knee is, so in mid-sentence, I tacked Russ. I just bent down and grabbed him in a big bear hug and said yes. Actually, I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I am sure it was some combination of “yes” and “I love you.” We hugged and kissed and cried a little bit, and then Russ gave me the ring, explaining that it had belonged to his grandmother Ruth and that he had especially liked it because it was purple, one of my favorite colors. He wasn’t sure which hand to put it on, so I told him the left hand, and he did it. When we finally disentangled ourselves and stood up, Russ chided me, saying that since I’d tacked him in the middle of asking, I didn’t really know what he had been intending to ask—maybe he hadn’t wanted to ask me to marry him at all! So I gave him back the ring and said, “OK—do it again!” This time, I allowed him to finish his sentence and place the ring on my finger in a dignified manner. As I remember, we sort of hugged and kissed and stared at each other in a silly way for a while, and I assured Russ that I liked the poem and the ring. Mostly, I think we said, “Yaaaaaaaaay!” and looked at each other with silly grins. And I remember we danced around a bit, singing “V’samachata.” We took an arm’s length shot of ourselves and began to look around for someone to take some photos of us from farther away. After a couple of failed attempts to hail a family further down the row, we finally asked the young mother of a family to take our photo. Russ explained that we had just gotten engaged, and she said, “Wait! Just now, right here?” When we said yes, she got very excited and waved over the rest of her family to tell them the news. She took our photo and they congratulated us profusely. We turned to walk down the row again when the father of the family rushed after us, saying, “I can’t let you go without offering a blessing.” He took each of us by the shoulder, football-huddle style, and gave a spontaneous prayer on our behalf, thanking God for bringing us together and praying for strength to help us weather the storms of life. It was a very kind gesture, and except for the fact that he finished with “in Jesus’ name,” I was down with the whole thing. He then congratulated us again and we walked off, chuckling but touched. We kept picking apples. I had already pretty much filled up my bag, so I mostly watched Russ pick. We talked and sang and occasionally stopped to kiss or hug, shielded by the branches. I just remember being elated, excited, and calm at the same time. It was settled. We had decided. We were going to be together for the rest of our lives. And that was that. We even started talking about plans for the wedding, thinking and dreaming about what it would be like. When we left the orchard, Russ gave me a set of directions and told me to navigate, although he wouldn't tell me exactly where we were going-- no matter how hard I tried to persuade him to disclose his plans. We ended up at a beautiful bed and breakfast in Warwick, New York. Russ had made reservations for dinner at a gourmet restaurant in the area, and we enjoyed a delicious, seasonal meal in a quiet, romantic setting. We were tickled to discover that the couple at the next table over was celebrating their first anniversary. They wished us luck. We called our parents, siblings, and my grandmother to give them the good news, watched the stars for a bit, and then went inside. Russ had loaded up his computer with great dance music, and we had our own little dance party inside our room at the bed and breakfast. Coming back to NYC and work the next day was . . . difficult. But then we got to tell all of our friends! Here is the awesome proposal poem. Knucklehead is one of Russ' nicknames for me. When we first started dating, I was extremely shy about receiving compliments from Russ. In mock frustration, he once asked, "So what do you want me to call you? Knucklehead?!?!?" The name stuck. What my K stands for Knowing You don't have to knock, you already keep the keys to me. You can come and go freely, but really, i like it better when you stay, Some carefully crafted combination of need and want, Sure, I could make it through days without you, but why the hell would I want to do that? What good are kitchens I don't get to dance in with you, Cars without your puns careening through like dirtroad pebbles, what's the point of singing without your harmony, or davenning without your Kavannah beside me? what's a better world without your embrace? what good are notebook pages without your inspiration? what can I do with the knowledge I've picked up but share it with you? who needs a mitt without you throwing a softball? What purpose do my lips serve if not to laugh at your jokes, taste our cooking, whisper in your ear, or kiss you? Who needs a sleep bereft of snuggling up to you? Your kindness massages my aching tendons Your wisdom bends me back into shape and to you chuckle is to remember why G-d invented laughing. You push me to continue long past points I'd never reach You keep me grounded with my head above the clouds, grinning so loudly they want to arrest me for decibles 5 times the legal limit and broadcasting without a license. You've got the keys, so I know you can come and go as you please, but please, stay awhile i promise I'll make it worth your while. My fingers will traverse every cell of the bottom of your feet like Magellan was immortal and had a motor i will continue to cobble syllables to you till you blush anytime you reach for a book. my lips will kiss you good night, good morning, good day good afternoon, good evening, good elevensies good midnight, good tuesday, and good 2:37pm. My eardrums stand ready to lay down the cadence you ask of the rest of me, to love you like no one ever has, or ever will, and my body eager to deliver that promise. You already have the keys to me. But I want you to stay. That way, the next time someone asks me what the K stands for, I can smile and tell them K stands for keeping your head on a swivel, for knowing someone's got your back front, and sides, for kicking everything from niggunim to KRS ONE in the car, for getting me back on kilter, for kindness without bounds, for killer insight and killer smiles, for the kavannah and kodesh you bring to my life, for helping practice kiddush and bentching outloud, for your kisses that fit all occasions, that always succeed in kindling my insides, for (name redacted), for (name redacted), but the next time someone says Mr. K, I want the K to be short for Knucklehead.