On the Side of a Mountain

On the Side of a Mountain

Six years ago tomorrow, I got engaged.

We traveled a lot when we lived in New England. It was new territory to explore, and everything was so close that six hours in the car could get you somewhere new and exciting. When Tim pitched a weekend getaway in St. Johnsbury, VT my suspicions were aroused. I had desperately wanted to be engaged since we moved to MA a year earlier, but Tim always said that marriage didn’t make sense to him. He didn’t understand why people did it. What’s the point when you live together and are committed to each other? What does it change?

I didn’t know, but I wanted to find out.

On the drive to Vermont, my younger brother called me… which was rare. We were close, but never talked on the phone much so I picked up his call anticipating that something might be wrong.

“I’m going to propose tomorrow night!” he told me excitedly.

Since I am a person full of extreme tact and deep levels of emotional intelligence, I blurted out, “Isn’t that fast?! Shouldn’t you wait until you graduate?!?” Sister of the year right here folks.

When I got off the phone with my brother, I told Tim the unexpected news. Instead of having any commentary or (proper) congratulations to share, the first words out of his mouth were, “When is he doing it?!?”

“Uh, I think tomorrow evening. They’re going to a vineyard for the day.”

Tim nodded, and kept driving north.


The next morning we went to have breakfast at a local diner in the quaint, tiny downtown. St. Johnsbury is about as picturesque New England as it gets, and we were visiting near peak leaf season. That day, a clear blue sky was lined with white church steeples and fiery red trees scattered across the mountains outside town. We sat down in the small restaurant for a breakfast of omelettes (ah, the pre-vegan days) before going hiking.

I don’t remember how the subject came up (probably from me baiting), but we came to the topic of marriage & engagement.

“Yeah, I really need to talk to your mom about her diamonds. I’ve been meaning to do that” Tim said and shook his head as he looked down at his food.

Across from him on the other side of the table, my heart sank. Been meaning to do that! See, my Mom (who also really wanted me to get engaged) had offered to send Tim some family diamonds from her engagement ring/wedding band and an old pair of my grandmother’s earrings. Yes, she was not above pushing diamonds at Tim to help any proposal along and make her only daughter an honest woman, but I had no problem with any of this. What I did have a problem with was the idea that Tim hadn’t even pursued this generous offer. Not only did he not care about marriage, but he didn’t care about giving me free diamonds either. I’m not proud to admit this, but I spent the rest of breakfast doing my best not to outwardly pout.


With Eliot and BT packed up in the back seat, Tim drove to the mountain where he researched hiking for the day. He didn’t talk much on the way over there, and I didn’t either since I was still pouting about being in the world’s longest committed relationship with no hope of marriage. Looking between a printed hiking guide, google maps and the road, Tim had a hard time finding the trail head he was looking for. We thought we were in the right spot, but there were no cars parked along the road where hikers would usually start out. After driving slowly in search of any signs of life, we saw a big “TRAIL CLOSED DUE TO FLOODING” sign over the path.

I, not being the world’s biggest fan of steep altitude hiking, shrugged and said “Oh well, I guess we’ll go do something else.”

Tim did not think this was acceptable. He gripped both sides of the steering wheel hard enough I saw his knuckles go white. “NO WE NEED TO GO HIKING ON THE MOUNTAIN!”

I widened my eyes and peered at him curiously. He slowly turned the car around.

“I mean, there has to be another trail.”

Twenty minutes of driving and three CLOSED signs later, there was no trail. My boyfriend was getting defeated, and suddenly he became the one in the car who was pouting. Trying to save the morning which had frankly not been so great, I pointed out to an open parking area and grassy hill. A few people were playing frisbee in the sunshine, and the open slope looked down over a gorgeous view of the fall foliage mountains. “Why don’t we park and let the dogs play here some?”


We parked, and let Eliot run free to chase his tennis ball happily up and down the hill. I held the end of BT’s leash while she sniffed the nature, and watched Tim throw the tennis ball as far as he could for Eliot – something he said he always wanted to do as a kid, but never had a dog who would fetch.

After about ten minutes, he got down on one knee. I wish I remembered what he said, but what stands out most in my mind is crying from happiness for the first time in my life. The surprise at this huge rush of emotion and the tears that built up from it. Eliot barking annoyingly at us to go ahead and throw his ball already. The blue, tan, red and orange colors all around us and the look in his eyes when I said yes.


Later, he would admit that he thought I was too suspicious of his plans so he had to lie to me at breakfast to throw me off guard. I jokingly gave him a hard time for lying to my face on the same day he proposed. “But it was so much better because you were surprised!” he would say. Tim also took great pride in the fact that he proposed about six hours before my younger brother asked his now wife the same question.

Once he and I composed ourselves from the emotional intensity of the moment, he grabbed my hand and said “Oh I have so much to tell you about all this!” I guess it’s hard keeping a big secret from your best friend.

When shit hit the fan with us early this summer, I had mentioned to Tim during a tough conversation that our wedding day was still the absolute happiest and best memory of my life. He agreed, but said that the day he proposed was just as good – if not better – to him.

Closed trails or not, it was pretty perfect.

32 thoughts on “On the Side of a Mountain

  1. This is so sweet! Is it bad that I don’t even know what day I got engaged. It was in the spring. April? Maybe early May? Ack!

    1. I only remember for a few reasons.
      A) Husband was much better at remembering dates than me (he is the one who always reminded me of the anniversary of when we started dating)
      B) Our original wedding date was supposed to be 10/10/10, which is a cool number and also 1 year after we got engaged
      C) We actually got married a week later on 10/17, so 10/10 is like a heads up that my anniversary is coming

  2. This is such a sweet memory, even with the lie!

    I don’t miss much about living in New England, but Vermont is definitely one thing I miss a lot. It’s so beautiful there.

    I remember my fiance being uncharacteristically upset about Grandfather Mountain being closed on the day we were supposed to go last August, and the 7 or so of us on vacation that week getting up early to rush and go the next morning, before the next round of rain moved in. Little did I know, he was panicking about not being able to propose at the spot he had picked, just like Tim!

  3. This story gave my heart the happy feels 🙂 I hope you can remember the happiness of that day this weekend and keep the good memories close! Vermont is a magical place and I bet that if you ever revisited that side of the mountain, Tim would be right there with you.

      1. I am very close to St. Johnsbury if you need a place to stay, or if you want to do visiting, though I understand you might want to do that alone. 🙂

  4. So bittersweet. As always, the way you wrote it, it played out in my head just like I was watching a movie. The breakfast, the dialogue, the white knuckles, the sunshine, the barking, the leaves. I loved reading it, even though it broke my heart a little bit for several reasons. Or maybe because it broke my heart a little bit? Anyway, beautifully done.

  5. This was lovely. My heart aches for you. I am just about 45 minutes away from St. Johnsbury and I can picture how perfect a day that must have been.

    If/when you do end up coming back, I would highly recommend driving a little further and going here: http://www.dogmt.com/. It is the most wonderful, special, peaceful place. The chapel in particular is just perfect, and there are miles of trails. I never fail to reflect on the people and dogs I have loved and lost when visiting. Chapel info is here: http://www.dogmt.com/Dog-Chapel.html

  6. That is beautiful.

    My first engagement was a bust. He was going to propose to me during a concert I was dying to attend but we got in a fight right before so he didn’t. Instead he proposed to me a week later in the park on a bench while we were walking the dogs. He was very nonchalant about it and kind of just handed me the ring.

    My heart said no, but I made very bad decisions when I was young (I think I was 20 here?). We called off the engagement some time after because I wasn’t into it anymore and he was cheating on me. Suffice to say, I don’t really have any good memories of the time so I’m jealous you do!

  7. What a wonderful story and memory! It sounds very romantic.

    We are not romantic people, so engagement happened on some random weekend last summer when, after I finished complaining about being unable to afford health insurance, Johnny said, “I guess we could get married next year so you can be on mine,” and I said, “I guess that would work.” Health insurance- it brings people together.

  8. What a beautiful proposal! I can only imagine it, but I bet your smile totally eclipsed the beauty of the nature surrounding you <3

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