Ambush Proposal

In May of 2003 I had a rather delightful problem on my hands. Deborah and I had been “serious” for five years, and we had been looking forward to marriage for some time, but I hadn’t felt easy about proposing to her before her divorce was finalized. But now it was, and I could.

The problem? How could I make the proposal a surprise? I couldn’t ask her out to a nice restaurant or a romantic getaway spot—even if we hadn’t been together for half a decade, she’s as close to a mind reader as you’d want to meet when it comes to emotional matters, and would have known immediately what was up. But I didn’t want it to be a casual affair, either.

So I ambushed her in church.

At the time we were regularly attending St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Ben Lomond, California. I was a long-time Episcopalian, and Deborah, who is Jewish, had become what I jokingly referred to as a “flying buttress” of the church, supporting it from the outside. She would listen to—and sometimes read—the Old Testament lesson and join in the recital of the Psalm, and then read the Talmud the rest of the time. I sang in the choir.

So Deborah had no warning at all on the first of June, 2003 when, in the middle of the service, between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, after the announcements and blessings, I stepped out of the choir and asked her to join me at the front of the church. (The rector and parish secretary were delighted co-conspirators.) After a brief extemporaneous introduction, I delivered my proposal in the form of a sonnet, giving her my maternal grandmother’s wedding ring at the ultimate couplet:

We bless God for this grace: that He once said,
“It is not good for you to be alone;”
That, two-by-two, he weaves a tale whose threads
Are intertwined as close as bone to bone.
As Christ ‘twas this he chose to bless with His
First miracle, as water became wine;
‘Twas this He meant that evening we first kissed:
A first knot in our tapestry divine.
For then, as if in echo to that greater
Story that Abraham and Sarah heard;
Passing, much like them, through tears and laughter
We found a destiny we’d judged absurd.
And so, to tie the next knot in our life
I ask you, Deborah, will you be my wife?

Great poetry it is not, but it had the desired effect—although, being speechless, she could only nod at first. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of my compliance when Deborah found her voice and asked “Aren’t you supposed to be kneeling?”

Almost as memorable were the reactions of the congregation, which were almost entirely gender-dependent. The women all said it was one of the most romantic things they’d ever seen, and the men, with a couple of exceptions, said they thought it was one of the bravest things they’d ever seen.

But I say that necessity makes heroes of us all—there was no way I was going to let her get away!


About Dave Trowbridge

Dave Trowbridge has been writing high-tech marketing copy for almost thirty years. This has made him an expert in what he calls “pulling stuff out of the cave of the flying monkeys,” so science fiction comes naturally. He abandoned corporate life in 2007 — actually, it abandoned him — but not before attaining the rank of Dark Lord of Documentation, a title which still appears on his business card and serves to identify clients he’d rather not work with (the ones who don’t laugh). He much prefers the godlike powers of a science fiction author (hah!) to troglodyte status in dark corporate mills, and the universe is slowly coming around to his point of view. Dave is currently laboring over the second edition of the space-opera series Exordium with his co-author Sherwood Smith, and looking forward to writing more stories in that universe. He lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with his writer wife and fellow BVC member, Deborah J. Ross, and a tri-lingual German Shepherd Dog responsible for three cats. When not writing, Dave may be found wrangling vegetables—both domesticated and feral — in the garden.


Ambush Proposal — 11 Comments

  1. Not only is the proposal part of church lore, but also the wedding that followed, which was actually two weddings: the Jewish one outside the church and the Christian one (bells and smells!) inside, linked by the wonderful, over-the-top Star-Wars-on-steroids organ transcription of the Coronation March from Le Prophete, by Meyerbeer. (Listen to it on YouTube!) And followed by Regency dancing.

    Maybe I’ll do a post on that next Valentine’s Day.

  2. that is SOOOOOOOOOOOOO CUTE!!!! And you even wrote a sonnet! + 100 in the husband game or two thumbs up.

    Also: love the fact that you both cherish your faith and can accept the other’s faith.

  3. This is a lovely, lovely story–as are the accompanying photos!

    necessity makes heroes of us all So true–and what a great outcome your heroism had.

  4. This is the proposal story that gets carried down to the great great granchildren. Love it. Best of everything to the two of you (from one who’s celeberating her 12th anniversary in a couple of months…)