This morning, I witnessed the sweetest exchange.
A builder was working on a house down my road, and a lady drove by and smiled at him. She parked her car nearby to go into a shop, and while she did, he climbed down his ladder, pulled something from his pocket, and jogged toward her.
“Y’alright, darlin’?” she said to him, as he jogged. He was grinning. His builder friends were still standing by the ladder. They were grinning, too.
“Yeah,” he said. “Came to give you my card.”
“Your card…” she said, as it sank in. She took it and smiled at him. “Good rates?”
“Yeah,” he said, and he turned to walk back to his ladder. They were both smiling – blushing, even. And his friends were smiling. And I was smiling.
That big, gruff builder in the paint-splattered work trousers and doo-rag, jogging across the street with his business card gripped in his sweaty palm. Grinning like a fool. But making himself vulnerable for a possibility. Taking a risk because he saw something – someone – he liked the look of, and he deemed the risk worth it.
In the Fall of 2006, Simon and I had been dating for three years (save the seven months when we broke up in 2005, but we don’t like to mention that part). I wanted to marry him real bad. I’d wanted to marry him real bad since he first kissed me in 2003. I’d wanted to marry him real bad the whole seven months we were broken up.
I want y’all to hear me when I say: I wanted to marry him real bad, and I HAD LEFT NO ROOM FOR DOUBT. That man knew I wanted to marry him – or, if he didn’t, it is possible that there is something seriously wrong with him that I may have thus far overlooked.
But in 2006, he came to visit me in North Carolina in August, and unbeknownst to me, he told my dad he wanted to marry me. My dad gave him his blessing.
And then Simon went back to England.
Then, in November, he came back to North Carolina for a six-week visit, which was going to conclude with his band traveling over from England and touring around North Carolina. During that six-week visit, I continued to make it ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that I wanted to marry him.
Six weeks came and went, and all the sudden it was December 16th and he was leaving on the 18th and we were not engaged. I was wondering if he really wanted to marry me at all. My parents were wondering if he’d changed his mind.
On the 16th, he woke me up early in the morning, took me for a walk by the river in my hometown, got right down in the mud on one knee, and proposed. Of course I said yes, because, as stated earlier: I WANTED TO MARRY HIM.
But even so. Even though he knew. Even though I’d not left any room for doubt…that act – the getting knee-deep in squelchy river mud, and pulling out a ring that had cost him a month’s income – asking the biggest question he would ever ask in his life. It was terrifying. It left him vulnerable. The risk of looking like a fool was great (even if it wasn’t). So great, that it had taken him four months from the deciding he was going to do it, to the actually doing it.
But he did it.
He asked the Big Question. He made himself vulnerable. And it paid off in the form of eight years (so far) of hard-working, knee-deep-and-muddy, and totally-worth-it marriage. Of two beautiful boys. Of a life we are lucky to get to live. Because he decided (albeit slowly), that the risk was worth it. That being made a fool wouldn’t be nearly as bad as never knowing.
The world could use more fools, if you ask me.
Fools like that grinning, paint-splattered builder.
Fools like a 24-year-old Englishman kneeling in a muddy North Carolina riverbank.
Fools getting dirty for the sake of Love.