Dearest friends and family and blog folks,
It has been a crazypants extraordinary week, entirely out of time. For most of you, Sandy was the cause. For me, partially so… but even more extraordinary… I got engaged last weekend.
I know, not art… but you guys, you guys! There were 3 dozen red balloons and 300 playpen balls involved. How can I not write about it? (If you need to save time and want just the abbreviated version of the story, please scroll down for the last photo.)
We did our best to get in touch with folks, but phones have been down and inoperable; busy signals and digital operators echoed over the lines with each attempted call. For those of you we couldn’t get in touch with, here’s the whole story…
I left for Massachusetts on a Wednesday to celebrate J’s birthday on the 27th. With all of the preparation for the party, there would be little time to hang out and catch up, so she suggested that we spend Sunday after the party romping around Smith and Northampton. So, on the morning of the 28th, I said goodbye to two Smithie friends who’d driven out for the party (little did I know I would be seeing them later), and J, my sister, and I drove into Northampton. We parked by admissions and then stood looking down across Paradise Pond. (For those of you not familiar… this is what it looks like).
It’s a familiar and comforting sight, but on that Sunday, there was something different. Red balloons dotted the landscape, and one such balloon was tied to the swing. J was curious and suggested I find out what the balloons were for.
So, I trotted down the hill towards the swing, where a mother and a little girl were swinging. I asked them if they knew why the balloons were there. A scavenger hunt of sorts, they thought.
Hanging from the balloon was this Polaroid picture:
Pause… I know you’re going to read this next bit and think that I’m lying. But seriously, if you’ve ever been to Smith College and seen the chalkings for birthdays and the crazy crap my dear Smithie ladies do for one another, my next thought will not seem odd to you.
So my first thought – Aw, cute! It’s someone’s birthday, and her friends made her a scavenger hunt. And her name is my name. That’s adorable.
And I turned to head back up the hill towards J and my sister. J pointed towards another balloon, and, like a farmer shooing an errant chicken, she waved me away.
Shrug again. I guess she wants me to see what that one is. Okay.
So I trotted back down the hill towards one of the benches overlooking the pond. There was a second balloon tied to the bench, and on the bench lay a beautiful bouquet of flowers and this Polaroid:
I looked back up the hill. J and my sister were gone. With audible clanking, the gears started spinning.
Wait a minute… I’m Lisa.
Dawning realization. It took a while, but I got it. The balloons were for me! I turned around and around a few times. Still no sign of J or my sister. There was nothing left but to do as the Polaroids instructed. So, with a Cheshire cat’s grin, I picked up the bouquet and set off after the trail of balloons.
The red balloons were tied all along the path down by the pond. They led past the Japanese Tea Hut, past the path to the Quad, around the pond and down to the Mill River. This is what it looked like:
I followed those balloons for quite a ways. I didn't know I was getting engaged... I took my sweet time and a bunch of photos.
Finally, I rounded a bend and saw a big bunch of the balloons tied to a downed tree… and Ezra in a fedora and a suit jacket. And then I burst into tears. Not only were there balloons and flowers, but my dear boyfriend had made me a ballpit in the woods. Because we’re grownups.
He helped me over the log that was serving as the edge of the ballpit, and then there were many wonderful words and a question and a black velvet box with his Nana’s ring inside.
And there was much hugging and weeping (on my part) and laughing and grinning and dancing in the woods in our makeshift ballpit beneath a bunch of red balloons. Because the future is bright and filled with all kinds of plans, and we’re going to spend our lives together.
We may have sat there in the woods by the Mill River for twenty minutes or an hour or six… it was a moment outside of time. But eventually, we packed up our ballpit, tied our balloons on tightly, and made our way back along the path. Actually that's not true... first we took a whole bunch of photos. HE HAD A POLAROID CAMERA!!!
As we went, we slowly untied all of Ezra’s three dozen balloons until we each had quite a handful.
When we finally arrived back at the swing above the pond, not only had my sister and J reappeared, but my two other Smithies (I told you they’d be back) were also waiting with champagne and glittery confetti and hugs and congratulations.
And that’s pretty much the end of the engagement part of the story. After that, we were stranded in Massachusetts for four days during the storm, but Sandy did it’s absolute best to completely miss most of Western Mass. We made the most of it and had ourselves an excellent little half-week away outside of time.
The end… for real this time.
As promised, the abbreviated version: