September 7, 2010

The Big Surprise, Part Two

Posted in Trek through Italy at 8:45 PM by goingbeyondzebra

Tuesday morning opened sunny and warm. I got up fairly early and washed up before heading to one of my favorite cafés in town, Café Arnaud, to meet Mark for breakfast. We’d decided to meet around 9:30, but other than that hadn’t made any real plans, though we’d considered paying a visit to the Chocolate Factory in town if it could be worked out. We picked up a few brioches, ordered coffee, and I was able to show off a bit of the vague knowledge I’d manage to gather over the past two months of the Italian language.

As time passed with us gazing adoringly at each other and attempting to compensate for two months of being apart into every second of being together, we decided we would walk around the town a bit before heading back over to the Harrell’s. From there we were going to all go to the chocolate factory and peruse the store, and Mark informed me that for lunch we were going to go on a picnic.

We’d only really been on one picnic before. Whenever we planned a picnic the weather seemed to disagree with our attempts and turn rainy, viciously cold, or absurdly windy. So the idea of a picnic excited me, especially since we were in the Italian Alps, which makes just about any outside activity ten times more adventurous. After walking around a while, we took the next step in our plans and headed back to the Harrell’s. They informed us that we would be picking up another passenger on our way, a Scottish lady who works with OM by the name of Mrs. Rose.

And we were off. Mrs. Rose was picked up, and we arrived at the Chocolate Factory in cheery anticipation of the sweets soon to come. Imagine our disappointment when we walked up to the gate, only to be told the factory was closed and would not open again for several weeks! Faces fell, babies cried, disbelief was expressed, and a sadder group was seen trudging back to the car, wondering what to do with their new-found time.

Thankfully Italy offers all sorts of random forms of entertainment, especially for the foreigner, so we soon devised a new plan of going to a type of tourist/gourmet food store called Eataly. Wonder-filled eyes gazed on authentic china teas, books filled with the best of Italian recipes, specialty cheeses, freshly made pasta, and cookware that I could only dream of owning. It was a fun place to look, as long as you avoided the price tags and remained a happy spectator. Mark and I had fun poking around the different sections of the store and trying to decipher some of the more obscure Italian ingredients. As we prepared to leave Eataly, Mark and I were informed that we were going to drop by Iper Coop, the Italian version of Publix mashed with Walmart thrown inside of a mall. Since Mark had yet to experience an Italian grocery store, and a trip to Coop almost always turned into an adventure, we readily agreed and once again were on our way.

We weren’t there long, only about thirty minutes, although it was almost long enough for me to convince Mark to buy a purple shirt (one of these days I am going to get him into a nice, purple button down, and he is going to look amazing, by George!). By now our spirits were once again raised, and we started back home.

Susan told Mark and me on the trip back that Rose wanted to give us some chocolate she had bought previously from the factory, since we didn’t get to go, so we were going to be dropped off at her house. Susan also asked if we would mind walking home and stopping by the house of another couple to water their plants, since they were out of town for the day. Although it was hot and I knew the walk would be a bit long, we again agreed. We were therefore dropped off at Rose’s and she led us up to her apartment. The conspiracy had begun.

Now I was very appreciative of the chocolate and Rose’s offer, it was very nice of her and she threw in some real cocoa powder to boot. But that lady would not let us go! Every time I turned around she was offering us something to drink, or was telling us to look out one of their balconies. We stood on the back balcony for what seemed an eternity, and I am still not quite sure what we talked about, though I have a vague recollection of Roman drainage systems coming into the conversation at some point. What I mostly remember is being hungry and wanting to get going so we could water the plants and get home to lunch, since Susan had said it would be ready by the time we got home. I assumed there had been some mix up in the schedule and Mark and I were no longer going to have a picnic, which threw disappointment into the mixture of feelings I was experiencing. Finally Rose escorted us out and walked with us part of the way to the house to water plants, saying goodbye after handing us a map to guide us the rest of the way.

Mark and I continued on the walk to the house, discussing random flowers or berries by the road, and occasionally making up stories about people or houses we passed on the way. At one point I asked Mark about the picnic and he said he supposed that maybe there had been a mix up from what Susan had said before we left. As we walked I got a call from Susan asking us if we’d made it to the house yet, to gauge how long we would be getting to the Harrell’s for lunch, so she said. I replied we were getting close to the watering-plants house, so we’d still be a while before making it back home.

At the gate to the house I started telling Mark about the 4th of July celebration several of us had held there about a month or so earlier. Gesturing carelessly to the right I indicated the spot where we’d held the cookout in the yard, when a bit of red fabric under a tree caught my eye. I made no comment on what I saw, but Mark nonchalantly suggested we take a look at the yard. I believe his exact words were

“Well, why don’t we take a look over there then,” or at least something very similar. An underlying current of excitement began to build within me as I agreed and we headed over to what I soon discovered was a prettily laid out picnic lunch. The Harrells, it seemed, had been quite the busy bees!

We sat down to our lunch of Focaccia bread (one of my favorite Italian foods), meats, cheeses, fruits, bread sticks, and little pastries for dessert. Thanks to Rose’s stalling tactics, there had been time for the Harrell’s to set things out nicely. When we’d had our fill, Mark suggested we head down to the river that ran close to the property. Knowing a good place to get to the river from my 4th of July experience, I took Mark through the woods and a few fields down to the rocky riverbed. And then it happened.

After splashing each other with the cold water a few times and listening to the water rush past, Mark grabbed my hands with a serious yet blissful look on his face. I can’t recall his exact words, but he began by saying that he loved me and how our relationship had grown over the past few years. I knew he was closing some chapters in his life, he said, and that as God opened new ones for him, he wanted me to go into this new journey with him. Mark got down on one knee, opened a little white box where a elegant ring lay nestled, shimmering in the sunlight, and he said those special words that so many girls dream of hearing one day:

“Robyn, will you marry me?”

Sadly, I said no, and we parted ways never to see each other again…

…just kidding! I, of course, delightedly said yes and grabbed him in a joyous hug. We were engaged! After nearly three years of dating, we were now officially heading towards marriage. Babies laughed, birds sang, fairies danced and I am pretty sure somewhere the peasants were definitely rejoicing. All was right with the world and the world was all right with us! After being interrupted by a lady and her young child who were walking by the other side of the river with what we hope was an expression of congratulations, Mark and I floated back to our picnic where we finished our desserts, packed up, and headed back to the Harrell’s to enjoy the rest of the day in engaged bliss.

The night ended with a celebratory dinner out, but for the sake of space, I believe that experience requires a somewhat shorter post of its own.

Thus concludes part two of The Big Surprise.  Stay tuned for parts 2.5 and 3, coming soon to a blog near you!




  1. Mom said,

    Delightfl details and humorous reading…

  2. Kat said,

    SO EXCITED for yall!!! What a cool engagement story! Can’t wait to see that ring on your finger 🙂

  3. Sharon Cogburn said,

    I love to read love stories. This was especially fun. Well written and congratulations.

  4. Angie Spradlin said,

    What a wonderful engagement story – sweet memories to treasure!!!

  5. mark said,

    Ready for part 3

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: