The news of my engagement should really not come as a surprise to those who know me. I have been contemplating asking my dear Lena for at least a few months, although I could never be sure it was the right thing to do. I also did not want to make the engagement trivial, nor did I want to partake in the request in any typical format. I devised pieces of a plan long ago in an attempt to be both surprising and unique, and I'm proud to admit now that I succeeded in these tasks.
On July 3, 2009, Lena and I embarked on a day of events related to Edgar Allen Poe, and Baltimore is celebrating his 200th birthday this year. Previously, we had occupied ourselves with similar activities, including a tour of the Poe house in Philadelphia and celebrating Poe's birthday our first year in Baltimore. I was unsure if Lena would be OK with this theme for the day's activities, but she was game in celebration of my birthday, the following day.
We arrived at the Homewood Museum, expecting to see a special exhibit based on Poe's essay "Philosophy of Furniture." Sadly, the museum was closed, but because I was mildly prepared for this, I called ahead to the Carroll Mansion, with the hope that we could see its exhibit. Not only did I determine the museum was open, but I realized that if we left the house immediately, we could make the 1 p.m. tour. Lena obliged, so we drove to the Carroll Mansion.
However, our plan again took a turn for the worst when, after ringing the doorbell and knocking on the door, it appeared that the museum was closed. I again phoned the museum, and sure enough, the woman said it was open. I again rang the doorbell, and she exclaimed that she heard the bells from the attic! In mere minutes, we were inside the museum, admiring ancient paintings, worn rugs and, of course, dated furniture. Poe's quotes on furniture adorned the abode, and we listened carefully to the curator regarding this historic plantation house.
We left the mansion and continued our journey to Edgar Allan Poe's house, which is situated just blocks from the school where Lena teaches, Southwest Baltimore Charter School. We entered and discovered the tiny house where Poe lived while in Baltimore. Only a single individual at a time could climb the narrow set of stairs that led to Poe's third-floor room. Furthermore, the room was roped off at the stairs, so at best, one could have a rat's-eye view of this loft.
Our next stop was Zella's, a local pizzeria near the Hollins Market. Possibly due to nerves, or possibly due to a large breakfast, I did not feel extraordinary hungry, but Lena did. We split a delicious sandwich and tried to figure out what to do for the rest of the afternoon. I mentioned visiting the main branch of the Enoch Pratt Library because it contained more Poe-related material. Lena seemed reluctant in going, but she agreed to go because it was a day of celebrating my birthday.
My plan appeared to be in jeopardy. I wanted to walk the one-and-a-half miles to the library because I wanted to stop by Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, the site of Poe's grave. I decided that I would propose in that location. As we began walking, though, the skies looked menacing. Lena said we should drive. I mentioned that the clouds looked as if they would pass, or at the very least, it would not rain long. As those words came out of my mouth, sprinkles fell upon us. A downpour followed. Fortunately, we were spared a complete drenching, as the rain stopped after no more than two minutes. The plan continued.
I made a critical mistake in my initial plan and did not find out if the Pratt library would be open this day. Alas, it was not. Lena was not too happy about walking the entire way to a closed building. She also mentioned that she was feeling a bit ill. My plan was again starting to unravel.
We started our journey back to the car. I made sure to take the appropriate path so that we would walk past the graveyard. I asked if we could just stop in quickly, since we were already in the neighborhood. She agreed. There were other people standing at the grave, and I did not want to disturb their observations. Instead, I stepped behind the vaults on the north side of the cemetery and asked Lena to join me.
At this point, I retrieved a piece of paper from my pocket. I proceeded to read the following poem to Lena:
A simple request that I ask of you, sweet lady
My hope is that it's not too much of a burden
The appeal I wish to make this afternoon
Is of grave importance and excitement, I am certain
This miniscule plea is nothing unique,
Although it could eventually morph into something more
The plan, depending on your delicate answer
Will touch both of us at the very core
I bid thee an opportunity this fateful day
With a chance to complete something not quite whole
It is a risk, I feel, that is worth taking
The sentiment of anxiousness grips my soul
Maybe this in not the most appropriate way
To implore such a sensitive matter of action
I fret that any conventional method of petitioning
Would be too trivial for this level of conviction
So now, as I gaze at your seraphic face
I earnestly await your sincere reply
Will this be the commencement of our betrothal?
Will you for eternity be by my side?
She said yes! The plan has come to fruition!