Abby Comes Home

With a Ring

It was supposed to be something of a routine visit home for my daughter Abby, who now lives in Portland, Oregon. But for some unexplainable reason I was a little uneasy about it. Call it a premonition, if you will.

The occasion was the wedding of one of her best friends. They've been close since they were in third grade, and Abby was to be in the wedding party.

What had her old gray dad a touch edgy was that her boyfriend, Neil, whom she had met here and followed out to Portland, would be with her. I couldn't help entertaining the idea that he might want to talk to me about their future. The thought set my emotions bouncing. One moment my heart was leaping with joy for her; the next, my eyes were filling with tears, and I suppose those were for me.

There were hugs and handshakes when the two of them appeared at our door. Then Abby burst out: "Neil and I have some news."

She held out her left hand, and sure enough, there was an engagement ring. "We're getting married."

She was radiant as she said it. Neil stood there with a goofy look on his face. I can only imagine that her mother and I were wide-eyed, mouths open. Over the ages that same scene has undoubtedly been enacted in millions of households, from cave to suburban bungalow. Norman Rockwell probably painted it. But it sure was a singular moment for us.

More hugs and handshakes, then Neil and I stood there (we were all rooted to the spot in a real-life freeze frame) like shy strangers at a party while mother and daughter launched into what I expect will be a long season of wedding talk.

They paused. "When did this happen?" I asked.

"Last night," Abby said. She turned to Neil.

"At the airport in Portland," he said. "But...."

He had bought the ring last week, he told us, and planned to give it to her during what he wanted to be a romantic dinner with candlelight and soft music at their favorite New Orleans restaurant. He was carrying it in his pocket when he walked through the metal detector. It set off the buzzer and red light.

He emptied his pockets of everything but the ring box and went through again. Again, the alarm sounded.

"What else ya got in your pocket?" he quoted the security guard as asking.

Neil (in a whisper): "An engagement ring."

Guard (in a commanding voice): "Gotta see it."

Neil (sotto voce, through clenched teeth): "But it's an engagement ring."

The guard held out his hand.

Neil tried to position himself so Abby, who had passed the security station ahead of him, wouldn't see what he was doing when he gave the box to the guard. The guard took it, but the handoff was badly timed. The box squirted out of the guard's hand and into the air. Both men juggled it, but couldn't catch it. It landed on the conveyor belt of the X-ray machine. The attendant tried to grab it, but she fumbled it and it bounced back onto the conveyer belt. Finally, the guard retrieved it. He handed it back to Neil and gave him the go-ahead.

Neil was crestfallen. His face was crimson, Abby said later. He was sure Abby had seen the whole episode (she swears she hadn't).

"I guess I'm busted," he told her. He led her to a quiet corner of the waiting room where he asked her to marry him, got her "Yes," and slipped the ring on her finger. Then they picked up their bags and headed down the jetway to their plane.

So much for romance. But won't that be a wonderful story for them to tell and retell their children over the years? And to remember every time they go through a security gate?

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