On Friday, May 23, 2008, I went to work in Stamford as I always do, and the day felt like any other day (Side note - as I was doing my usual routine at work, Mike and his good friend Matt were picking up the ring in NYC).
I had ordered the ring 2 weeks previous, and had been waiting (not-so-patiently) for it to come in. I had mentioned to the jeweler that I really would like to try to propose before Christina's birthday, and she told me that she wasn't sure if she could do it, but she'd do her best. I anxiously was calling almost every day, and on this particular Friday (with only 2 days left before her birthday), Lily (the jeweler) told me that the ring was ready!
I called my friend Matt Lamb up early in the morning and asked (demanded?) if he could come with me to the city to pick up the ring. He said of course, and immediately came over. It seemed to me that Matt was a lot more nervous than I was!!! He kept asking me "Aren't you nervous? Aren't you freaking out?" and I just kept replying that I may be a bit nervous, but I was too excited to be nervous!! We got an early start on the day, headed into the city, picked up the stone, got it fit into the ring, got the stone appraised, quickly met up with my Cousin Merryl (who was working near the Jewelry District in the city at the time) to show her the ring, then headed home.
On the drive home from the city, with ring-in-hand, I knew that tonight had to be the night. I had Matt drive us home from the city, so I would be able to begin the phone calls to our families, as I new that I wanted everyone to be around to help us celebrate once I popped the big question. I don't remember the exact order of who I called when, but I went through the whole list... Mom, Dad, Amy, Aunt Laura, Cousin Shari, Denise, Ralph, Michelle, Aunt Marianne, just trying to get in touch with everyone to let them know. I believe on the first round of calls, the only people who answered the phone were Aunt Laura and Aunt Marianne!!! I know I must have been stressed, because I remember when I eventually DID get Denise on the phone, trying to get her (and everyone) to come over to our apartment that evening, she told me that she had a hair appointment. I made some (out of character?) comment like "Cancel the $*#@ing hair appointment, how many times does your daughter get engaged???!!!" hehehe Luckily, I was quickly forgiven, and she understood I must have been stressed out! :) After speaking to as many of the family members as I could get in touch with, I also quickly called our roommates Janine and Madelyne to let them know about the huge celebrations. I believe Janine had plans to go out for a happy hour that night, but of course in my current state of mind, i was ... let's just say ... very convincing to have Janine come home instead. I think both Janine and Madelyne both cried when I told them on the phone that "tonight is the night."
When we came back to the apartment, I started to talk to Matt about HOW I wanted to propose... I knew I wanted to get some flowers, and the original plan was to somehow go on a walk in the park, and "SURPRISE" there are some flowers and a bucket of champagne next to a (not yet chosen) bench. Then there would be a ring somewhere there too, and we'd have a nice champagne toast, followed by (or preceding) the proposal... I went to pick up the flowers, and then Matt and I were going to take a walk down to the park and figure out exactly where I wanted to ask her. However, as I was at the florist picking up the flowers (red and yellow roses for Love and Friendship)....
My office was closing early on Friday (3pm), but I never thought to mention it to Mike... sorry Mike!! ? I eventually called him on my way home, and he told me he was at VIPizza with Matt, who apparently had the day off (Side note - Mike was not at VIPizza, but was actually at the florist picking up roses). I hit a lot of traffic on the way home (I don't recommend driving on the New England Thruway at 4pm on Memorial Day Weekend). When I finally got home, Mike was at his computer, working as he always is whenever I get home from work, and we started talking about our plans for the evening. I told him that I spoke with Mihalia, and that she would be heading up from Philly on Fri night after all (was originally going to come on Saturday). Mike seemed calm and normal (for Mike)... certainly not the behavior of anyone planning on proposing that night.
As soon as we realized she'd be coming home, obviously Matt had to get outta there ASAP. He left almost immediately, and I tried to plan and stay as calm as possible until she came back. Sometime around 4ish, Christina came back home, and I was COMPLETELY not prepared and still didn't know exactly where/how I was going to propose. I had the ring hidden in my sock drawer in a box, and tried to play it as cool as I possibly could, even though I was exploding inside. I already had finalized plans with the family to come over sometime a bit later, and had spoken with Madelyne to let her know what was going on, and to have her call all of our family members as soon as we left for the walk, to have them come over. At some point, I also got in touch with Mihalia to let her know what was going on, and as she was already on her way up, she was able to be part of the celebration as well
We went back and forth for a little while, brainstorming about what we'd be doing until Mihalia got there. Go out for dinner? Stay in for dinner? Mike suggested that we go for a walk in the park that's about a mile from our house (Crocheron Park where coincidentally as we just found out, Mike's father used to play as a child, Mike's grandmother met her husband Sid, and my grandfather used to hide out while working as an insurance adjuster many, many years ago). I had gone walking with my mother in the park a few weeks prior, and kept telling Mike how beautiful it was, and we agreed to go walking there eventually. On Thursday night, Mike had asked me to go for a walk, but it was rainy out and I wasn't in the mood, so I promised we'd go the next night, which was this night... (P.S. he only picked up the ring on Friday). Mike "finished up some work he needed to get done" (aka stalled until 6:30 which is when he told our families that we would be leaving for the park)... and while he was "working", I was watching Oprah, and being grouchy for no apparent reason (I think I was hungry, and not in the mood to go for a walk?).
Christina was definitely NOT easy to convince to really go for this walk. We had both been talking for a while about exploring Bayside a bit more and starting to go for walks down to the park, or along Joe Michaels Mile (the area along Little Neck Bay along the side of the Cross Island Parkway). That week specifically, i tried to get her to go a few times, knowing full well she'd argue and try to push it off to another day. I figured that even though I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get the ring in time, I needed to build up the necessity and likelihood of MAKING her go on a walk with me for Friday. In her grumpy-pants mood, I begged and begged to go on the walk, and finally, reluctantly, she agreed. We discussed a bit what we were going to do for dinner, as she had mentioned a few times how starving she was, and I tried to just "yes" her to death to end the discussion, since I knew full-well what our plans were for the evening already!
As we were about to leave, I changed out of the cute outfit that I had worn all day at work, and into my ratty old jeans and crappy shirt/sneakers for walking (I later yelled at Madelyne for letting me leave the house like that). As I was putting my sneakers on, I quietly complained to Mad that I didn't really want to go on the walk but that I had promised Mike I would... little did I know...
As Christina was putting on her sneakers, I was standing in such a position that Christina could see the left half of my body, but the right half was covered by a wall. Madelyne was standing to my right, but in complete view of Christina, and behind the wall I popped out the ring, showing it to Mad, kind-of teasing her as she OBVIUOSLY couldn't make any reaction since Christina was standing right in front of us! Classic moment for me! :)
The walk to the park was very "us"... making silly comments about peoples' houses, Mikey continuously singing the songs from one of the Geico commercials. When we got to the park, I led the way. We were going to walk down to the water, but instead decided to check out some of the paths to see if we could find the dog park that we heard exists (I don't think it actually does). We stopped at a Gazebo with a gorgeous view of the water, and checked out the wonderful view. Mike stood behind me with his arms around me, kissing my cheek and saying nice things... which I'm happy to say, is nothing out of the ordinary! He talked about how I'm his best friend, and how lucky he feels that we get to spend our lives together.
I wanted to make sure that the moment was PERFECT. It seemed like the Gazebo overlooking Little Neck Bay was a great spot, and I started my little spiel (click here if you don't know yiddish) about how much I love her, and how happy I am that I've found her, bla bla bla :) Unfortunately, some people started walking over (hey, it WAS a public park after all, right?), so I stopped in the middle of the lovey-dovey talk and we walked a bit more
We spotted about 5 couples all walking with dogs, and decided to keep walking (maybe the dog park is that way?). Stopped and chatted for a few minutes with a nice gentleman with a Cairn Terrier, and then walked to the other gazebo, which was a bit more private than the first one. When we got there, Mike got mushy again, saying some more sweet things, all while hugging me.
At this point, I was so excited and everything felt so surreal, I don't even remember exactly what I said to her. I just couldn't wait any more, this was the moment of moments, and it was now or never!
I didn't think anything of it.... and then he took both of my hands in his, and got down on both of his knees, saying "Christina Marie Pugliese, will you Marry Me?". I was absolutely sure that he was kidding, and screamed "That's not funny Michael!" And then he took the box out... I remember having the thought "wow that's a bit too far to go for a joke!" That's when I realized that this was for real!!! I always thought I'd be emotional when the day came (every movie I watch involving engagements makes me cry). But the only emotion I felt at that moment was complete happiness... I remember putting my hands over my mouth and screaming "Are you serious? Mike! Are you kidding? Mike!!" He took my hand and put the ring on it (I barely remember this part, but I remember how much my hands were shaking). We kissed for a bit, and my head was completely spinning!
She definitely thought I was kidding when I first asked her, and even after I took the ring out, she still didn't seem to believe it! She covered her mouth and started screaming things like "ARE YOU SERIOUS?" and "OH MY GOD!" Then, of course, she took a nice long gaze at the rock on her finger!
After I got a good look at the ring, I was completely speechless. It had to be the most beautiful ring in the entire world! I can't imagine anything more perfect... Because of how badly my legs were shaking (and how out of breath we both were), we decided to stop to sit on a bench until my legs stopped shaking and we could both catch our breath. I called my mom (who sobbed), sister (who I wanted to surprise in person but she tortured me until I spilled it) and aunt (also an award-winning performance), and he tried his mom but couldn't get through. We took this picture somewhere around then.
Christina, of course, immediately wanted to call EVERYONE in the world to tell them. Knowing that her and my entire immediate families were (hopefully, if Maddy did her job...) already at our apartment, I tried to dissuade her from making calls. I used some line like "Hey babe, we'll have all the time in the world to share this, can you just spend the next 15 minutes, until we get home, just with me, enjoying each other's company and appreciating that fact that we are now ENGAGED!!! She reluctantly agreed after a quick call to her mom, sister, and Aunt, and then we got up from the bench and started giddily walking back home.
We started walking (running) home, and I'm pretty sure we were walking in circles, and in the wrong direction. I wanted to call everyone I knew, but Mike asked that I wait until we get home after we made one last call to his sister. As we turned the corner of our block, I couldn't wait to walk in the door to tell our roommates. I didn't notice any of the cars parked on our block from all of our family members.
As we walked up to the house, I noticed some cars parked down the block away from our house, and some parked right in front of the house. I looked up into our window and saw my Dad standing there with his video camera, filming us walking up the block. I was just hoping that she didn't notice, and I tried to look away as if I didn't notice either.
I ran up the stairs expecting to see Maddy and Janine.... and there was our family!!!
We were lucky to be surrounded by our families, and by Mihalia and Matt (who came back over, after having spent the whole morning/afternoon helping me out). We drank and celebrated long into the night (but ironically, never did get to eat dinner, SORRY CHRISTINA!) and had perma-smiles the whole evening! When we woke up the following morning, Christina said something to me like "Good morning, fiance" and I was still half-asleep and responded "Why are you calling me Beyonce?!?!" hahahahaha
Then, Saturday night, we got to celebrate my birthday with a lot of our friends at Ava Lounge in NYC (PS... first pics are Wayne cleverly giving us Pizza Bagels).
Actually... it's the beginning!!! We couldn't be happier!!