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Proposing to Sam was no easy task. Before ever having even met her, I had always wanted to propose in a particular place when the time came - standing on my favorite bluff off the Fiery Gizzard trail overlooking the valley at sunset. Nice, right? But that didn't come to pass. Neither did proposing on a cruise ship. Or a half dozen other places that I had bounced around in my head. Most got nixed either due to timing, timing and money, or friends who said, "I bet he proposes to you when you go to such-and-such together." Yeah. Thanks.

But after months of planning, scheming, and Sam slowly resigning herself to the idea that it was more likely for me to have a growth spurt in my mid-20's than to actually propose to her this decade, I gathered up all my courage and made the call to her father.

A rather to-the-point individual, his response was short and simple.

"Are you serious?"

I assured him I most certainly was, and after what sounded vaguely like choking on the other end of the line, we talked for a bit and he gave me his permission. I'd say "blessing," but permission is probably more semantically accurate.

And so it was off to New York for a winter vacation! The whole trip was wonderful (aside from the Subway strike and riding in open-topped, double-decker buses in single-digit weather, but I digress), and if you've never been to New York, I highly recommend a trip through. Being there near Christmas just made it that much more amazing.

My grand plan was to propose while ice skating in Central Park, holding hands as I slipped down to a graceful stop on one knee, a bewildered look on her face and a special song playing because the rink DJ surely has a heart made of gold.

I waited a few days into the trip, and then finally mustered the courage to sneak the ring into my coat pocket one morning. I had been scared of discovery since the very start of the vacation; even as we had our carry-on luggage scanned in Nashville, all I could think about was some soulless x-ray technician stopping me to question the small, circular metal object encased in a flip box, crammed into a golfing glove, shoved all the way down to the bottom of my bag.

As we walked around the city, the box in my jacket seemed obscenely obvious, like Rosie O'Donnell trying out at an Olympic swimming meet preliminary. I was certain I was going to be busted. I shifted it around my pocket constantly as the day wore on and tried to always stand on Sam's left when possible.

We strolled around most of the day, enjoying the city and moreover, the fact that we were there together. As day turned to dusk, and dusk turned to night, we made our way towards Central Park. I insisted that I wanted to go ice skating, even though Sam suggested we start heading back towards the hotel. In hindsight, I can only offer the following advice if you plan to propose at the end of the day when travelling: don't whine for a good hour about how bad your feet hurt from walking all day, and then suddenly suggest you should go ice skating ten minutes later. It arouses suspicion, or at the very least, questions concerning your sanity.

But suspicions and sanity aside, Sam and I had been talking about ice skating for weeks before going to New York, so I managed to keep from blowing my cover. A few minutes later, I found I needed to be more concerned about blowing my top.

We arrived at the Central Park ice skating rink at 9:15 PM, which according to every book I've ever read, is the exact fulcrum point for romantic interludes throughout the entire space-time continuum. The rink's operators apparently weren't made aware of this, however, as the rink closes promptly at 9:00.

I really had my heart set on proposing that night, but I figured I had waited over two and a half years at this point; what would one more day hurt? However, I still required the rink's assistance. You see, it was about 10 degrees outside, we had been walking for 30 minutes, and prior to that I had drank three tall glasses of Sprite. You do the math.

Perhaps I've just been spoiled by Nashville's hospitality, but even though the doors were unlocked and people were still inside, they insisted that I could not partake of their restroom facilities. When questioned as to the whereabouts of the next nearest available facility, they instructed me that I would need to exit the park completely to find any.

The quote, "Hey buddy, now it is your problem" from Adam Sandler's "Big Daddy" crossed my mind briefly, but that was not how I wanted to end the night. I left the skating rink with nothing but scorn in my heart and an explosive pressure in my loins as we made our way back out of the park to the nearest hotel.

It turns out the Ritz is a lot more accommodating than Central Park. A handy little piece of New York savoir-faire should you ever be in dire need on the city's upper-side. Regardless, we took care of the pressing issues and then left the swanky hotel. We talked about just turning in, but then I spotted the carriage rides across the street. I suggested we take one, and Sam thought it was a splendid idea.

For the first five to ten minutes, I tried to calm the three-ring circus that had suddenly decided to set up camp in my stomach and sell tickets at half price. My heart raced and my voice kept wanting to catch. I told Sam how much I loved her, how glad I was for such a friend in love, and how everything I have ever known or experienced in this world has been made better by just knowing her. She smiled and said she loved me, too. I asked her if she was sure, and she said yes. "Still think you'll love me in 50 years?" I asked. 'Of course,' she said, smiling again. And that's when my Mr. Conductor cued the drumroll, and I knew it was showtime.

I looked back at her and said, "Then in that case ..." and went down on one knee on the floor of the carriage. She looked at me for a second, and then her eyes suddenly lit up with that gleam of suprise and happiness I have come to adore. At the exact same moment, I reached into my pocket and said, "Samantha Agee ...."

Sam sat there, smiling wider and wider, looking at me as I silently cursed the manufacturer of Columbia Sportswear jackets and their plot to foil my proposal with their amazing shrinking pockets technology. The box was caught, and suddenly I was a four-year-old trying to jam a square peg through a round hole in front of my entire pre-school class on show and tell day.

When an hour had finally passed (Sam has since informed me that in all actuality, it was closer to five seconds, but I still have my doubts) the box finally came free from the woven clutches of irony.

" ... Will you marry me?"

I don't remember if Sam laughed first or said yes, but they came close enough together that I don't think it really matters. I gave her a big hug and a kiss, and then put the ring on her finger.

Our carriage driver gave us a big congratulations when we came to a stop a few minutes later. We thanked him as we got out, our faces flushed with a warm red on the cold winter night. We walked back to our hotel hand in hand for a good 30 blocks. It dawned on us suddenly that neither of us were cold anymore, and while I have heard the expression before, "she was glowing," I had never actually witnessed it prior to that night. She had what can only be described as an aura; it's one of the happiest and most beautiful moments I've ever been a part of, and its indelible memory is something I will treasure forever.

I laid down to go to bed that night after a few excited phone calls and conversation, and all I could think of was how after so many trials and tests in life, I had just become the luckiest man in the world.