Tell us your love story!
We met in August, 2013 when we were both working as Public Defenders. New to the city and the job, Elana was lucky to be immediately enfolded into a tight-knit friend group within the office. Whether rehashing each day's courtroom adventures, or earnestly debating the relative merits of the local restaurants, there was always somebody to grab a drink and talk something over with - indispensable friends of the type who reliably respond to your court emergency texts within 10 minutes, and always make merciless fun of you when you even marginally deserve it.
You're all probably astute enough readers to have guessed by this point that Jen was one of these friends. More settled, having been in practice for 3 years by that point, Jen was just as friendly and welcoming as everybody else, but maybe (if we're being honest) a little bit quiet in a way that Elana (mistakenly, it turns out) read as aloof. In a way, in the beginning, we were as distant as two people who are extremely close can be. We'd eat lunch together almost every day, but would generally be talking to one of the other 6 people at the table. Nevertheless, we flashed upon shared tidbits - like how we both slept on air mattresses for too long when we first moved there, our close relationships with our siblings in different cities, and our appropriate reverence for the genius of pizza nachos. Over the years, those flashes turned to sparks. And moments turned to hours. Now years. We continued to bond over big things like injustice and the stress of fighting to serve our clients, and small things like our serious quest to find the best donut in town, our enthusiasm for long walks that end with strong drinks (coffee and otherwise), and our mutual appreciation for the magic of a good rainstorm. And those many big and small things transformed from the basis of a great friendship to the foundation of a beautiful relationship.
What about the proposal?
We had two! We knew we wanted to get engaged and start planning our wedding, so we started browsing for rings together to get a sense of what we each liked, but we agreed to each individually choose the final ring and plan a surprise proposal for one another. The opportunity to plan something particularly special and romantic was important to each of us. What we didn’t know before the proposals was that there’s also an incredible intangible element that’s unique to both asking somebody to marry you and being asked that we are both very glad we got to experience from each perspective. It’s this incredible moment of immense excitement and vulnerability that’s followed by the deepest feelings of love and affirmation.
Emotional details aside, the stories go like this:
Elana surprised Jen by taking her on a trip to the Berkshires one winter weekend. We had actually been out really late the night before so the threat of a hungover pajama day was real. Instead, Elana woke up early (probably because she hadn’t actually been able to sleep at all!) and came home with breakfast sandwiches and coffee. An hour or two later, Elana gave Jen a card on which she’d written the same poem that Jen had first given to her back when we stumbled upon the idea of loving each other.
We loaded up our pup and the overnight bags Elana had secretly packed, and jumped in the car for a few hours of driving during which Jen unsuccessfully tried to guess where we were headed. A few more sentimental notes were exchanged, a carefully picked playlist was played, scenery was seen, and eventually we arrived at our hotel. Assured we were running late to our destination, Jen was told we could just quickly drop our bags before heading back out. When we came down in the elevator, Elana made her close her eyes and walked her over to a lounge area where the wonderful staff at the hotel had helped her arrange a beautiful set up with flowers and sparkling rose. A knee was taken, sweet words and a ring were exchanged, as were hugs, kisses, and a promise of forever.
Through weeks of purposefully throwing one another off and deft familial double-agency, neither of us had a clue when the other was planning to propose. Jen was especially surprised by Elana’s proposal, because she was sure that the elaborate plan she’d arranged to occur just 6 days later was going to be the first proposal. While in Southern California visiting family, Jen surprised Elana with an incredibly romantic private hot air balloon ride. We had a picnic of champagne and cheese on a table strewn with rose petals while the huge balloons slowly filled with air. We didn’t want to bother the guys who were very busy setting the balloons up so we very happily drank the champagne straight from the bottle. We drifted higher and higher, cozy in our basket, watching the sun paint the sky a dazzling array of colors as both the mountains and the coastline surrounded us on an indescribably beautiful and serene late afternoon. Jen handed her phone to our pilot, who was kind enough to take many photos and even a video, before kneeling down in the balloon basket and proposing a lifetime of love and adventures. Literally floating on air, we again agreed that we’d love nothing more than to spend our lives together.
When did you know that you were meant to be with each other?
It’s hard to pick one moment, because truthfully, we know that we are meant to be with each other because of the incredible ease that we share in co-navigating all of the many moments we’ve shared so far. We operate on the same frequency, like waves called by the same tides, and absorb one another’s dips and peaks not just with patience, but also with amusement; and often with delight. But if pressed, there are a few special memories that this question calls to mind. One summer night, while in Vermont on a camping trip for one of our best friends’ birthday, the campsite Ranger suggested that our group might enjoy taking advantage of that night’s full moon by going on a nighttime canoe trip to a little island a bit up the river. We all agreed this sounded awesome, so as dusk rolled around, we packed up a picnic dinner and some beers, had faith that our dogs could balance in the canoes, and set off onto the water. It was lovely, exciting, and serene…and also became an utter, albeit memorable, disaster. We reached the shore and found the fire pit the Ranger had directed us towards. Midway through roasting our hot dogs we realized we were being swarmed by countless bugs, the dirt looked alive from all of the movement. Naturally, we all freaked out and decided to leave as soon as we could safely get the fire out.
We raced back into our canoes, and paddled back into an inky blanket of pitch blackness. The division between sky and water was completely imperceptible. The full moon we’d been promised was nowhere in sight. We later learned that in an impressive display of city-slicker ignorance, we’d failed to realize that there’s a lull between sunset and moon rise. But in the moment, panic, darkness, and a vague sense of the direction we had to row in were about all we had.
We were at least smart enough to bring flashlights, so we tried to fire them up. The light in the otherwise total darkness seemed to attract every flying thing for miles around. Jen, bravely seated at the front of the canoe, was being pelted. A friend in a distant canoe screamed “are these bats?!” another friend wept a bit, a pair of much-needed glasses was lost in the water. We laughed together a bit, until Jen yelled back that apparently the bugs were attracted to the white of teeth too, so she was going to have to stop talking. Our canoe group drifted further and further apart, not that we could see one another – we only knew because the intermittent complaints yelled through the otherwise silent night sounded further away each time.
We whispered to one another, in our two-person canoe, with our dog between us - keeping one another calm, trying to identify landmarks from the trip up in the daylight, coordinating to stay on rhythm and on course. We rested from our paddling and floated for a minute, taking in the brilliant sparkle of a starry country night sky, listening to the water lap around us, laughing together as we sat in the middle of what we could already tell would be a lifelong memory. A blissful moment, in a chaotic scene, interrupted by a brilliant streak. A flash of light marked the black sky - there, moving, gone. In unison we pointed upwards, and yelled to each other: “shooting star?!” Part joyful exclamation, part call to attention, part hope that the other had seen it too. It was the first shooting star either of us had ever seen and it felt incredibly special to share it. We agreed that it was for us.
And life for us is much like that. We know we are meant to be together because we keep each other calm in stressful moments, we can pause to laugh at absurdity even in the midst of chaos, we have faith that if we communicate and coordinate we will always find our way back. But above all, when we are together, magic and adventure are never far off. We are lucky to share a life of moments that feel too perfect to be real, and that can feel like a whirlwind of opportunities and plans, where life is not always easy but does always feel full of possibility.