When a stranger on the phone is a good thing

“Tom’s going to be late, but you have a package outside your door.”

These words, heard over the phone in a strange male voice, were odd words. Odd because A) it was 8am, not normal package delivery times; and B) Tom is never late.

It was Saturday, Valentine’s Day, 1998. Tom and I had a full day planned: breakfast at a local restaurant, cavern exploring in the Shenandoah Valley, and ending with a dress-up dinner near Washington D.C. I’m a sufficient enough control freak that I liked to know or help plan our dates. I’m also suspicious enough that it’s hard to surprise me. I usually start to put clues together fairly early. The latter makes the rest of the story most interesting.

The aforementioned package contained a note from Tom telling me what time he actually planned to pick me up (good thing because I was running late – a normal occurrence) and a cassette tape:

cassette tape

Breakfast should have been a fairly uneventful affair, but a no-show cook significantly delayed us in getting on the road for the hour plus drive to our next stop. No big deal, I thought, we had no timeline for the day. Tom seemed slightly more bothered.

His cell phone rang when we were barely out of the parking lot. I believe this was a flip phone with a retractable antenna. 😀 Tom answered and said it was for me. Same unfamiliar male voice on the line, with directions to look in the back of my seat, where I found this:

Old school walkman

A now hilarious-looking walkman with a second tape. This was funny because I had to listen to it while Tom drove. Around this time, I realized that the day was most likely going to end with a proposal. When or how, I was clueless. Oh well, off to Endless Caverns!

Side note:  If you find yourself in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and wish to do a cavern tour, I HIGHLY recommend Endless Caverns! Compared to nearby Luray Caverns, it’s less touristy and the “rooms” are more like their original state. They are still seemingly endless, too. I’ve been on tours there several times and once even ran into a small group of men who were exploring a newly discovered tunnel.

Side story:  Tom and I had fun on the tour. It’s something we both enjoy doing. Part of the fun is interacting with others on your tour. During this day in 1998, we met a family from Boston. Neither of us had been to Boston, surprising because Tom has traveled a major chunk of the United States. Both of us agreed that we thought it would be fun to visit there sometime.

Side fact:  We honeymooned in Boston.

On emerging from the caverns, Tom commented that he had a number of missed calls on his phone. I forget the excuse he gave, either he didn’t recognize the number or that if it was important the person would call back. A few minutes later, you guessed it, Mr. Unknown Stranger is calling again. Following directions, I tell Tom that he has to pull over so I can look in the trunk. I still remember how funny Tom was, acting like he didn’t know what I was going to tell him. Cassette #3:

proposal tape

Each tape was Tom recording himself, several made from his diesel U-haul truck with a crazy amount of background noise, reliving our relationship and reminding me how much he cares about me. This third one culminated with him saying that he’s looking to the future and where God will take us. If I had doubts about a pending proposal, they were wiped out like a blank cassette.

The next steps in this adventure are too crazy, too funny, and too wonderful to finish here. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow, fittingly on Valentine’s Day for the big proposal and all that went with it. As a teaser: we eat at a darling Italian place (without having a reservation!), the waitress forgets to bring us the dessert cart, and someone breaks into our car. Click to read the expected, yet surprising proposal.

Our friend Michael interviewed us for his Hidden Cupids series at his blog. You can read about the beginning of our relationship at his site, Rillington Fields.

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  1. so sweet to hear

  2. This is really a fascinating story and most of which I had never heard. Thanks for sharing it with all of s. I LOVE IT !!! and both of you. Mom


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  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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