AB and I were settled in Reno. He would go up and work on The Slope for about 4-6 weeks and then come home for 2 weeks. This actually worked out quite well for us at the time. He was making good money, I had my study time. I met fellow grad students and got to know them. I established myself in my program and much to my surprise, I excelled and enjoyed what I was doing.
AB came home from his stint on the Slope in November and decided that during the slow winter time (because who wants to work on the North Slope of Alaska in the winter?) he would seek a job in Reno and see what he found. We hosted Thanksgiving for our friends that year (my first turkey - I am always inclined to sing the song "Rawhide" thinking about that turkey...), we drove back to Colorado for Christmas and then shortly after the first of the year in 1997, AB had a job working as a chemist in an environmental lab. The pay got us by and we were officially now Nevada residents, living together full time.
Things went great for that year and we were quite happy, but after about 1.5 years I started to get restless. I wanted marriage in my future, it was important to me. I brought up the dreaded conversation with AB. He seemed perplexed and a little confused. He told me he thought things were just fine the way they were and that he had just figured we would get married when we were ready to have kids.
Kids! Kids? Kids were way off in my future. I was tired of splitting expenses 50-50 (funny how that happens when you are the low earner... and even though AB offered to merge everything, I refused), I wanted a real commitment. And I certainly didn't want to have kids while in grad school. That meant that on the optimistic side, we wouldn't be married for another four years? At least? I was dismayed.
I remember telling myself I had time. I was happy. But since this was something that was important to me, I had to not ignore it. (See, I finally had my head on straight!) I told myself that I would give it one year. If in one year, I did not have a marriage proposal or at least feel substantially different then I did right then, I needed to make a decision if this relationship was right for me.
That year of fun went by and I knew my date was approaching. I also saw a lot of good things happening for AB. He had a new and very good job offer working for the City in the Wastewater Treatment Plant. And he had just spent a good portion of his savings.
The savings went not to buy me a nice big rock for my finger. It went to buy a brand new Subaru Outback that Valentine's Day in 1999. Truth be told, he needed the car after just replacing the engine in the Nissan Pathfinder and it still didn't run overly well. I tried not to let myself be too disappointed, but I feared having to have that talk again about what I really wanted in life, despite our very happy state in the present.
We needed to break in the car and so picked up and drove to Napa Valley for Valentine's Day weekend. (For the record... probably the stupidest idea ever to think that "it's a holiday, no one will go to Napa for Valentine's day". HA HA HA!)
We ended up in Santa Rosa in a Super 8 motel and eating Mexican for dinner. A far cry from our usual Napa trips that included spas, hot springs and quaint little bistros. But it was still fun. We drove the coast to San Francisco to go see JB on our way back.
On this trip, there was talk. And *I* didn't even have to bring it up. AB told me he couldn't afford a ring right now, but he had been thinking about what I had said the year before. He said with his new good job, he felt he could swing a ring soon. He suggested we start pricing engagement rings in the next few months. He wanted my input so we got exactly what I would want.
I was chomping at the bit. I couldn't wait to start looking at rings and I think I allowed myself one weekend before dragging us to the mall and every jeweler in town.
At the first jeweler, I found what I wanted. A 14K gold and platinum band with a diamond solitaire. I tried to look at other rings, but "my" mind was set.
Would AB feel the same way?
We had decided that he would make the final decision and the proposal would be as much of a surprise as it possibly could be.
I knew it was coming, but when and where was indeterminate.