It was an auspicious weekend for him to propose, given that it was just about two years ago that I met his girlfriend for the first time, in the middle of disaster. My mother had fallen down her basement stairs, breaking three of her ribs and her collarbone. I was at home with my daughter, not quite two. My mother called us from the hospital, asking if she could move in with us temporarily, since she wasn't supposed to be living alone during the initial phases of recovery. Of course, I said yes. My brother and his girlfriend drove my mother from the hospital to my house, moving her things. I was impressed. She'd already seen us at our worst.
And then Superstorm Sandy hit, and the lights went out. My brother and his girlfriend were holed up for over a week without power in Hoboken. We were powerless, too, using my husband's Prius as a generator during the night, to get the heat on in our house and to give a boost to the refrigerator, and trying to stay warm by day, lighting the bathroom with flashlights for my mother, who had only one working arm. We heated soup and other things from cans on our gas stove and munched from the refrigerator full of apples that we'd just picked, which I'd originally intended for a pie.
They'd postponed Halloween in our town, and late on the night we finally celebrated--one of my neighbors brought over Butterschotts-spiked cider, and many of the others sat one their driveways with fire pits, distributing candy--the lights went back on, to much cheering and shouts of "Whoopee! Trick or Treat!" My brother's lights had come on just before ours, but not until damage had already been done to his basement, leaving them without hot water and with a lot of damaged goods, though they knew they'd been luckier than many others.
During some festival we all attended together, my brother made a joke about wanting a balloon man for his wedding. I laughed, and told him that when the time came, I would be more than happy to pay for the balloon man. And that if he found someone willing to have a balloon man at his wedding, he would know that it's the right person.
Most amazing balloon guy in NJ. He's an artist.
My brother's relationship with his girlfriend has never sounded complicated--I'd almost go so far as to say it's relatively drama-free--but they've definitely been thrown a few curve balls. Maybe in some ways, it's like creating balloon art: you stretch the balloons, and quite often things pop before you end up with something truly awesome, stronger for having been tested.
I've never asked my brother if he was going to marry the girl he was dating, because I think that's his business, not mine. But wen he called, though it was bedtime for the kids, I couldn't contain the news. "Guess what?" I told them. "My brother's friend K. is going to be your aunt!" After a few minutes processing this, they squealed and yipped and jumped on the beds, my brother and his new fiance laughing, somewhere in Hoboken.
"Wait a minute," I said to my brother, "do you know what this means?"
"No?" he responded, stopping mid-laugh, worried.
"I get to call the balloon man!"
On the other end of the line, I heard K. start laughing again, while my three year old daughter called from bed where I'd tucked her back in: "What balloon man? Where's the balloon man?"
I can't wait for the wedding.
Do you have any relationships that were tested even before they solidified?