Operation Say Yes

It was ten years ago today that I asked Claudia to marry me. The intervening years have far surpassed all expectations of partnership, meaning, growth, adventure and plain old love than even the best Hollywood romance or English novel could inspire.

Here is how I recorded the events of that day:

On Sunday March 25, I was supposed to go with Claudia's family on my favorite hike in Southern California. But wouldn't you know just as we were pulling out of the driveway, my cell phone rang, it was work complaining that my code broke the latest build, and I needed to come in right away. Damn - I told the family to go on the hike without me - maybe I could catch up later. Claudia (my girlfriend) goes on the hike totally upset that I didn't go because I was basically the only reason she was going (she has been unbelievably busy writing and sending off applications for business school in Europe). In the meantime there was a shady looking character a few houses up from Claudia's parents' house sitting on the sidewalk with his hat pulled low, cellphone in his hand. I jumped in my car to head off to work but instead I doubled back and picked up the hoodlum (my brother Darren). We raced to the nearest gas station where the other members of Operation Say Yes were stationed. The game was afoot and we took off towards the hills past Malibu about an hour away. Meanwhile, Claudia's family made a well planned pit stop that puts Operation Say Yes ahead of them by about 45 minutes.

As soon as Team OSY arrived at La Jolla Canyon the group sprung into action packing gourmet food, bouquets of flowers, a table, coolers, chairs, a guitar, a computer, some speakers and more. Knowing that the von der Ohe family was hot on the trail they double timed it up 3 miles or so of steep and narrow terrain. Heroic efforts were par for the day, but my sherpa friends could have brought the mountain to downtown Los Angeles that day. With sweat pouring they came over a ridge and looked onto a green valley sprinkled with wildflowers and oak trees next to a flowing creek. I went on ahead hoping that I would find a nice place to set the stage for the evening's activities. The first overgrown offshoot trail that I took led to a green meadow that fell off into the creek with one beautiful oak tree in the middle. I am not exaggerating when I say that there were golden streams of light filtered by a misty fog coming from the sun that was right on top of the mountain illuminating the spot. The place literally glowed and I knew I had found the spot.

The team arrived and we set up a table, the chairs, tablecloth, candles, and a dozen roses as the centerpiece. Sean, our scout, ran back to find my girlfriend's family and hurried back with the news that we had maybe 5-10 minutes tops until they arrived. I took a bag of rosepetals and lined the trail for about 50 yards with the dark red flowers. I also strategically placed a couple of poems along the trail - one that included a hint of what was to come. I ran back, hid some speakers in the old oak tree and set up my computer to start playing a selection from Claudia's favorite Opera: La Traviata. I changed into a tie and sportjacket as Darren went back on the trail with flowers for Claudia's mom and sisters and to retrieve the true centerpiece of the evening - Claudia. Darren found Claudia - and brought her towards the spot - but first escorted her to a place where a nice dress and sweater were hanging for her to change into. After changing and looking magnificent, Claudia took Darren's arm and he led her to the spot. A gourmet meal ensued with my friend Jeff moonlighting as our server. We had incredible homecooked Italian food and Claudia's favorite Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory for dessert. It was the most romantic and beautiful dinner ever. I played the guitar and sang a nervous rendition of "It's Your Love". I got down on my knee, took out a basin full of water and rosepetals and washed Claudia's feet promising to be her servant for life. Then I asked The Question. Suffice to say that Operation Say Yes was a success. We then laughed and ran and walked and kissed and hugged our way all the way down the mountain . . .