“Let’s go! We can’t be late for this! We have to get going, Sugar!” I was calm but also clear in my tone.
Sometimes Sarah has trouble with being on time. But for tonight’s surprise, we could not be late. I was shepherding her more than usual. I had been building her anticipation the entire week. “Stop rushing me! I’m almost ready,” she said. I smiled in the other room.
Out the door on time, I revealed a bit more about the surprise I’d been planning for weeks. “Have a look at these!” I handed her two tickets for that evening’s performance at the majestic new Green Music Center on the campus of Sonoma State University.
“Excited, honey?” I could tell she was not.
“Oh…” she said. Her face gave her away. When she saw “Student performance – $10” I could tell my plan was working. She is too nice to say “you cheap bastard!” But I could see her thinking it. “$10? He rushed me for a $10 performance? This is the big surprise he’s been building all week?”
Instead, all she said was “The tickets say 7:30 start time? It is 6:00!? What’s the rush?”
“You’ll see.” My plan was working perfectly.
When we arrived you could barely hear the cellists as they tuned their deep tones that rumble your belly, flute notes tweaking the air with their high-pitches or the winds in the middle all miss-mashing notes as they twist and turn their instruments, readying for the evening’s performance.
“Wow” Sarah said, walking over toward the concert hall, “this is so cool! I have been wanting to see this place!”
“I know, when I checked the event calendar, I had hoped for Yo-Yo Ma or a more special performance on your birthday. But you know, the acoustics here are so amazing, I’m sure the student orchestra will be enjoyable. Let’s get inside!”
The eloquence of this building envelopes you as you walk into the lobby. It’s as though you’re transported to music hall in Paris, Vienna, or London. The ambiance is quite remarkable.
“Hi Matt! This must be Sarah!? Happy BIRTHDAY!!” Jessica greeted us with the enthusiasm of an old friend. Sarah didn’t know I’d only just met her the week before to plan all of this. “Matt has told me so much about you!” Sarah had a look of “He did?” I just smiled.
“So, for your birthday,” Jessica pushed on, “Matt thought it would be fun to get you a VIP Tour of our wonderful new music center before the show starts. Shall we get going?”
“SO THAT is why we had to get here so early!” Sarah said softly. The initial disappointment with the student performance was fading and a smile was barely breaking on her face. “A VIP Tour! That’s very thoughtful, babe!”
Jessica began the tour after the musicians finished tuning. “Our mission statement of the Donald and Maureen Green Music Center is to create transformative experiences in the arts and education that promote active learning by all and contribute to the cultural and economic betterment of our community.”
We walked into the 1,400 seat hall and were awed immediately. Jessica began to tell us all sorts of details that combine to make this venue so special. “Spanish and Italian marble, computer tuned baffles, European steamed beech maple seats which each took 15 weeks to build by hand. The hall is an acoustical masterpiece! It rivals great venues such as Tanglewood Hall or the Vienna Musikvereinssaal.”
It felt as if we were in Europe, not Rohnert Park. The character of the hall was exactly as I’d hoped, transporting us away to another place. “Let’s go upstairs.” Jessica pointed up, “I particularly like the third story because it allows you to soak in every note and understand the acoustical supremacy of the hall.” Her pride in the place was bubbling out of her with each word.
From the top level, the splendor of the hall is truly revealed. “Really amazing place, huh?” I asked Sarah. “It is just gorgeous,” she whispered. The power of the hall is not only that it transports you to a scene from “Amadeus,” it also reduces you to hushed whispers.
“Jessica! Can I talk to you for a moment? Real quick!” a co-worker shouted over to her. Even raising your voice a little in this hall gets everyone’s attention. “Give me one second guys, I’ll be right back. I was about to show you our outdoor terrace which overlooks the campus. I think the door is unlocked. Go ahead and follow those stairs and you’ll just love the view! I’ll catch up in a minute.” Jessica hurried off to her co-worker.
Sarah led the way up another flight of stairs to the very top of the hall. Just as we were about to reach the top step, she eyed a camera under one of the seats. “Hey, check it out, someone forgot a really nice camera!” As she leaned in to pick it up I said “Sarah, just leave it, I’m sure it is there for a reason! Go on up to the terrace.”
The terrace faces south over the campus. It was a crystal clear evening. The stars were bright in the sky, the beautifully lit concert hall behind us, the campus before us and to Sarah’s great surprise, a candle-lit, white-linened table set with a bouquet of her favorite flowers and a bottle of champagne and two glasses, just for us.
“Babe! Did you do all this!? Oh My GOD! Thank you!” she gushed.
“My pleasure,” I said with a big grin.
“I was a little peeved in the car when I saw we were heading to a $10 student concert! Now I get it! You’re so thoughtful! Ohhh…” and she hugged and kissed me. “This is so romantic!”
I popped the champagne and poured us two glasses. “Here you go, Sugar. ” And as she was about to raise a glass to toast, I interrupted.
“Wait. Just one more surprise for you!” She had a look of “Huh?” on her beautiful visage.
I reached into my pocket, grabbed the little black box, slowly bent down on my knee, looked up into her gorgeous brown eyes. The look on her face was quickly shifting from “huh?” to a look of burgeoning comprehension. “Will you marry me?” I asked.
She was speechless. Which can be slightly unnerving after posing that sort of question. But I knew it was a good silence. She threw her arms around me, tears streaming, overcome with emotion.
“So, is that a ‘Yes’?”
“Yes! YES YES YES YES YES!” She said in my ear as we held each other tightly. I leaned back to look at her. Her mascara was beginning to run from the tears of joy and I said “you know, you’re just so beautiful!”
I grabbed my glass and we raised them together “To us and our future together!” Clink! After a long kiss, I said “Hang on” and went over to the door, opened it and gave Jessica and her co-worker the thumbs up!
They flew up the stairs (guess whose camera that was?) and burst through the door “Congratulations you two!!! Yeah! You’re the first to get engaged here! Can we take some photos?” They were swept up in the romance and emotion of the moment, too. Smiles were all around.
After some photos, the ladies left us to enjoy our moment alone. Sarah and I were mostly silent as we took in the stars, sipped champagne, and stamped this moment into our memories.
I don’t even recall the musical piece that was played later that evening. It wasn’t important. The real symphony was never going to be the performance on stage, anyway. No, the performance was a private one for Sarah, up on that wonderful balcony. It was commissioned uniquely for the woman who means everything to me. Designed to express my love for her. Intended as a proposal that we spend our future together. The score was an attempt to demonstrate the adoration I hold for her. To announce to her and the world that I had found the woman of my dreams.