Just a technicality

So I did this little thing that, lord knows, Elizabeth Wren Sanders at many different ages probably thought would never happen. I said yes to loving someone forever. These are funny things, proposals. If done correctly then you already know you’re in it forever and saying yes is just a technicality. Regardless, what a thrill.

For weeks I’ve known Russ was going on a guy weekend in Atlanta. He and a couple of good friends do this trip down there to hit a brewery and tour some Walking Dead set sites. They’ve done it twice before. This was going to be the third time, and I made fun of him pretty relentlessly for not being creative enough to come up with a new trip.

We make fun of each other a lot. It’s what we do.

Russ wasn’t in Atlanta. None of the guys were in Atlanta. Their instagram accounts would have you believe otherwise, a detail that proved handy as I sat by the pool with some girlfriends on Saturday and casually scrolled through the ol’ IG (is that what the kids call it?)

That’s right. Russ planned a guys weekend and I very quickly planned a girls weekend to counter it. I spent most of my day laying poolside, chatting with friends, and letting the sun zap all my energy while turning my skin a little darker. My guy was out of town and I’d be alone the rest of the night, though I assumed I’d be headed to dinner with at least a couple of the girls.

-My mom called and attempted to make dinner plans with me. I knew I’d be tired from the pool day and still hoped for dinner plans with the girls. I declined.-

Let me take a moment right now to just tell you that when Russell A. LaFleur makes a plan, he really makes a plan. I can’t even tell you how many people knew about the proposal before I did, but it was the majority of the people within a 60 mile radius who might potentially ask me to hang out on this particular Saturday night.

I continued to hang out with my friends, still assuming someone would probably stick around for dinner.

-My mom called again. This time to make a plan for me to come over to see about a baby goat that would be moving to the farm. I was still tired, and really not interested in taking the 40 minute drive to Liberty. I declined again.-

My friends left. I couldn’t convince anyone to stick around for dinner and by this point I was tired enough to not try very hard to do so.

-My mom called for a third time. Seriously, why won’t she give this thing up, right? I’m tired. She tells me they need to talk to me and it’s important. Everything is okay, but they need to have this conversation while Russ is out of town.-

If you know me at all you know that I heard everything in this conversation except “Everything is okay”. I threw on some decent clothes, didn’t shower, didn’t wash my hair or the sunscreen off my face, and hurried to my car.

They didn’t think I’d come over so quickly. Sunset wasn’t until 8ish.

As soon as I walked in the door my dad stopped me. He told me to get in the car we were going to see about a baby goat. At this point I was frustrated and confused because we were supposed to be having some serious talk and now there I was talking about a baby goat again.

You know where this is going. Distraction after distraction as they stalled until it got close to sunset. Around the time the sky normally glows orange my mom made up an excuse for us to ride on the tractor to the bottom of the hill where we have our legendary (among family and close friends) campfires.

I’m questioning my intelligence now as I share this story with you and wonder how I didn’t pick up on any of the quirks of my day, but I’d also like to take this moment to swear to you that it’s totally normal for my parents to be mid-conversation then randomly suggest we “take the tractor down by the creek to make sure the fire is out before the wind picks up.”

My parents’ property is a giant hill. The house sits on top, and my favorite corner of the land is on the back left at the bottom of the hill. A creek wraps around much of the back property line. The path we take over the hill carries the tractor through a fence on the far right side of the back pasture. From there you can see the trees by the campfire from about eye level on up to the sky, but you can’t see the ground. I stopped my mom near the bottom of the hill and told her I thought the fire had already spread. I could see tiny flames scattered through the branches. She played along and told my dad to hurry up (hurry up on a tractor — nice one, mom).

As we rounded the corner I saw a figure in my favorite blue and red checkerboard shirt sitting nervously by a fire. I burst into tears, because that’s my move, and because I finally knew what was happening.

My sweet parents dropped me off, waved goodbye, then made the slowest exit of all time on a decade old Case tractor that probably moves about 3 miles an hour.

The flames in the trees were candles.

There was no Atlanta.

There was just a boy who’d spent his entire day with my parents hanging candles in mason jars, string lights, and old notes we’ve written each other all across my favorite clearing by the creek.

We read the notes that were hanging. They were some of our favorites. He told me he’d spent the week preparing while I thought he was at the gym. He told me that he picked up topaz colored glitter to cover the insides of the mason jars. He told me he chose notes because he knows how important words and writing are to me.

I cried like a baby as he handed me one last note with my name on the outside and “Will you marry me?” on the inside. Then he got down on one knee, held up my Mamaw’s ring, and said all the things I could possibly want him to say about sharing this life. I’m not going to tell you he cried (but he totally did).

I said yes (spoiler alert).

The craziest thing about it is I’ve been saying yes. For months we’ve been saying yes. We’ve laughed and cried (again, mostly me). We’ve hiked in some old favorite spots and found some new ones. We’ve run together. We’ve thrown the football around almost every week just like we did on our first date. We’ve spent time with each other’s families, and shared big holidays. We’ve grown together into this thing that already felt like forever. The proposal was beautiful. It was perfect. It included all of the things I love most in this world, but it was ultimately just a technicality.

That tree in the back has my parents initials carved into it. Russ and I are hoping to add ours.
That tree in the back has my parents initials carved into it. Russ and I are hoping to add ours.
Shoutout to me for not showering or fixing my hair prior to all of this
Shoutout to me for not showering or fixing my hair prior to all of this
This is me grinning like a crazy person/showing off the ring. Mamaw and Papaw got married in 1949. So it's at least 66 years old. Mamaw and Papaw happen to be two of the most important people in my life. I am honored to wear this ring.
This is me grinning like a crazy person/showing off the ring. Mamaw and Papaw got married in 1949. So it’s at least 66 years old. Mamaw and Papaw happen to be two of the most important people in my life. I am honored to wear this ring.

a sort of love letter to the upstate

One day last year I was pushing a cart down the grocery aisle at my local target store when I turned the corner and ran into my older sister. I was surprised to see her on my side of town on a random weeknight, but loved the little moment of running into her at one of my regular stops. We hugged and chatted for a few minutes, then continued our separate shopping.

I spent my Senior year of college telling everyone that I was applying for jobs in 49 states — every one but South Carolina. I wasn’t bluffing. I’d moved here unwillingly as an almost 15 year old, and I wanted to see what else was out there. I took a job in Mississippi that taught me a lot about myself very quickly. Most important was the fact that I was not ready to be one of the only people in my entire family who didn’t live within a 4 hour radius. I work for a great company and a great boss who helped me find a way to do the job I love closer to the people I love.

Twenty two months ago I spent a Saturday evening walking through downtown Greenville by myself with a giant smile plastered on my face. My parents helped me move in to my new apartment that morning and I’d done some of the standard first day unpacking, but I couldn’t wait to get downtown. It was that dreamy hour in South Carolina where the sky is a ridiculous combination of pink and orange. The kind of sky I don’t remember seeing as often in any other corner of my world. I tried to take a picture with my blackberry. You know the picture tourists always take of the Reedy River running through downtown. The camera blurred what I saw and after several takes I gave up trying to freeze it. I was too excited to care that no one on the internet would get to see what I was feeling. You can’t capture, especially on a grainy blackberry camera, the way it feels to be home.

That first fall I went to a couple of football games at my high school, the rural south’s place to be on a Friday night. I took each of my parents out for lunch when their birthdays rolled around. I spent some weekends at home on the farm just because I could. I still often pick up fresh produce and eggs from my mom and dad because they’re just 35 minutes up the road and they care enough to let me live off their land a little bit (or a lot). I spent some summer days by my sister’s backyard pool. I tried out restaurants downtown that I never knew existed. I tailgated at Clemson games. I drove (probably too often) by my grandparents’ old farm, and the house my dad grew up in on the old mill village in Liberty. I spent the first year just getting reacquainted with my home — The home I was reluctant to claim at first, and excited to rediscover the second time around. I was hooked on all of it, the magic of just being home.

Moving back to where you’re from isn’t all easy. I admit it. It’s particularly tough when you’re still not far enough removed from high school to understand that people change in those key years from 18-24. Moving home makes you face that fact, quickly. You don’t return to things as you remember them. If you’re lucky, they’re better. Some people moved away in those gap years. Some people still live with their parents. Some people are still around, but you just don’t really want to hang out with them. All of that is okay and good. The fact is, it’s part of growing up. Most people learn those things when they come home for the holidays, others of us get to learn them year round.

Some old friends remain, and new people fill the other gaps. In my nearly two years back in Greenville I’ve met incredible new people. Many of them are transplants. That’s the nature of journalism. I work with people who came here from all over the country because they followed a job. They’re doing what I always thought I’d be doing. Now I get the chance to show them what I love about this place. I get to help them enjoy my space for however long they stay.

When it comes down to it, I could’ve decided today that I wanted to change my course. I could’ve said I was going to walk away from a job I like, and people I love. I had the chance, like any other journalist to try out another new city. While I admire and encourage people around me to do that if it’s what they want, I’m just not ready to give up the chance to be able to casually bump into my sister when I run up the street to pick up a loaf of bread.

Greenville is my city. The upstate of South Carolina is my home I never thought I’d love, and I am so happy to spend at least another few years here.

farm food