Hmm, yes, it seems as though it’s that time again. Another fun blog post!
In case you hadn’t seen the previous post, catch up here, otherwise… read on!
Where was I…? Right! I finally had the ring and had to keep it secret, keep it safe. Well, for at least six days. What could possibly go wrong?
After showing everyone at work the fruits of my labour in helping to choose the design and explaining the meaning behind every choice, I felt ready. The holidays were fast approaching and Katie still appeared to have no idea. Only one big problem.
I was soooo tired.
This was an issue because for anyone who knows me they know I have a fake accent which is mostly an unconscious effort to not sound like “a complete hoser eh” and when I become tired it lets loose. That’s because my brain falls back to what comes naturally. In this regard, after every shift, I come home and fill Katie in with all of the goings on of my day. When I was that tired, I managed to catch myself on no less than three occasions ready to tell her some part of my day involving the ring. “Everyone wanted to see the ring.” “So and so asked about the wedding band.” “The ring arrived today.” Luckily, the part of my brain that was trying to keep this a surprise would catch me just as I was leading into the phrase and I would literally stop speaking. Katie would look at me and ask if I was okay, to which I simply replied, “I’m just tired.” Never a lie really.
After that we were roughly two days out when Katie’s lovely Nana, Joan, fell ill and she looked to me for advice. “TJ, we might have to cancel the trip.” She said, much to my inner dismay. I managed to keep cool, calm and collected, considering all the scenarios at hand. “Well babe, what do you want to do?” I swallowed my plans and my feelings, not wanting to be selfish and waited for her answer. “I don’t know…” She was definitely conflicted, but I couldn’t weigh the scales in my favour. If she knew or had an idea of what I had planned, she’d probably be all for New Zealand. “Well, this is a decision you’ll have to make. She’s your Nana, just be sure no matter what happens that you’re fine with your choice.”
The next day she spoke with her Mum, who told her she was in the hospital but in very good hands. Then she decided we should go. “She’s bounced back so many times before, I’d hate to cancel the trip and lose so much money if she did.” I breathed a sigh of relief, but only for a moment. “But what on the off chance that she doesn’t? Are you prepared for that option as well?” She nodded with a smile. “We did see her just the other day, so it wouldn’t be as bad as it could be.” “So long as you’re sure.”
After that scare, I was happy we were going but worried about Joan. I knew Katie would love the engagement but was worried that she would regret her choice if something bad happened. Pushing it out of my mind, I focused back on ensuring I had everything packed and ready to go for the trip. Nothing worse than trying to propose with the promise of a ring I forgot in Australia.
After a short forever, the trip was here and we made it to the airport without a hitch. The ring was stowed safely away in my carry-on luggage and I clutched onto it as we made our way through security. Luckily we were meeting a friend at the airport which distracted Katie from my bags as they went through the x-ray machine.
The plane ride to New Zealand felt shorter than expected (I slept) and finally we were at the start of our Middle-Earth pilgrimage! My bag never left my sight, even through security and when I went to the washroom. Upon collecting our bags and making it through the baggage scan, two security officers walked up to us, happy as could be.
“Can you come with us, you’ve been selected for a random bag check!”
I think we were chosen because I was probably being protective of my bag and Katie was too busy staring at the airport sniffer dogs who were, and I quote, “too cute”. So I feel as though random wasn’t quite the word for it. I thought for sure the person checking the bags would simply pull the ring box out (as it was made of wood and ask what it was and ruin everything. Luckily for us, the guy checking the bags was somehow (in New Zealand) a French-Canadian so we all had a lovely chat. Katie was distracted with the conversation so that when he was checking my bag we made eye contact as he pulled out the clothes on top of the ring and I glanced at him, then to the bag, then to Katie and then back to the bag and back to him with a simple head shake. I saw him pull the ring box roughly halfway up, flick it open quickly and then close it and put it all back the way it came. He wished us well on our travels and winked at me as we walked away. Needless to say, I thought the surprise was done. Another sigh of relief.
The first night of the trip was in Auckland (or New Zealand Sydney as I call it) and I’m glad we didn’t spend too much time there. Although Katie tried to give me another heart attack when she decided she’d shower first so she could straighten her hair. I thought to myself, who brings a straightener on a trip and why for tomorrow in particular?! Immediately my stomach dropped and I felt like she knew. The exchange went a little like this:
“Why do you want to straighten your hair?”
“I want to look good for the photos.”
“The ones at Hobbiton.”
“Because I want to look good?”
Convinced the gig was up, I gave in and let her go shower and straighten her hair. She knows… she definitely knows. I thought to myself as she showers. Why else would she want to wear her hair down on a hot day while we are travelling? She came out looking lovely, and I went for my turn to wash away the thoughts.
The next day was on the road to Matamata and Hobbiton! It was an early drive amid lots of traffic, but the cars were lined up way worse heading into the city. Felt like we drove by cars for thirty minutes or more before eventually breaking out and into the rolling hills of the North Island.
Arriving in Matamata we swung by our first taste of Lord of the Rings country when we found a green sign saying welcome to Hobbiton. The town information building was designed to have the signature round entryways and looked like it would have fit into a scene from the movies. From there we went to actual Hobbiton where a bus has to take you out to the actual location where they did the filming and you take a walking tour from there. Our tour guide was quite the legend (as you’ll soon hear) and we were beyond excited to start our journey!
Hobbiton itself is straight out of the movies. Sam (the true hero) had his house still there, among many other relics from the movies such as little props and clothing here and there. Eventually, we made our way to the house on the top of the hill, Bag End which apparently no one is allowed to go up to as it is still owned by the movie company itself. We were at the very front of the group (being as keen as we are) and Katie was starting to pull ahead. “Come on! Let’s get a photo before everyone else comes!” While she waited patiently for the previous group to finish up (her eyes locked ahead) I managed to get into my bag and retrieve the ring and box and shoved it into my back pocket. I could feel my palms getting sweaty, but not from nerves, more so the idea of dropping the ring down the drop in front of Bag End.
“Come on! Let’s get a photo before everyone else comes!”
While she waited patiently for the previous group to finish up (her eyes locked ahead) I managed to get into my bag and retrieve the ring and box and shoved it into my back pocket. I could feel my palms getting sweaty, but not from nerves, more so the idea of dropping the ring down the drop in front of Bag End. Her patience was wearing thin and she was beckoning me to come over to her. She offered her phone up to a lovely older Asian lady (or Indian lady if you believe Katie’s version of events, hotly contested to this day and most likely to our graves) so that she could take a photo or two. The ring wasn’t coming out of my pocket and Katie kept going, “TJ, come on, hurry up!”
Finally, my jeans let the box go. I clutched onto it for dear life and stepped forward a few steps. The Asian (Indian) Lady was poised. Katie was beckoning. My heart was pounding. Now or never, I suppose.
I got down on one knee with a smile. A whole year of planning, finally coming to fruition.
“TJ, what are you doing? She’s going to take our picture!” Katie scolded me.
I had to laugh, half nerves and half the absurdity of her ignorance, and smiled. I produced the box before her and she quickly became very aware of what was happening as she stabilised herself on Bilbo’s mailbox. “Will you go on this next adventure with me?” I asked nervously, very aware of the tour group before and after us. I opened the ring box and the answer was quick and everything became a blur. We were hugging, people were cheering, congratulations were coming from every direction. I slid the ring on her finger and she marvelled at it. I explained quickly that the ring was actually from the same people who designed the One Ring for the movies, so it only seemed fitting that she should receive her own “One Ring” at the same place as Frodo, and then I explained about the Canadian diamond.
With the burden finally passing from my hands to hers, I felt relief. I was never worried about the yes, I knew that. But two other things happened at the same time. The Asian (Indian) Lady handed over the phone with roughly four dozen photos of the engagement (what luck!) and then our tour guide asked us to stick around as everyone else passed by. Once they’d all left he grinned. “No one has ever gotten engaged on my tour!” He laughed and looked around quickly. “Would you like to go up to Bag End?” Both of us leapt at the chance. “That’d be awesome!”
He let us go up, he took some photos and we peeked in and then came back down really quickly since we didn’t want him to get in trouble. Next thing we knew, he was at our side with two of the fake leaves from the tree atop Bag End. “These things fall all the time but it’s a nice free souvenir for you to take from here.” We thanked him so much and went onward to the Green Dragon Inn where we shared a pie, tried the stout (hints of coffee and chocolate) and the cider (alcoholic apple juice, so delicious) and it all began to sink in.
“So how long have you been planning this?” She asked.
“Roughly a year.”
“But you can’t keep a secret!”
“I know. Not too shabby huh?”
Then I told her of all of the deceptions and fibs she’d been told over the months. Stories came forth of how I tried to measure her finger, then had to rely on her friend Emma to get the size. “So she’s not getting an infinity ring?” I laughed. “No, she’s not getting one at all.” (This she didn’t believe until we met up with them today and they laughed at her with a resounding no) Katie looked at me. “How many people knew?” As I told her the list she was blown away. “Mum and Ray don’t know though?”
I shook my head. “I wanted to tell your Mum, but I was worried about her giving it away… and then I was going to tell Ray, but then your Mum would be mad that he knew before her… so for the sake of the surprise no… are you mad?” Katie laughed. “Nope, that makes sense. She’s hopeless at keeping secrets.”
The rest of our pilgrimage into Middle Earth was fantastic, but not without some ups and downs. A few days after our engagement, Katie’s Nana passed away. Then we had an incredible time in Wellington! But then we found out her Grandad’s partner of a few years passed away. Then we took the ferry across to Picton, drove to Nelson and met the owner of the business where the engagement ring was made! Then I found out a family friend passed away at a young age. Then we found out the first-floor frame of our house was up! Then I found out my grandmother was going into surgery. Then we had an incredible time in Queenstown! Then it was time to come home.
It still doesn’t feel too real sometimes, a bit of a blur, but every once in awhile I can see Katie from the corner of my eye, staring at her ring and I know that it all was worth it!