We planned the Europe trip back in May when we decided against Iceland (volcano issues) with the family and since I was switching jobs, I didn't think May would be a good time to travel. So we picked September. Ernie had never been to Paris and had been interested in going. The timing was the same as Oktoberfest and we couldn't resist a couple days in Munich! Augsburg is really close and that seemed like a perfectly reasonable time to check out the town Ernie was living in when we first met. At this point, Ernie had zero intentions or thoughts of proposing there.
July rolls around. It's the annual Lind Ave block party that he so looks forward to every year. His brother, Scott, came into town and they planned on going on a bar crawl (that's what Ernie told me). Something clicked in Ernie's head and he decided instead to go to a jeweler he found on Yelp and buy a ring right there and then. The ring would be ready the first week of September so it seemed like good timing.
In Sept, we went to Lake Tahoe for my cousin's wedding. The whole family was there and Ernie found that to be the perfect time to ask my dad for his permission. In the afternoon, we went hiking on top of the mountain. Ernie was going to ask dad then but realized I had super sharp hearing on the moutaintop and Ernie knew I could hear every word he said. Later in the afternoon, we were separated and Ernie was left with dad alone. Ernie chocked and couldn't do it! Even later at the cocktail hour, I kept interrupting him to introduce him to people, so he wasn't able to ask Dad then. Even though his first few attempts were fruitless and finally he was able to ask dad. During the reception (after stalking dad even to places like the bathroom), Dad disappeared. Ernie thought he maybe went back to the Villa that our family rented - so he made an excuse to go back to change shoes because his feet were cold. That's when he asked dad. It was one time that my dad had only few words but he was very happy as far as Ernie could tell.
Dad didn't tell mom or my sister until their drive back to the airport the next day. Ernie told my brother Winnie, over shots at the reception. Seems like everyone knew but me! His family all knew since July when the ring was purchased.
My only tip off happend right before we left for the airport. I shut down my work computer. I realized that I didn't put my out of office on so I restarted. Since the computer was already fired up, I took the time to input our recent reciepts into our budget spreadsheet. I found a parking reciept from a chicago parking meter. I knew the time (5 something PM) was when I was still at work. It was a 30 min ticket and I had no idea what it was for. I went on the chicagoparkingmeter.com website and inputted the meter number... brought up a google map of wabash! Here's an IM convo with my buddy Chris aka "walking google" that basically sums up what was going on in my head (slightly edited to shorten content and fix spelling):
Me: so I'm totally a stalker. I collect reciepts to update our budget
Me: and I found one for parking
Chris: that's unreal!
Me: on a day/timethat I know I was still in the office so I figured it was Ernie's. then I wondered what the heck he was doing. so went to chicagoparkingmeeters.com. looked up the booth
Chris: uh oh. wabash
Me: and it's next to "chicago diamond experts", like 1 block south
Chris: !!!!!!! CINDY! you weren't supposed to look!
Me: well it was just a parking reciept!!!!!!! how was I supposed to know
Chris: you little sleuth!
Me: well now I feel stupid. b/c my hopes are high now and if something doesn't happen then will I be dissappionted? or excited that somethign might happen soon?
Chris: !!!!! have fun! i hope you get engaged ;)
Me: hah thanks. how did you know it would be at wabash
Chris: i suspected that's where the story was going. either there or a strip club. lol
Me: what's at wabash
Chris: all of the jewelers are on wabash
Me: oooh. i didn't know
Chris: between madison and randolph/lake
So of course, I thought something was up. I never keep secrets from Ernie but I didn't want to blow his cover or anything. I had to sit there for the whole plane ride in wonderment. It was giving me anxiety and I couldn't sleep on the plane! If you know me, I can't hardly keep my eyes open when the engine starts running. Ernie couldn't sleep either because he was rehersing his "speech" and making cry baby faces because he gets really emotional. It was a rough and long flight!
When we arrived to the airport, Ernie's baseball team was there to greet us with signs! It was so exciting! I didn't think anything would happen in Augsburg because I knew that Robert, or "Ic" as he's called, would be with us the whole time. But then I was bummed thinking it could be in Paris - that's so un "us". So then I thought that the reciept meant maybe he just went for an initial browsing and nothing was going to happen so I put my guard down.
We got back to Ic's, showered, sat and chatted with Ic's parents for a bit, then headed out into the town. Ernie showed me around Augsburg. We walked all over town. Then, Ic and Ernie started speaking in German and Ic ran off to go check out what time the bell tower closed. I asked Ernie what they talked about and he just said that Ic was tired of speaking English b/c he's not very good at it (a lie) and he was going to check when the building closed. Ernie said Ic had to run all the way up the stairs b/c the ticket lady is at the top of the tower and it didn't make sense for all of us to go up there. "Reasonable," I thought. Then I got those first date jitters thinking "omg we are alone!" We walked down Maximillian Strasse and I thought he was going to take me somewhere special. But then I saw Ic running back over by us. "Nevermind," I thought again.
We visited another friend for lunch at his Falafel stand. Ernie was getting weird and it seemed like he was stalling or something. He kept asking Ic if it was time to go visit this bell tower. Ic said "not now" or "not yet" a few times. Then, at 2:10pm, he goes "ok we go now!" So we walked over to the bell tower. I didn't notice til the way out, but right outside the bell tower, there was a sign posted with the opening hours.