"Beta, she's just like you kids--opens the fridge and everything! She even saw that the papaya was almost done, and cut up a new one!" - My Mother
HijabMan: Two months after I left Singapore for the second time, EyeDot submitted a poster presentation for The Fancy-Named Conference in Baltimore. Surprise, Surprise, her poster was accepted, and she enjoyed a fully funded week-long trip to (you guessed it) Philadelphia! Even more exciting was that her trip coincided with Eid-ul-fitr!Have you been counting? Two out of our three trips, over six months time were fully paid for. How's that for divine intervention?!EyeDot: The week, as you can imagine, was a whirlwind. I met HijabMan's family and friends for the first time, we celebrated Eid together,I attended the conference, caught a bug and got pretty sick, went ring-shopping, we got engaged, and had a surprise party thrown for us, all while battling jetlag. Phew!But let's start from the beginning. This would be the first time I was meeting Hijabman's family. He had already described them to me - how they are really laid back and relaxed, so I was not terribly nervous about meeting them. "If they're Hijabman's family, of course they're going to be easy to get along with," I thought, so I was pretty relaxed about it. And indeed I was proven correct.HM: The day after she arrived, we drove to my parents' house about 45 minutes north of Philadelphia where EyeDot got acquainted with my family. Only, they got a bit too acquainted: My sister and brother-in-law who were visiting from Chicago shared their illness with poor EyeDot.Like I mentioned before, my family isn't into formalities, and if they feel like they need to entertain you, they get a little uncomfortable. If you act just like you would in your own home, they call you beta and make you family.EyeDot realized this pretty quickly when she saw that the papaya in the fridge was almost finished and nonchalantly found another papaya, cut it up, and stuck it back in the fridge. Score!During Eid, the extended family headed to my parents house for brunch and all-day food-coma. Unfortunately, her conference started the day after Eid, so we had to leave the festivities early and drive two hours south to Baltimore. As EyeDot started packing upstairs, my family began asking me questions in hushed tones. Was I going to propose to EyeDot? Do you want us to throw a party?In all of my excitement, and introspection about my upcoming plan to propose, I neglected to tell anyone my plans!Within two minutes, a plan was hatched. I would propose on the coming Friday afternoon in Tyler State Park after a short hike. The family would surprise EyeDot [they love surprising people!] with a party that evening. My sister and brother-in law extended their tickets to accommodate the engagement party.I absolutely love the fact that there was absolutely NO DRAMA related to the festivities. Game. Set. Wait For The Match!After dropping her off in Baltimore, I drove back to my place since I had just started nursing school. Tuesday after class, I picked her up and we drove to my brother's house in Delaware for a surprise we-love-and-appreciate-you party for my dad, who had recently recovered from surgery. [I told you they liked surprises!]While I was in class, my family took EyeDot to Edison, NJ, the “Little India” about two hours drive from their house to look for engagement rings and jewelry.They eventually found a beautiful ring, but EyeDot wanted to look at more. So on Friday afternoon, I drove to my parents’ house, secretly called her mother to ask for her hand, and got the green-light to move forward. Philadelphia’s “Jeweler's Row” was our first stop. After checking a few shops, however, I convinced her that the American 14 Karat standard has nothing on the 24 Karat shine in Little India.EyeDot: After walking in and out of practically every jewelry store in Edison with Hijabman's sister, I finally found a ring that caught my eye. It was a beautiful ring, but I really had my heart set on having a colored stone in my ring, Specifically, a ruby. Since I had heard that Jeweler's Row over in Philly might have more ruby options, I persuaded Hijabman to take me there to check those out first before deciding. The next day, with me starting to feel really ill, we drove aaaallllll the way to Philly, but none of the ones we saw there screamed my name. Then we drove aaaalllllll the way back to Edison to get the 1st ring. Then we drove aaaalllll the way to Tyler State Park because Hijabman said he wanted to go hiking before sunset.Now, I love sports and the outdoors and was really looking forward to a walk through the woods, as we'd talked about hiking a few times now. But I was really quite sick by this time and Hijabman knew this, and still he insisted on going hiking!I knew something was up.The 'normal' Hijabman would have insisted that we go straight home and that I curl up in bed with some hot ginger tea. I also noticed that he had slipped the ring into his jeans pocket earlier when he thought I wasn't watching. Mmm...Something was definitely up!HM: She felt seriously ill, but humored me, and let me take her 'hiking' for the last hour of sunlight. We walked through Tyler State Park to a foot-bridge above a small stream. I have a ring in my pocket, and praying that I don't drop it in the water."Hey, look! There's a deer!" I exclaimed. (Real smooth, I know)."Umm, I'm not looking. There is no deer, Hijabman." She said with a smile.EyeDot: Let the record show that when Hijabman pointed to a deer, he was pointing upwards. Not downwards, where the ground was, but up into the trees! A deer in the trees? I think not...HM: She humored me again and turned around for a moment so I could get on one knee. She turned back around and listened as I proposed, and responded with a "Yes, of course, I'll marry you!"EyeDot: Being with Hijabman felt 'comfortable' – I was happy to see him acting like a toddler when goofing around with my own toddler, and easily switched to a more responsible and authoritative figure when she started on one of her tantrums; I was delighted that he has no problems blending into the fabric of my larger family makeup; I was ecstatic to find that it's easy for me to fit into his own vibrant and decidedly 'normal' larger family dynamic. So of course I said 'YES'!HM: And then, still on my knee, I suddenly realized there was a jogger standing behind me, waiting to pass."Congratulations! Sorry for interrupting, at least you have a witness now!"We let him pass, and hugged for what seemed like an eternity, only to realize that the jogger had done a loop, and now was waiting to pass again!"Congratulations again!"Note: This is the 4th part in a series about how I met my wife (and daughter). Just joining us? Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3..