16 January 2016
Addendum to entry from 1 January 2016
Kyle and the Babes 2015.
After two weeks of anxiously watching Facebook and my text messages, the news finally was released to the public, yesterday. Our dear friends, Christopher Buehlman and Jennifer Schlitz are engaged to be married!
This is excellent news for anyone who knows and loves either one of them, and doubly so for those lucky enough to be friends with them both. And, as our little group of travelers through Britain were fortunate enough to be a part of the proposal process, we’re on Cloud 9 to finally be able to share the news with everyone else. So, here’s our version of the story.
Kyle and MaritaBeth had barely acclimated to the new time zone when we got a message from Chris saying he was looking forward to seeing us in Edinburgh and giving us a “heads up.” He wrote that he was planning to propose to Jen while in Edinburgh, and that he would really like for us to be there. In fact, he indicated, he might need our help in managing the details which were to include a vocal soloist and a song at a predetermined place and time.We were thrilled to hear the news and honored to be “in the know.” We congratulated him as enthusiastically as possible over electronic messaging, and we helped him narrow down place options based on our experiences in the past, promising that we’d be there, where ever and whenever he chose.
The next days of our holiday trip included Christmas markets and stone circles, castles and castle ruins, pub crawls and charming village inns, and even a toe-dip in the North Sea. Ten days or so later, we arrived in Edinburgh on the 29th of December, checked in to our Edinburgh home with Erlend and Helene, and eventually met Chris and Jennifer for drinks after dinner. During a ladies’ room run, Chris confirmed plans with those still at the table, that he’d decided on January first as the day, thereby getting the Hogmanay festivities out of the way first, and ultimately starting the New Year with a new and wonderful purpose. Perfect! He’d picked the ruins of Holyrood Abbey as the place and four o’clock as the time. The venue was open on the day–he’d checked all that–and that allowed plenty of time for us to get there around 3:30, do a bit of a tour of Holyrood, be in the Abbey by 4, and make eye contact with musicians (not just a soloist but a guitarist and fiddler, as well) to kick off the big moment and be done and out of there before they closed at 4:30. The plan seemed sure and secure.
The next couple of days were full of more pubs and more shopping, the torchlight procession, giant crowds, great music, and fabulous fireworks. By January first, the city is partied out, and that day is fairly quiet. Especially with it falling on a Friday, I think, there was even more calm to the day than there would have been on a weekend day, or a day immediately to be followed by a work day. So, our relaxed morning at the house, and a later start than normal seemed just right. We had arranged for the four of us to meet the two of them at 2 p.m. at World’s End Pub, a lovely little pub, often not as busy as most, located about a third of the way down the Royal Mile. We all enjoyed a round of adult beverages and then donned our jackets and scarves for the walk to Holyrood Palace at the bottom end of the Royal Mile. We had all discussed that we wanted to do the tour of the place, Kyle and I mentioning that we’d never actually done it before, so we were looking forward to it.
As I recall it, we arrived at 3:29. Right on “schedule.” The six of us happily entered the welcoming vestibule between Palace entrance and gift shoppe and approached the ticket counter. Chris, no doubt a bit nervous, took the lead and went right up to the counter and informed the woman sitting behind the desk that we were six to tour the Palace and Abbey. Her response was a very reserved, “We’re done selling tickets.”
Oka-ay … that wasn’t the expected response. So, undaunted, we tried again, this time, I’m not sure if it was Chris or myself who spoke: “We are here to do the tour, and you’re open until 4:30,” politely pointing at the sign behind her head clearly stating such.
“Oh, yes, we’re open ’til 4:30,” she said, “but we’re done selling tickets for today.”
Now, I know it was me who said, “What does that mean?” And she, finally realizing our confusion, explained that they sell the last ticket at 3:15, to allow all guests to make their way through the site by the 4:30 closing time.
“I’m crushed,” was Chris’ response. I’ll never forget it. “I’m completely crushed.”
Quickly realizing the slinky was horribly kinked, Roxy and Mandi swooped into action–someone asked if we could at least visit the gift shop, they were told yes, of course, and the two of them herded Jennifer and Kyle into the gift shop. At the same time, Chris was asking the woman behind the counter to come to the side, so he could speak with her privately. I stood there, hoping there was a way to get around this ridiculous, unpublished curve ball–still feeling strangely confident. He whispered some things to the woman, and as she raised up from the quiet consultation, I heard her say, “No, I’m sorry, we just can’t. We sell the last tickets at 3:15.”
So, now, Chris is not only crushed, he’s at least a little bit mad. He went outside, phone in hand. Heaven knows he had checked and double-checked times and we’d looked it up, too. Nowhere had any of us seen anything about the ticket sales closing earlier than the venue. And, if we had known, we’d have simply walked down the street fifteen minutes earlier! It was all so silly it was maddening! I have no idea how much Chris spent on the amazing romantic touches of music that were to be a part of his proposal, but it was surely not nominal. Now, he was seeing his carefully laid plans implode, and having to contact those three people who were no doubt already parked and walking toward us, to alert them to the new development, and make some snap decision about a change of venue–on the fly–on a holiday–with only half an hour ’til “go time.”
I followed him outside, and verified that he was able to reach his musicians. I did my best to calm him and was already hatching a plan in my mind. “Just tell the musicians to hold on for a moment or two. Don’t change anything, yet,” I told him. He said okay, and I went back inside.
With an undying romantic streak, I decided the woman simply could not have understood the magnitude of the situation. So, I walked right up to her, and leaned really far over her ticket counter. Her eyes got wider and when I knew she was tuned in, I asked her if my friend had fully relayed the situation to her. She responded by saying he’d said something about musicians and 4 o’clock, but that there was nothing she could do … I stopped her mid-excuse and said something very much like this: “Of course, I suspected he didn’t make it clear enough. So, here’s the real situation: The six of us are visiting Edinburgh from the United States … Texas, Florida, Colorado … all over. We converged here today, on your beautiful spot, because it’s the spot that wonderful man has chosen to be the backdrop for his proposal to that beautiful girl in there. (pointing in two directions as I spoke.) He has hired musicians to meet us here and make the moment even more spectacular. When he says to you, he’s crushed, he means crushed. As in devastated. (by this time, I’m a little choked up) I’m not sure what he’s going to do if this plan all falls apart … we didn’t know about the 3:15 deadline, but we knew we’d be all done by 4:30. We can skip the whole palace and art gallery bit … is there any way you can just let us get into the Abbey and let this beautiful proposal thing happen? Please?”
She had obviously begun to melt. She blinked and said she really hadn’t understood. She asked me to wait just a moment while she went to get a supervisor. Seconds later, she re-emerged from a side door with another young woman in tow. “Tell her all about it,” she said. I gave a somewhat briefer version of our story, and the young woman, obviously primed before meeting me, said, “Absolutely! We can do this! I’ll take you right on in there, myself!”
I’m pretty sure that’s when I breathed out for the first time! I thanked her profusely and asked her to give me a moment to “herd my cats!” I ran outside to tell Chris, we were in! I introduced him to the young woman taking charge, and he made arrangements for the musicians while I went inside the gift shop to perform one more little bit of theatre. I went to where Mandi was apparently, we later learned, blithering on to Jen about lavender and all her supposed experiences with it (making shit up to keep Jen distracted), and told them that my “tourist-fu” was strong today! I’d talked to the girl at the desk and told her how much I’d been looking forward to coming here and how badly I just wanted to see the Abbey and take a few pictures and how I was here all the way from Texas … and I might have cried a little (that part was true) … and that they were going to let us in to see the Abbey after all, but someone was going to walk us in there and we had to go right now…We gathered ourselves behind the nice young woman and followed her through giant doors, she had to knock and use her power to pass through, across the beautiful Holyrood Palace courtyard, and right on around to the amazing abbey ruins. She left us there, wished us good fortune and refused to allow us to pay anything for either entry or her services.
So, there we were! The place, we’ve already talked about and shared photos of—although these are the photos we wanted to share!
The vocalist, who’s name, I believe was Claire, was magnificently talented and her voice rang through the sculpted ceiling of the abbey. She sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at Chris’ request. And she sang it from the heart. And she made many people cry with the beauty of it. And, if there were dry eyes as she sang, that likely changed as she finished her song, and Chris dropped to one knee in front of his beloved Jen, and held out the small black velvet box containing a diamond ring.
Although she may have thought this moment might happen on their wonderful vacation, Jen seemed to truly have no idea that this was to be that moment. Her moment. As she realized it, she drew in a breath, pulled her hands to her face, and although we could not hear the words either of them spoke, the result was him rising, her arms encircling his neck and a beautiful passionate hug and kiss. Then, Chris’ words, let’s go the pub were the cue for the guitar and fiddler to begin to play a lively jig that they continued all the way out of the Abbey, past a gruff-looking guard, and right on up the Royal Mile to the Jolly Judge.
As we processed we enjoyed comments from other guests at the abbey that indicated how magical it was to have been a part of and how their engagements hadn’t been nearly so romantic! At the Jolly Judge there was champagne and cider and beer and photos (the photo at the beginning of this post is of the guitarist, Chris and Jen, and the soloist Claire) and then we went on to our dinner reservation, all carefully pre-planned by that thorough groom-to-be. (Those who received a postcard from us postmarked in Edinburgh: those were mailed during that procession up the hill!)
The drama of the plan taking a sideways turn will forever be one of the most fun stories of the trip. We were so honored to be there, and so glad to have had a small hand in making things turn out so well. Our best wishes for a happy forever for our friends Jennifer and Chris.
Tags: Abbey, Edinburgh, engagement, friends, Holyrood, Royal Mile, Scotland, U.K., UNITED KINGDOM