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Mom, why are you so nervous?

December 20, 2007|Kathleen Clary Miller | Special to The Times

I sympathize with the prospective groom when it comes to the marriage proposal. In an age when invitations to the prom have been taken to a new level and appear to be more about the clever surprise than they are about the actual event, popping the question has to be the fiercest anxiety attack out there.

To save face, it seems the bride needs a story that rivals "Gone With the Wind" -- complete with Photoshop-enhanced digital pictures and an online change of "relationship status" that appears nanoseconds after the romantic moment. The chivalrous bend of the knee is barely over when the big news must be broadcast to the betrothed's cyber society. Guys, this had better be good.

My daughter Kate's intended phoned a few weeks ago to ask her father for her hand in marriage. Chris wanted it to be a surprise, so he wondered if he might propose to my daughter outside what would soon be the front door of the home we are building in Montana. Would Kate's father bring a camera to take pictures?

Did this young man drop down from heaven?

After I dried my weepy eyes, reality hit me: I was going to have to keep a secret.

I have since accused Chris of orchestrating it this way on purpose, just so that I would know how it feels to be about to ask the girl of your dreams to spend the rest of her life with you. After all, she's been the girl of my dreams a lot longer than she has his. So I was right there with him as each day passed, wondering if his nervousness was building.

What he didn't have to endure, however, was the mother-daughter confidences. She felt free to ponder with me on the phone, "Do you think he'll ask me during our three-year anniversary dinner on Wednesday?" And "Why is he insisting we visit his parents this weekend when he was just there last weekend? Do you think he was there to buy the ring?" If I hadn't experienced hot flashes before, I was most certainly having them now.

I thought of all the things that could go wrong. Would airport security search his bags and whip the ring from his carry-on? What if he stashed the diamond in his checked luggage only to lose it in Salt Lake City? Would she hate the ring and I would see right through her as she feigned enthusiasm? But worst of all, at the momentous moment, would I actually have to be present and therefore sob uncontrollably as if I, in fact, were the future bride? At this volatile midlife stage I couldn't gracefully handle such extreme emotion. Additionally, I look really ugly when I cry -- and there was that request Chris had made about a camera.

The big day came, the plane landed, and Brad and I were there to greet the carefree couple who strode toward us, cool as cucumbers. Meanwhile, I had lost 8 pounds since breakfast.

"Are you cold, Mom?" Kate was concerned since my eyes were already tearing.

"Allergies." Such brilliance on my feet.

After a bite to eat, we drove out to the property and wandered around, chatting about the builder, the logs and the floor plan until I thought I might faint. Chris betrayed no change in his easy personality. Did I have the wrong weekend? When Brad and I wandered off into a grove of trees and they did not follow, I knew it must be coming, then I heard my daughter scream. I took Brad's hand and started to choke but whispered, "It is done."

Later, as everyone cheered and cooed while Kate enthused over her stunning ring, I alone fell backward against a tree trunk and sighed. "Thank goodness it's finally over!" Nice mother-of-the-bride sentiment.

"His heart was beating like it would come out of his chest!" Kate said, relaying the details.

Aha! Turns out he was struggling to camouflage his nerves. Like mother, like fiance -- I'll never again take for granted what a guy goes through.

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