The Proposal


Hello, lovely parents of the Internet! I am Gretchin, mom of a wild two-year-old, Ellie, and new contributor to BVT Moms Blog. I’m so happy to be here, to share my stories, and learn from other amazing Vermont moms!

I’d like to take this opportunity – my first official post here – to tell you a little bit more about myself than what I could fit into my bio. And, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought it might be fitting to tell you the story that started it all – one of mishap, misfortune, and ultimately love, which kicked off a series of events that would eventually lead to this very moment.

Here I sit, at my makeshift desk, an old card table, with laptop and crafting supplies. Under the table, a sea of toys stretches out to each corner of our small, 2-bedroom apartment, in the shadow of the Green Mountains. A little (but loud) voice screams from the next room, “MAMA!! I need you get me those bubbles!!” I kick aside a large bouncy ball and make my way to my daughter’s room where she is running around in paint-covered PJs and banging a drum stick on every available surface in a three-foot radius. Bang! Bang! Bang! “MAMA! You change my diaper? I want some crackers. You put Care Bears on?” The oven timer and clothes dryer beep simultaneously. The phone rings, I get a text message, and I steal a glance at the clock to see when my husband, Mark, will be home from work.

But, life wasn’t always so full of distractions. Thirteen years ago, I walked into my Interpersonal Communications class at Champlain College, sat down, and watched a tall, handsome, smiley guy wander in about ten minutes late. He was wearing the biggest, brightest, neon-blue ski jacket I had ever seen in my life. He would later say to me, “And you had the biggest hair I had ever seen in my life.” In my defense, they didn’t have frizz-free shampoo back then, in, um… 2001, or at least I couldn’t find any at the local supermarket. I remember thinking in that moment that I could see myself marrying someone like that. There was a happy-go-lucky innocence about Mark. He was content just to be in the moment.

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(Here we are, long before dating, marriage, and babies!)

Eventually, one of my more outgoing friends invited him to our study group, and Mark and I became fast friends too. There was a comfort about being with him. I could completely be myself – the loud me, the funny me, the quiet me, the listening-to-ABBA-for-2-straight-hours-in-the-car me. It never mattered to him, he was just content to be by my side. I told him all the time that I just loved him (as a friend, of course), and one day it seemed to dawn on him that he loved me back.

He showed up outside my dorm door on a rainy afternoon, soaking wet. I stared at him, confused.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I… love you,” he said.
“No, like I really love you,” he insisted.
“I love you too. Where’s your car?” I asked. He usually drove over to my dorm.
“I don’t know. I just ran over here. I just realized that…”
“Wait, you ran all the way over here? In the rain?”
“Ha! Yeah!”
“So, you… like, love me love me?”

Then, it was your typical romantic-kiss-in-the-rain movie-moment. I had a smile plastered on my face for weeks, and life was grand.

Four months later, we were still in the honeymoon-phase of dating – late-night junk-food binges, Indiana Jones movie marathons, staying up all night to play video games with Mark’s roommates. I fell asleep happy at Mark’s side, spooning with a large tub of cheesey poofs. College life couldn’t get much better.

We spent every out-of-class minute together, and took advantage of all the school’s extracurricular activities like free-movie night and horseback riding.


(Mark and Me Hiking Smuggler’s Notch!)

In the fall, the college planned a trip to La Ronde, the Six Flags theme park, in Montreal. Mark and I rode the bus over the border and spent the day riding rollercoasters and walking the park on a sunny Saturday afternoon. It was a fun day. I’m not a big fan of theme park rides, but I felt safer at Mark’s side. We timed the ferris-wheel ride for sunset, hopped on, and held hands as the giant wheel spun around, and the sun set over the park and city. It was breathtaking, and we kept stealing loving glances at each other.

Then, I noticed a trace of something else in Mark’s eyes. What was it? Regret? Disappointment? I pushed my worry aside and went on to enjoy a beautiful evening with my new favorite person in the world. But, in the days that followed, more awkward encounters ensued.

My happy-go-lucky guy wasn’t quite himself. He was withdrawn, nervous even. He didn’t eat much at lunch, and it took most of my energy to be funny enough to pull him out of his sullenness. Throughout the week, I asked him the occasional, “Everything okay?” and “Are you feeling alright?”

“Oh? Yeah. You know, start of the school year. A lot on my mind,” was his usual response.

Fair enough. We were about a month into our junior year of college and had been dating for awhile. Almost all of my previous relationships were long-term. So, it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t really know how to casually date someone. Here I am in a typical college relationship, but falling head-over-heels for a guy who may be ready to move on and date other people. I had to finally admit to myself that, even though Mark seemed to want all the same things out of life that I did, maybe he wasn’t quite ready to be in a serious, long-term relationship. I tried to seal up my heart and prepare for the break-up.

The week went on as usual. Mark was pretty much his normal self with only the occasional “blah” moments. Saturday evening came around, and he finally called and asked the question I had been dreading.

“Hey, um, can I talk to you about something?”
I tried not to let my voice squeak with fear, “Yeah, of course! Anything!”
“Can I pick you up in about 10 minutes?”

I hung up and tried to make myself look as pretty and un-break-up-worthy as possible. I tied my frizzy hair back into a pony tail. A halo of frizz popped up around my forehead. When flattening it with hair spray didn’t work, I let it down and tried to turn “frizzy” into a “1950s swoopy curl.”

I took one last look in the mirror and threw my arms up in the air. It wasn’t in a cool Fonzie kinda way either. My hair had left me defeated, but I gave myself a pep talk anyway: “This is what you get Mark, for better or worse. And if you don’t want me, well you can go… eat dirt.”

I heard the familiar beep of his car horn and rushed out the door. Mark was nervously sitting in the driver seat.

“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Um, just down to the waterfront, thought we could talk there,” he explained.

A few blocks later, we pulled up to the booth to pay for parking.

“That’ll be three dollars,” said the attendant nonchalantly.
Mark started digging furiously in his pockets for some cash. When that didn’t work, he began scrounging around under the seats and in the cup holders of his car. The attendant waited patiently.

The last place he looked was his wallet. Ok. No cash there.

“Um, honey?” he asked, “Do you have any cash?”
“Don’t look at me. My parents wired me $10 for the week, and I spent it on Gatorade and a tuna sandwich.”

Mark looked up at the attendant pleadingly, but the guy wouldn’t budge, so we drove off.

“I’m so so sorry,” Mark said, “I completely forgot about the parking cost.”
“That’s okay, we can just go somewhere else,” I said.

He proceeded to drive around for the next 20 minutes. Up Pine Street, down Main Street. We passed Church Street about three times.

Finally, I said, “Ok, what’s going on? Is everything okay?” as the sun set over Lake Champlain.
“Yeah,” he said defeated, as he pulled into the dorm parking lot to find that someone had taken his spot.

There were no spaces, so he drove back down to the waterfront to park in the campus lot there. To get back up to campus, we had to take the shuttle. We climbed onto a small bus. It was now dark out, and the neon-green flickering light in the bus was making me dizzy. We sat down together, next to a few other riders who stared blankly out across the city as the bus made its way up Main Street. Mark reached for my hand and held it tightly.

I turned to him, “Listen, you need to tell me what’s going on. You’ve been acting weird all week. If you want to break up with me, just do it. You don’t need to take me to the lake or anywhere else. I don’t want to be with anyone else, I know that, but if you do, that’s fine. Just tell me. I won’t be happy about it, but I’ll survive.”

“No, that’s not it,” he said quietly.

“It’s not?? What else could it be? What’s wrong?” Now my mind was jumping to any other possible explanation – he wants to um, start a rock band together? Become an astronaut? Run away to Kansas and raise llamas?? Oh. My. Gosh. I bet he works for the CIA and has to leave the country.

The bus pulled up at the stop on South Willard Street, and we stepped off to start our walk to the dorm. It was dark out, but the street lights hadn’t come on yet. We plodded along quietly in the dark.

“Listen, it’s nothing bad…” he explained. Phew. Okay.
“Well, you’re scaring me.”

Finally, he let out a huge sigh, threw his arms in the air, reached into his coat pocket, and pulled out…

A little box.

“I’ve been trying to give this to you for two weeks. Do you have any idea what I’ve been through? The ferris wheel! Ugh! It was the perfect moment. But, I thought, ‘No… theme parks are too cheesy. I won’t bring the ring,’ I left it on the bus, and then when we went out to dinner at that nice restaurant, I thought, ‘No, too cliché, and everyone will be watching, and what if you say no,’ and there were so many little moments that didn’t seem right, and then I finally just thought I would take you to the lake, and we’d watch the sunset together, and it would be beautiful, and I would surprise you, and… since when do I not have quarters in the cup holder?? And, if we had taken the time to walk, we would have missed the sunset, and then sitting on that bus, well that wasn’t the right moment, and…”

I just stood there, staring, in shock, “Wha- wha- what are you doing?” I stuttered.

“Will you marry me?” he asked, frustrated.

“Well, yes, of course…” I said, still in shock. He scooped me up and gave me a big hug and kiss. Then, we completely lost it and laughed hysterically.

“Oh, and I have a ring!” he said, holding up the box happily.
“When did you get a ring?” I asked. We spent all our free time together.
“My mom and sister helped.”
“That’s so sweet,” I said, as he opened the box for me.

The street light above us tried to flicker on but suddenly went out. I stared out into complete darkness, just seeing a shadow of an outline of a ring box.

“Um, I’m sure it’s beautiful,” I said.
“I can’t catch a break,” he laughed, and awkwardly closed the ring box and tucked it back in his pocket.
“Hey, I want that!” I chuckled.

He took my hand and walked me back to the dorm where he got down on one knee and made it official. Our lives have always been like this, a strange mix of overwhelming love and loyalty toward each other amid life’s usual surprises and mishaps. This man has always been my rock. He lived up to our wedding vows long before we said them. He is the one person who has seen me through all of the adult moments in my life when I just needed to be a baby – stomach flus, and twelve hours of back labor.

And today, when I get home, and Ellie has dumped her crayons on the floor, thrown her dinner at the wall, poured her milk in my purse, and is crying because she wants to watch Care Bears one more time, even though it’s long past bedtime, and she still hasn’t gotten her teeth brushed and diaper changed, and all I want to do is cry, he’ll be the one chuckling and giving me the same look he did on that dark sidewalk eleven years ago, the look that says, “Well, this is it. This is our life. Take it or leave it. Yes or no.”

And I’ll always laugh with him. “A million times, ‘Yes!’”


I grew up in Upstate New York, but Mark and I decided to make our home here in Vermont. Mark has lived here all his life and descends from a long line of Vermonters and Long Islanders. We now live in Waterbury and are thrilled to call Vermont “home.” We were married for 6 years before Ellie was born and quite settled into our routines which involved working a lot, watching our favorite movies and TV shows, and going out to eat at all of the wonderful local restaurants Vermont has to offer. When the baby arrived, I went to part-time hours and took on fewer freelance design jobs. We now find that we spend a lot more time outside enjoying this beautiful state and bringing the local food indoors for family dinners around our dining room table.

Little E has definitely changed our lives for the better, and we couldn’t be happier to be on this new adventure called Parenthood!

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  1. That was beautiful. Gretchin. Thanks for sharing your sweet love story with us. It sounds as if you and your husband balance one another nicely. I look forward to learning more about you!


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