The Engagement


My brother Matt and his girlfriend Phoebe are both originally from Oregon, though they currently both live in Washington DC. But Phoebe’s grandpa was turning 100, and Matt needed a vacation, so they both came to Oregon for a week and a half.


“Have you bought a ring yet?” I asked Matt.

He winked at me. Then dug in his backpack and pulled out a small wooden box. Inside was a glistening diamond ring, custom made to be tiny enough to fit Phoebe’s finger. “I helped design it,” Matt said.

“You did?” I was impressed. My brother Matt, designing diamond rings!

“Yes. See, normally the diamond is held by these four prongs, but those can loosen over time. So I had the jeweler add these extra…well…I call them ‘support brackets.'”

I laughed and laughed. Of course Matt would make sure Phoebe’s ring had proper support brackets.

Thursday they went to the coast for the day. How suspicious. I was up in my room when they came home, and I heard muffled voices downstairs. No screams, but…I had to make sure. So I went downstairs, and there were Matt and Phoebe, looking as casual as can be. Maybe too casual.

“Hey Emily,” said Phoebe.

I looked at her hand. There it was. The glistening ring.

I’m gonna have another sister! I haven’t been this excited since Mom was pregnant with Jenny. Or maybe when we decided to adopt Steven. But there’s something about a sister.

Matt went upstairs to get Amy and Jenny, and there was laughter and hugs and screams all around. Mom was weeping.

It’s been a long time, folks. I’ve been dreaming about my siblings getting married ever since Matt went to Bible College…what was it…fourteen years ago? And yet here we are, unmarried. All of us.

“Is the curse broken now?” Jenny whispered to me, and we giggled.

Mom said, “did someone sacrifice a goat in the backyard?”

I laughed, but I wasn’t quite sure what the joke was. “Wait, what do you mean?”

“Wasn’t there something with the Red Sox being cursed, and a goat?”

That made me giggle for real. “Well, um, first of all it was the Cubs. And killing the goat would have probably made things worse. But sure.”

As much as it felt like a “curse” that no one in my family had any romantic luck until now, the truth is, Phoebe was well worth the wait.

When Phoebe and Matt first started seeing each other, one of Phoebe’s friends was aghast. “But is he a Calvinist?!?” she wanted to know. We laughed and laughed about that one. “But it’s even funnier now,” Matt says, “because our whole relationship seems predestined.”

The truth is, if Matt had married the girls he crushed on in his early 20s, he…well, perhaps it’s too drastic to say he’d be miserable. I’ve seen people enter unwise relationships before they were ready and, by the grace of God, live to tell the tale and still love each other in the end.

But the way it ended up worked out so perfectly. He’s done with grad school, and well established in a successful career. She is also done with college and financially stable. We all love her to pieces. And her family loves Matt. They both love DC, but go “home” to the Willamette Valley on holidays.

Suddenly the narrative in my head has shifted. From “we’re that loser family that can’t make our relationships work” to “we’re taking our time and doing it right.”

“What if we all just get married when we’re 33 or so?” I asked Mom.

“Then,” said Mom, “I would say that I probably should have adjusted my expectations from the beginning.”

I felt that. Because if we’re gonna be honest, most of my family members would probably be happier marrying at 33 rather than 23. The wait, then, is not hard because we are so miserable, it’s hard because we start to wonder if God has forgotten us.

But perhaps we should have adjusted our expectations from the beginning.

8 responses to “The Engagement

  1. It’s just a lot easier to have kids–that is, to actually conceive kids==at 23 than it is at 33. But having had my first at 22 and my second at 38, I would say both sides have their ups and downs. With my first, I had all kinds of energy and we did all kinds of activities together, but I also lost my temper a lot, was more emotional, and we sort of “grew up” together. With my second, we did a lot of stuff together–he and I, since his dad was pretty much disabled before he came along and got even more so along the way…so our lives hve been much less active–but also much more level emotionally, despite the hardships we have endured during his lifetime…I don’t have the same energy, but boy I sure to have the patience I lacked with my first…. But it’s okay to marry later. I imagine it might be a little harder to adapt…but the maturity probably more than balances that out…


  2. Absolutely love this.
    My oldest brother married in 2004. My sister, the 5th born, married in 2014. By then we were a family of single adults and we joked that the next wedding better be in less than 10 years. Well last year (2018) the brother after her got married and this year 3 of my brothers got married. It’s kind of shocking to go so quickly from 2 out of 10 married to 6 out of 10.


    • I got married at 33. You do a lot of growing up in your 20’s. Sometimes I envied people who got to go through that together, but the way my husband and I did it was to do our growing up first and then marry, and there’s a lot to be said for that. So happy for your brother. 🙂


  3. My fiance is 35 and I’m *a few* years younger, but still basically aged cheese (literal quote) in my siblings’ eyes. One of them read this article with me and, noticing how much I enjoyed it, wondered if I read “stuff like this to make [myself] feel better?” 🤣
    I don’t know, but singlehood is gilded and I’ll be forever grateful for having been gifted these abundant days. Cheers.


  4. I love your perspective. And I too can relate to the feelings of wondering if God had forgotten about my singleness. But as I contemplate on those feelings, they seem quite silly now. I got married at 49 years, five months, and 17 days. (Not that I was counting or anything) Waiting for the right man and being a bit more mature myself was an excellent plan and I have no regrets!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. HOW do you put things so well? 31 and single here, and that’s exactly right. I’m not miserable but I definitely wonder if God has forgotten me. But then again, I’m glad I didn’t get married young. Just no pleasing this “picky” one. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. For better or for worse!

    This is excellent writing!!!!! And so funny! You are a real authoress, Emily!!:) Good luck with your writing!


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