On bended knee
It's not every day that a man drops to his knees at my feet, so it seemed like a good idea to make this my first blog post for 2015 (2015!)
On the 22nd of January, in one of Joe's most beloved places - the beach on his family farm at Palmerston - and with our children, parents and Joe's sister and brother-in-law around us, Joseph Walker asked me, Katherine Parrott, to marry him.
Here we are a few seconds after I said yes!
I love this photo because it captures this precious moment (thanks Matt), but also because the kids are all smiling - Conor isn't even facing the camera and you can see him beaming. My Dad is looking on from the right. Joe had carefully engineered it all so that we were all there together on the beach, and it seemed just right to have our most special people around us. As well as Joe's Dad Barry and his partner Glenis, my Mum and Dad had flown down to join us on holiday for three nights - our Christmas present to them - and this was their last night with us.
We'd had a busy day getting over to the farm from Alexandra, with lunch stops, scenic detours and flat tyres along the way. Caravans in tow, we arrived early evening and had the usual set-up-camp frenzy - pitching tents, levelling caravans, settling in.
I had been looking forward to seeing the farm for the first time because Joe grew up here, and like Hauroto Bay is for me, the family farm is the place that grounds and connects him the most. It's not hard to see why this would be a magical playground for a growing boy.
I'd felt a sense of anticipation all day at the thought of arriving. Subtly, I could feel Joe did too, but didn't realise why. No wonder he was relieved I decided not to take Mum and Dad on the 4-hour detour to Oamaru!
Once we decided camp was sufficiently made, a cry went up for us all to make for the beach. The kids led the charge and we spilled onto the golden sand just as the light was starting to dip. We were standing in a group, Joe with his arm around me when he held me a bit tighter and started to speak in a decidedly official-yet-wobbly tone of voice.
My stomach roller-coastered the second he started and from there, the world went upside down, with both of us simultaneously smiling like fools and shedding tears, as the kids and grown ups squealed, whispered and encircled us. Later, once the Moet came out, Joe says his preparation eventually involved him throwing up his hands and deciding to just 'say some shit,' which doesn't sound that romantic but let me tell will go down in history as some of the nicest shit anyone has ever said to me.
He then produced an insanely large jewellery box from somewhere on his person, which I'm still slightly baffled he had managed to conceal. He dropped to one knee - which I remember thinking felt strange, seeing the man I value most as an equal partner in crime - I mean, life - dropping below me. I wanted to either pull him back up or kneel down beside him, but in the end, stuck with it until I said yes!!!
Of course, more happy madness ensued once I did say yes and to cut an already-long story short, that, friends and neighbours is how we came to be engaged.
It's been lovely letting people know the news and feeling how genuinely happy they are for us... Joe and I are already conscious of how much love and support our friends and family have given us over the last few years, and somehow, often without saying it, you've all managed to crystallise that love into the way you've congratulated us both. Your happiness for us has made us feel so good, and it is so very much appreciated.
This post may need a part two to explain how our logistically complex life together will pan out, as it's the first question everybody asks. The simple version is we are committed to doing the best we can for our kids, so for the foreseeable future that means building a family that happens to live in two places - two islands even. We're aware we're not conventional, and we're cool with that. AvGas will continue to be our chosen fuel, Airpoints will continue to accumulate and we know we can work it all out as we go.
All that remains to finish 2015's first post is a photo of our tribe of six, and a photo of us. Happy New Year everyone! May your year finish as well as ours has started.
Endnote: if we look like a pair of smiling, happy ginger loons in this picture, it's because we are.