February 24, 2017
Every couple and family that we work with has
a story many, many stories. There are happy ones and sad ones, long ones and short ones, stories that make us double over in laughter, and stories that let us see depths of despair. We love learning the story of each of our couples and families — it’s one of our favorite parts about our work. But we are not storytellers. We are story-documenters.
When we realized this, we knew that we should document ours as well. The Radian Story is the story of us, Radhika and Ian. From the day we were born to where we stand now, this is our story from babies to bride & groom.
Part 5: Will You Marry Me? (Or Where All the Bees Came From)
So you heard a lot of our mushy ‘honeymoon period,’ or about the time when we first started dating in our last post, but you’re here for the good stuff. The drama. The action. We get it, and we got ya covered!
From Radhika’s perspective
The summer of 2011 started with our college graduation from UNC and a road trip north to Philadelphia: the city we knew Ian would be living in for the foreseeable future. He had gotten accepted into UPenn’s graduate program in education, culture, and society and we knew we would be apart for at least two years. We did all of the touristy things, found Ian an apartment in West Philadelphia (…born and raised), and spent some time alternating between being excited to explore a new place and sad about the prospect of being separated.
What we didn’t know was how hard it was going to be! We got a little bit of a test run, though, for the 5 weeks that I was at Teach For America’s Institute in the Mississippi Delta. While Ian had accepted his role at Penn, I had accepted a job offer to stay in Durham and teach middle school science with TFA for the next two years. The 5-week training program states away was intense in so many ways. Between 4:00 am wake-up calls to get on a sweltering school bus and drive an hour to the school I taught in and the difficulty of teaching 10 wonderful students who knew they were so many grade levels behind in reading, the summer was hard. So, so hard.
Ian came to visit over the 4th of July weekend and we spent the time exploring the Delta and soaking in the blues culture there. Still, when he left, it reminded me of the difficulty that the next two years would bring.
While I was at Institute in the Delta, Ian was at home in Durham, teaching again at Student U. He led the 6B family as their family head and taught them the same “Bumblebee song” to celebrate the students of the week that my family of teachers had taught 6B the summer before. While I was sad to not be able to spend time at Student U, the first summer in three years that I couldn’t be there, I loved being able to travel with them to their end-of-summer 6th grade field trip to the beach! Little did I know what Ian and his students were planning at that time…
From Ian’s perspective
Deciding what to do after I graduated was difficult, deciding that it would include spending the rest of my life with Radhika was not (ok, maybe a little). That meant that on top of teaching Student U, which is its own kind of whirlwind, I needed to plan a proposal worthy of what she meant to me.
First, I needed a ring. I had decided on a ring by Ritani that I knew she would love (partly because she had told me so). It fit, classic enough to be timeless but with a twist that made it feel unique. The day I brought it home I was sure it was the one, that is until my mom said, “You know, I think you’re aunt has your grandma Joyce’s old ring.” When I finally saw it, I knew that I had really found the perfect ring.
Second, ring in hand, I needed to make sure I had her parents’ blessing. I invited them over to my parents’ house for a weekend lunch. Even though I tend to make a good impression on parents, I was beyond nervous. After drawing out lunch and beating around the bush as long as possible, I finally got the words out, “I’d like to ask your daughter to marry me.” They were overjoyed.
Finally, it was time to plan the proposal. I had lots of ideas floating around in my head, but all I really knew for sure was that it had to be significant. The moment I asked her had to carry with it all of the weight that her being in my life had carried. In the two years we had been together, she was, almost from the first moment we were started dating, a partner in my life. All the ideas and adventures and joys and struggles I had became more focused and fun and exciting and manageable because I had someone to share them with, someone I really wanted to share them with. She was the one. She is the one.
Student U was where we first got to know each other, so it felt right that Student U should be where took this step toward making our lives together official. I brought the inkling of an idea to the leadership team that summer and together we made our plan.
Each year Student U caps its summer program with a big event it appropriately calls “Celebration.” Students and teachers from the summer celebrate their time together with presentations and awards. This year, I would bring my 6B family up to sing our “Bumblebee song” and present awards to members of the community, this time with a special surprise twist.
When the day came for Celebration, I couldn’t keep my thoughts straight. It felt all at once like any other day and the most important day of my life. I walked into the auditorium and sat down with my students, my hand constantly checking for the ring box in my pocket. My students’ presentation wasn’t until the second half of the program, but I honestly feel like it started right away. Before I knew it it was time for 6B to come on stage a present their awards. “Buzzzzzz *clap* oooh oooh oooh oooh…” It was time.