WARNING: This entry may get sappy. Turn back now or continue with caution.
It's been 11 years to the date that Kulani and I were engaged. I thought for posterity's sake, it might be fun to reflect on those early dating months when Kulani and I fell in love.
We were both living in the Miller Apartment complex in the middle of Cougar Town (AKA Provo). My roommates and I were going door-to-door trying to find guys willing to play on our co-ed basketball team. We knocked on Kulani's door, and he asked if I lived in the apartment complex. Of course, I did, hadn't he been to church? I'd seen him leaving church in his little Volkswagen Rabbit, but he apparently had never seen me. He says it was the short pleated skirt I was wearing with knee-high socks that got his attention. I went home after unsuccessfully finding players, and I looked up Kulani's name in the ward directory. "Kulaniakea Fisher" it read. Hmm, I guess the "akea" is silent, or so I thought. I practiced saying the name so that when I saw him again, I could say, "Hi, Kulani."
So I saw him around campus on a couple of more occasions, always shouting out a "Hi, Kulani." He would just look at me. Finally while passing him a third time at the bottom of the Miller Apartment complex where everyone picks up their mail, he turns and asks me, "What's your name again?" So I pull out my best line: "Cindy, you know, like Cindy Brady." He remembered my name all right, because that Friday, he called me up for a date--a last minute kind of thing to go eat all-you-can eat Mexican food and drinks with his brothers and their wives in Salt Lake City. However, I had just returned from a date. You see, the Miller Apartment Complex was known for having lots of intra-ward dates. The bishop had a mandate that girls ask boys on dates every third week of each month. So a lot of dates were going down, and people seemed to always invite me along. But it was rare someone actually asked me out on a one-on-one date. Even though I was already stuffed to the gills with Mexican food, I thought it would be fun to take him up on his offer. Afterall, I needed to get to know this fine-looking Polynesian whose name included four silent letters at the end.
Turned out his full name was pronounced KOOLAHNEEAKAYEH, I found out. Kulani was the shorter version. He found out my dad was a car dealer, and no, he did not own Christenson Motors in Provo, a very big dealership. For a moment, I think he saw visions of marrying a daughter whose father might bequeath her with a new truck. When we started talking about music, I knew we were going to be fast friends. "Have you ever heard of the Smiths?" He asked me. Had I ever heard of the Smiths? Psha! Is your girlfriend still in a coma? Of course I'd heard of the Smiths! We had so much in common, including loving alternative music whilst growing up in small towns with people who were not as enlightened on the whole music world. We made it to the dinner, and I met many of Kulani's siblings. They were drinking virgin pina colada after virgin pina colada. I could barely squeeze down one strawberry daquiri, having still been full from the previous date. My teeth were swimming, to pardon the term. Kulani's family seemed like a fun-loving and uber-accomplished group. Two of his brothers were finishing their last semesters as medical students at the University of Utah, and his other brother was finishing up his master's degree in architecture.
Kulani's old Volkswagen made it to Salt Lake City for the date, but bless its heart, it didn't quite make it home after the date. He stalled on I-15 right outside the Johanna's Kitchen sign. I'm not sure if that billboard is there anymore, but for the longest time, that was our little nudge, nudge, wink, wink billboard. To keep warm, we had to huddle close to each other (perhaps Kulani had it planned all along to have the car break down). Not very many people carried cell phones in those days (1996), so a limo driver pulled over and let us borrow his cell phone to call Kulani's brother to come help us out. Kulani's brother showed up with jumper cables. The car just needed a little jump with the battery, and we drove back to Miller Apartments. The car lasted a little longer before dying, when the radiator hoses broke and caused a man-made geyser to explode from the engine. It was a sight to behold, like going to Yellowstone to see Old Faithful. So we relied on my old 1984 Pontiac, which wasn't in much better shape. We drove the Pontiac out of the temple parking lot the day we were married, but not before Kulani pushed it while I popped the clutch. It lasted a solid year after we were married before giving up the ghost. (But, of course, Dad somehow fixed the Pontiac and it roams the streets of Burley to this day. Never say never when it comes to old cars.)
That date set a string of dates in motion for the gorgeous pineapple and the Idaho spudnik. We dated nearly everyday for the next four months. And then Valentine's Day arrived. I knew Kulani wanted to ask me on Valentine's Day, but I didn't know when or how he would do it. We headed to Mullboon's, the nicest restaurant in town in those days, for a nice dinner. After dinner, he presented me with a Cracker Jack box. "Oh, the ol' ring in the Cracker Jack box routine," I thought. I opened up the box, which had been tampered with. He told me to dig a little deeper for a prize. I did, and sure enough, there was a prize inside: a free tattoo. We laughed and laughed. Later, we went to the movies. Kulani excused himself to get some popcorn. He came back and we shared the popcorn. As I was eating, I found a box inside the tub of popcorn. The box looked very much like a ring box. He told me to open it. I did. Inside was a bunch of Hershey Kisses. Another hearty laugh. After the movie, we went to Kulani's friend Jeremy's house for dessert. Before driving, Kulani brought out a package. It was his Valentine's gift to me. I opened the package, and inside was a bottle of perfume. "Isn't there anything else?" He asked. This time I knew it would be the ring, but I shook the bag and out came another little bottle of perfume. Another tricky trap! By this time, I just assumed he would ask me another day. We pulled up to Jeremy's house, and Kulani nudged me inside. There in the middle of Jeremy's floor was a toy train rolling around a track. On the caboose was the ring in a box with a note attached that read, "I choo, choo, choose you." Kulani got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. If you have never seen the Simspon's Valentine's episode, you wouldn't get that reference. Lisa feels bad for Ralphie because he doesn't get any Valentine's, so she gives him one, and as Ralphie tells her later, "You gave me a Valentine and it had a picture of a train and it said, 'I choo, choo, choose you.'" Lisa later goes on to break his heart, but that didn't happen in our story. (Sidenote: One of the best lines out of Ralphie's mouth comes from that episode: "The doctor said I wouldn't have any nose bleeds if I just kept my finger out of there.")
So Kulani, if you happen to read this, it's been 11 years since you cho, cho, chose me, and I'd choo, choo, choose you all over again. I love you!