One Hundred Years

"Are you really going to wear that?"  Tracie, my roommate, asked me as I slipped on sweat pants and my favorite worn hoodie.

"Yes. Why?"

She raised her eyebrows in disapproval. "No reason."

I brushed off Tracie's scoff at my clothing choice. My brain felt fuzzy from the lack of sleep after pulling another "all-nighter," which became customary as I finished my last semester at Texas A&M University. On that early December morning in 1997, I threw on sweats to turn in my last paper of my undergraduate career, and then I would take a nap. Little did I know what the day held.

After I turned in my paper and yawned my way through the last lecture of class, I met Jason near the library. We had been dating for over two years, and I knew he was "the one." Instead of his usual athletic apparel (he was a kinesiology major), Jason wore a button-up shirt (ironed!), Wranglers, and boots. I eyed his fancy attire suspiciously. "Why are you so dressed up?"

"No reason. Hey, I need to go check on my transcript. Do you want to walk with me?"

All I wanted was a nap, but I grudgingly said yes.

Looking back now, I see the nervousness that radiated from his body--the tremor in his voice--the way he white-knuckled his backpack as we made our way across campus. But my sleep-deprived mind kept me clueless to these obvious signs of SOMETHING on the horizon.

As I cut left to head to the north side of campus, Jason grabbed my hand to pull me to the right--towards the Century Tree.

"No, we can't go that way." I stammered, planting my feet firmly.
"Yes, we can." Jason nudged me with a nervous smile.

The Century Tree holds great significance in the center of the A&M campus. It's grand branches create an archway over a sidewalk with a cement bench sitting at the base of the tree. The majestic live oak's name does not come from its actual age (it is well over one hundred years old) but from the legend surrounding the tree: if an Aggie asks an Aggie to marry him under the Century Tree, then the marriage will last one hundred years.

Like a good Aggie, I steered clear from the tree all four and half years of my time at A&M even though the walkway created a straight shot to many of my classes. Legend said that I was to avoid the tree until I walked under it with the one I would spend the rest of my life with.

According to Jason, that time was now. And I was wearing sweatpants.

I remember Jason pulling me towards the tree and making me sit on the bench. I remember that a light mist started to fall, but the tree's branches created a canopy, protecting us. I remember a few random people walked under the tree--not everyone is a stickler for tradition like me. I remember being a little miffed at these clueless rebels, thinking "This is MY moment! Why are you under MY tree?!" But then Jason got down on one knee, and the rest of the world melted away.

"Amianne, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?" He pulled the ring out of his backpack (no wonder he had been white-knuckling it).
"YES!!" I squealed.
And the rest, as they say, is history.

Jason wanted his proposal to completely surprise me, and he succeeded. He consulted Tracie about his plan, which explained her side-eye of my wardrobe choice earlier that morning. He asked my dad over the Thanksgiving holiday for permission to propose. In an attempt to throw me off, Jason told me that an engagement would not happen while we were at A&M because of a lack of funds for a ring. Everyone knew about this proposal but me, which is how it should be. Maybe a little lie is allowable for the sake of a great surprise. I wouldn't change a moment of this memory--even the sweatpants.

After a thirteen month-long engagement, we finally married on January 2, 1999. After saying "I do," we walked back up the aisle to the "Aggie War Hymn." Our Aggie roots run deep.

Sixteen years and three daughters later, we recently took our girls on a weekend trip to Aggieland. Of course, we took them to "our tree." They know the story, but it was the first time to have all three of them assembled at the place where our journey began. Jason and I reenacted the proposal (it was July so I was not wearing sweats), but all three girls refused to go under the tree to take a picture of us sitting on the bench--just in case they marry an Aggie one day (We have planted the Aggie seed).

As I looked at our tree on that July evening, I realized that it represents Jason and me. Like all marriages, the storms of life test our relationship--the winds howl; the rain pours; the sun shines. But with every hardship that comes our way, we dig deep to our roots. We draw strength from our faith, our family, our shared core values, our commonalities--a love of football and all things Texas A&M. Like that sturdy oak, our branches bow at the weight of the world, bending but not breaking.

On December 2, 1997, I said "yes" to the love of my life under the Century Tree. Over these sixteen years of marriage, I learned that my clothing doesn't matter in the big scheme of life; I learned that surprises are worth the wait; I learned that our roots run deep.

Here's to the next eighty-four years.


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