Finding a Christmas miracle

A Christmas proposal at a Stillwater gazebo seemed more like a Christmas miracle.

The happy couple strolls off as they begin the next chapter of their lives together

Heather Edwards
staff writer

I wasn’t looking for a Christmas miracle that night.

When the movie I was taking Daughter No. 2 and her friends to was sold out, I could see the disappointment on their faces. They had been looking forward to seeing a Disney film with a lovely young princess and a handsome young prince.

They brightened a little when I said we would go to Stillwater instead to see what we could find. “It’ll be an adventure,” I told them.

And it was. We looked at Christmas lights, and I made them oooh and ahh over every strand of lights as if it was the Fourth of July. We took a look at the remains of the Minnesota Zephyr, and we staged duels with swords of icicles.

By the St. Croix River we found a gazebo, perfectly framed by a brightly lighted Christmas tree. I insisted the girls pile out of the car to pose in front of the scene. They obliged, striking silly poses for my cell phone’s camera.

“Excuse me? I’m so sorry, but ...”

A young woman came rushing toward us, stage-whispering:

“My sister is about to get engaged here, and I was just wondering ... I mean, I’m sorry, but ...”

We squealed and piled back into the car. I’ve never seen those kids move so fast in my entire life, but we didn’t want to spoil such a beautiful moment.

We drove a few blocks in silence.  I knew they wanted to witness the moment they’d nearly seen with their own eyes. And after all, the engagement was going to happen in a public place in view of other Stillwater visitors. So I turned to the girls. “Well, I know I want to see this,” I said. “How about you guys?”


But first, my daughter needed to use the bathroom, so we drove to the nearest gas station, still keeping our eyes peeled on the gazebo. Every time a car would drive near it, the remaining girls would gasp that this was The Moment, and my daughter was going to miss it. Fortunately, our soon-to-be-engaged couple did not appear.

As my daughter returned from the restroom, a lovely young woman came out of the gas station as well. Apparently, the two had been chatting in the rest room while we’d waited.

And while we were waiting, a handsome young man also waited. When he saw his lovely young woman, he smiled broadly and looped his arms around her shoulders. She hugged him close in return. They strolled toward the gazebo, and my carful of girls squealed.

I pulled out my cell phone and took a picture of them as they walked toward the next chapter of their lives. Not wanting to get too close, we craned our necks from the gas station parking lot to watch as he dropped to one knee and proposed. We assumed she accepted, since there were lots of hugs and tears after.

Two blocks away, my carful of girls nearly swooned, dreaming of a similar moment in their futures, while I recalled the proposal my husband gave me 17 years ago.

After a moment, the future bride’s sister came out of her hiding spot in a nearby parking lot and met her sister and future brother-in-law at the gazebo.

I couldn’t stand it. I threw the car in gear and crept up the block.  At a closer range, I rolled down the window and said, “I hope we’re not intruding ...”

Maggie, the sister, squealed and said, “These are the people I chased off!”

And the future bride peeked at my daughter and said, “Aren’t you the girl from the gas station?”

Well. That was all the encouragement we needed. We scrambled out of the car to hug these complete strangers. We all cried and laughed together, and then I confessed I had taken their picture at the gas station. I showed them the photo, and they cried some more and thanked me. Maggie said she hadn’t been able to get a photo with her own camera, and so this picture became that much more precious.

The happy couple --Mark Kuhl from Dubuque, Iowa, and Bridget Hooley from Stillwater -- met during college and had been dating for two years. Now they were planning a life together. Maggie and I took more pictures, and before we drove away, I took one more: of Mark and Bridget, Maggie, my daughter and her friends, all standing together, every one of them grinning at the miracle we had shared.

No, I wasn’t looking for a miracle that night. But thankfully, the miracle found us.

Heather Edwards can be reached at

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