Baby You’re a Firework!

Shannon Mattingly & Jon Nathanson

I had no idea what was going on. There I was, at Jon’s beach house in Malibu, with both of our families on the Fourth of July, one of my favorite holidays I might add. Everyone was dressed in beachy casual attire: slept-in t-shirts, rumpled shorts, and fashion-backward flip flops. When his mom told me we were going to take the “annual” family photo on the beach. And there was Jon, asking me to get dressed up and looking my best for this photo. Why did I need to get dolled up, when the best anyone else could manage was a pair of Sperrys and a polo shirt? It didn’t make any sense.

Whatever. I’m not one to complain…and I’m certainly not one to look a mess in a photo, be it professional or amateur-hour. So I got dressed. In fact, I sort of agonized over my outfit. And my hair. And my makeup. And my hair again. And another outfit. And another one. Until I finally dialed it all in on the outfit. I came downstairs, out the back door, and onto the sand ready for my close up! I was holiday perfection in my red-and-white striped shirt, my blue jacket, and my bold red pants. Classy and patriotic.

…And everyone else was still in their beach attire. No one had moved a muscle since I’d gone to get ready. I don’t even think anyone was in red, white, or blue, for that matter. At that point I felt like I was at a different party than everyone else.  What gives, I thought?! Just who was managing this so-called family photo shoot, and when was it happening, and why hadn’t the others gotten the memo?

Jon led me onto the sand. Holding my hand, he asked me to follow him out onto some nearby dunes, down a rocky slope, and over to the edge of the water. I wasn’t having any of it! “This is the most disorganized photo shoot I’ve ever seen!” I scolded him. “We need better communication!”

Jon sort of laughed, which only made me angrier. Then he called everyone over and insisted that we all follow him down to the beach to capture the shot. I was so confused. What kind of picture was this going to be? It couldn’t be the Christmas card picture; no one else had gotten ready. It couldn’t be a Fourth of July picture; that’s a cool idea, but a little out there. So what was this? As I followed Jon onto the beach, trailed by our family, I had no idea what I was doing, or what we were all looking for. Fireworks, maybe? But at 5pm, long before the sun had gone down? No clue. Totally confused.

Until I saw it: there, on the wet sand, just above the reach of the fast-lapping waves, were the words “Marry me?” spelled out in sea shells of all shapes and colors. It was beautiful. Rustic, charming, yet elaborately detailed. As Jon got down on his knee, looked me in the eye, and pulled out a ring, I was immediately struck by how much I loved him—and how much he truly loved me. After all, he’d put up with my brattiness the whole walk over—it was like herding cats—and he hadn’t broken a sweat. If that’s not devotion, I don’t know what is.

The photo turned out beautifully, as Jon had intended. It wasn’t what I’d expected, but it was all I’d ever wanted. There were fireworks!

Their special dates

Shannon Mattingly & Jon Nathanson were happily engaged on 07/04/2015 .

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