Story by Catharine Lo
Photos by Dana Edmunds
It was a clear summer night in 2004. Lauren Spalding and her boyfriend, Kai Bartlett, were enjoying a great dinner on the slopes of Monterosa, the highest of the Pennine Alps, which towers 15,000 feet and straddles Italy and Switzerland. The pair had just arrived from Athens, where Lauren represented the United States in flat-water kayaking at the Olympics. She felt utterly content as she savored spoonfuls of creamy gelato under the full moon.
Before she knew what was happening, Kai dropped to one knee and presented her with a purple, heart-shaped candy ring straight from a gumball machine.
“Will you marry me?” he asked.
Lauren looked at the ring, bewildered. “Don’t joke around about that stuff,” she told him.
When Kai blushed, Lauren realized he was completely serious. The ring he had ordered back home in Hawai‘i hadn’t been ready before they left for Athens, he explained, so he had solicited the help of—and permission from—Lauren’s 5-year-old son, Ha‘ena, to find a temporary substitute, and they had chosen the gumball ring together.
Lauren smiled, admiring the part of Kai’s character she found most endearing: that he is not one to be derailed by circumstance, that he always finds a way. There, on top of the world, she said yes.