Graham Brooks’ first plan fell through.
The Washington State University senior originally wanted to take his girlfriend, University of Idaho senior Saffron Kruse, out to a nice dinner. After they ate, friends of his would come up to their table and play music. Then, Brooks would propose.
However, the restaurant Brooks had in mind had recently changed ownership, and he said the new owners preferred not to host the proposal during such a transitional time for the establishment.
The back-up plan, the UI Arboretum, also fell through. Brooks said that option became complicated because he didn’t want too many people around for the proposal and there was too much snow on the ground.
Then, the back-up to the back-up plan fell through.
“There’s this gazebo over in Pullman and that was also entirely snowed in,” Brooks said. “So I spent two hours riding around Pullman looking for a place that was not terrible and snowed in, and eventually I found one.”
Finally, on a Saturday night in February, under a tree on a hill beside the WSU observatory, Brooks asked Kruse to marry him. She said yes.
“We, and by ‘we’ I mean my roommate and I, were going to put a bunch of lights in the tree and I was going to play her favorite song, and one of the first lines of the song is, ‘All of the lights land on you,’” Brooks said. “It was really windy, so almost all of lights went out, but I did play the song for her and she smiled like a total dope.”
Kruse, an anthropology major, moved to Moscow from Buhl, a town in southern Idaho with an estimated population of 4,000 people. Brooks, a civil engineering major, moved to Pullman from the south Puget Sound metropolitan area, where the population is around 200,000 people.
The two met in fall 2015 while attending a Christian group retreat for the UI and WSU campuses, Chi Alpha.
“We were with a whole bunch of friends around a campfire and everyone had paired off and I was sitting awkwardly between these two couples and he leans across the fire and says something to me,” Kruse said. “I go to sit by him because I couldn’t really hear him, and we ended up talking about a bunch of stuff.”
At first, Brooks was worried he and Kruse wouldn’t have anything in common.
“I got a little freaked out because her major and my major don’t really interact, so I was like ‘I don’t really know how to have a conversation with you,’” Brooks said. “Then I realized she’s just really awesome.”
Kruse, who had a history of rushing into relationships, said she wanted to change the way she approached dating. When Brooks asked her out one week after the retreat, Kruse told him she thought it would be better if they started off as friends.
“I pursued the heck out of her for two months straight before she said she was OK with the idea of dating,” Brooks said.
His persistence is one of the traits Kruse found she loved about Brooks.
Photo: Senior Saffron Kruse and fiance, WSU senior Graham Brooks, enjoy their drinks Sunday afternoon at Starbucks in Moscow. Photo by Joleen Evans.
“I appreciate his perseverance — just his, I can’t think of a good word. The only word I can think of his stick-to-it-ive-ness in things like pursuing me for a relationship, sticking it through our relationship and then, like, just in school and in life in general, it’s something I really admire,” Kruse said.
As their relationship progressed, Brooks said he appreciated how Kruse encouraged him to be a better person.
“I appreciate how much you care about people, just the way in which you care because often I find that I don’t and I need someone in my life who can help remind me that people aren’t so terrible,” Brooks said. “You bring out the best in me and make me want to be a better person.”
Although the two students attend schools 10 miles away from each other, Kruse said she likes that she and Brooks attend different universities because it’s allowed them to better focus on their studies and maintain friendships.
“It sucks sometimes, but in the long run it’s helped us because we both have space to get our work done and focus on our friends and maintain healthy connections with other people,” Kruse said.
While Kruse said their relationship developed organically and there wasn’t a particular moment when she realized she was going to marry Brooks, it was Brooks’ roommate who helped him realize he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Kruse.
“I remember talking with my roommate, who is in the Marine Corps, about my relationship with her and he was like, ‘Graham, you need to marry her. Just stop thinking in terms of just having a relationship with her because you are different right now and you need to just go the whole way. You need to be a better man than you’ve ever been before and you need to be more charming than you’ve ever been before and you just need to make this happen,’” Brooks said.
Brooks said that was the moment he realized his relationship with Saffron was all or nothing — that he was going to make it work. Two months of friendship, one year and several months of dating and three failed proposal plans later, he did.
Corrin Bond can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CorrBond