My dear Jedidiah has always been one to thrill me with surprises. One of the most memorable (and embarrassing) of these surprises happened during our long-distance dating stage while I was attending school in Mobile and he in Virginia. At that time, I was living with mom and dad in the white house or may have just been there for the weekend. I cannot recall. In any event, it was late at night and I was in my pajamas ready for bed when Mom called me downstairs. I remember stopping short in my frizzed hair and pig-print pajama shorts (I got rid those things shortly thereafter) to find a strange, yet familiar, person sitting on our couch grinning at me.
After eight years of marriage, he has perfected his skill all the more. I suppose I would have been suspicious had it been our tenth, and so was caught quite off guard for number eight. Anyway, the date fell on a Tuesday. As usual, I was busy with the boys for most of the day and was feeling bummed I had not put some more effort into celebrating the occasion. My only plan was to have dinner as a family and watch our wedding video together. I wished I had gotten to the store to pick up ingredients for my favorite cherry cream cheese pie.
We watched the video with the boys less than enthralled, but attuned simply because they knew the alternative was bedtime. Reuben was more honest and cried for bed. After the older two went down, my sweet husband, grinning again, pulled out my favorite dessert. He had made the pie at work in order to surprise me that night. He hoped that I wouldn’t miss my blender that day.
So, I thought that was sufficient surprise and celebration. However, there was more to come.
We had been pushing all through the week to prepare the upstairs room for guests to come when the baby was born. We had let years go by without sorting papers, so it was quite the task. I was pleased and thought it noble that Jed worked so diligently with me to finish the job.
As it turns out, he knew a guest was coming much sooner than December.
He explained later that his plan was to surprise me with a night out, courtesy of the Johnsons. He intended to pretend to drop the boys at their house and then come back for me. The surprise would come when he would come back with the boys and his mom instead. But Jan’s plane was delayed until midnight, leaving that ploy unusable. So, he finally just told me that his mom was coming that night. This news of course set me into ultra-cleaning mode.
He had me pack an evening dress and travel clothes and said we’d be back on Monday after doing some driving. Ok! I was excited, but also nervous about having left any loose ends on the home front, given such short notice (did the kids have enough milk and clean underwear?)
We left Saturday morning, not in our van, but in a surprise get-away car waiting for us in the driveway. I looked for identification right away and was both relieved and slightly disappointed to see it was only a rental. After an hour of riding clueless, I wanted to gauge how much further we’d be going, “Just tell me, are we going to Canada?” because I knew that Canada was as north as we could go. At which I was shocked he said, “Well, I can’t lie. Yes.” Oh Canada!
The border patrol attendant asked all the questions for me, “Where are you traveling? What is the purpose of your trip? Where are you staying…” He didn’t know it was supposed to be a surprise. As I learned, we were headed to Winnipeg to stay in the Place Louis Riel.
It was a nice hotel, a suite one, in fact. As we unpacked our things, however, we couldn’t help but overhear commotion from a bunch of guys in the room next door, “Ok everybody up, this one’s a stand-up game!” And away they went with the rounds of drinks. As it wasn’t even dark yet, we figured they’d be at it awhile and so called the front desk to ask for another room, which they thankfully obliged.
Our dinner that night was at a place called Bellissimo. Winnipeg, in general, isn’t a particularly beautiful city and this restaurant fit in, at least the exterior of it. It was set-up in an old strip-mall with a front dining porch, giving the place the feel of a fish camp. When we walked inside however, the hostess was dressed in a skirt with heels, the lighting was low, and there were real cloth napkins on the tables. I could smell seafood and pizza. It was quite the oddity of combinations, but nothing compared to what was coming next.
I typically tend to order things that are new to me or that I can’t easily make at home. Most of the menu was written in English with Italian thrown in to make it fancy. When I saw “beef tips” I thought it would be savory grilled tips with horseradish sauce for dipping. When it came out however, to say the meat was undercooked would be understatement. Apparently the word carpaccione was an important Italian word to know, meaning, “raw.” We choked down a bite each out of politeness and then doggy-bagged the rest. It fried up nicely for breakfast, just like a philly cheesesteak. That was the appetizer.
For my entrée, I ordered a seafood salad with prawns, calamari, and crab with a creamy cucumber dressing. It sounded like summer to me. I must have overlooked another important Italian word, however, because when I saw the platter it seemed more appropriate for Halloween. Mixed in with the normal seafood was about a dozen purple-squishy-thingies about each about an inch wide with eight spirally legs. “Squidgits” is what we ended up calling them. It was then that I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for ever forcing Kaelem to eat something he didn’t like. And so I dared Jed to eat one. And he did, with no repercussions. The pressure was on then. I’d already eaten raw meat while pregnant, why not a squidgit? So, I wrapped the tiniest one I could find in lettuce so as not to see it and popped it down. We went somewhere else for dessert. (Really good gelato from a little shop nearby.)
It was Jed’s goal to pamper and spoil me, which he did well. He showered me with gifts, which he had shopped secretly for weeks in advance, a long red dress, strappy heels, jewelry, and hair accessories. It was quite fun opening each gift and thinking of all the work he had put into making a wonderful time for me.
Sunday evening was the time to dress up in my new attire. We drove to dinner at 523 Wellington. Now this was a nice section of town. As we first passed by the restaurant I thought, wow what a beautiful place. When we came back to it, I was thrilled that we actually were going to go inside. We shared a steak, potatoes, asparagus, and for dessert, chocolate raspberry cheesecake. I don’t know how eating can get much better than that.
Finally, it came time for the big event- the reason for driving eight hours to Winnipeg. I had been trying to spot any advertising for concerts or shows, but only saw something about gargoyles. He had joked already about coming to see The Dark Knight. Anyway, as we came up to the theater that evening and saw the billboard for Yanni, I was excited again.
I remembered back to our first years of dating long-distance, wishing we could be together while passing the time with “Yanni, Live at the Acropolis.” I envisioned myself in a long red dress, dancing in the aisles with my lover. I suppose I had shared this with him at some point along the way, because that is what he set out to do. It was so fun. Yanni was a great performer and the audience had a blast. Jed said it was up to me if we danced or not…which I thought better of, given the tight quarters of the balcony and that other people don’t usually show up in daydreams.
The only bit of sadness I felt during the weekend was hearing Yanni’s worldview of hope in humanity. I too share hope for humanity, but through Christ, the only savior of the world. We’ve been shown so much grace in our eight years of marriage that I can’t imagine a life of hopeless hope in humanity. A humanity that will never rise from the grave. I am learning too just how marriage is a picture of the relationship between God and man. It can either end in glory, or in disaster. I want the earthly marriage between Jedidiah and me to tell the story of glory, passion, sweet service, and love. The third and possibly worst option would be the lukewarm story, one that Jesus wants to spit out of his mouth. So husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. Spoil her, adorn her, serve her, make her know she is loved. How could she not respond in respect?
I know not to expect such grandeur of this type every anniversary, but will always remember this one as “The End of August.”