I bought my Mrs. car parts for her anniversary. No, I am not kidding. It is what she wanted and I learned long ago that the first rule of gift giving is “give them what they want,” not what you think is proper or cool or romantic. Gifts are all about the receiver. So when she suggested that we re-chrome a number of items for her 1956 Olds that we are restoring, I was happy to oblige – at least I could say I got her something shiny for our special day.
However, while the pieces we had restored are a beautiful and pragmatic gift, the work did not come cheap. Implication? Our anniversary date would definitely have to be on a budget.
So I started planning a picnic date. I found a lovely secluded location up a mountainside beside a small waterfall. It was perfect. But then, a week before our date, my Mrs. pulled her achilles tendon. Fortunately the ultrasound showed that it was just a strain, not ruptured or torn, but for obvious reasons there would be no mountain hike possible on our date and the terrain was just too rough for a wheelchair (I actually checked). This location and the activities it made possible would have to wait for another day.
Plan B. With all romantic gestures, it is a good idea to have a plan b just in case. And a plan C, D & E if it is a really important date. Be flexible. In this case I think plan B actually turned out better than what I had originally planned.
The weather could not have been lovelier. I walked home from school energized by a gorgeous Spring day. The sun felt warm, but not too hot, and the only clouds in the sky, far from being menacing, were like fluffy props hung for imagining and reminiscing.
Thanks in part to being sprung from work a few minutes early by a thoughtful co-worker, I arrived home before my Mrs. I needed a few minutes to round things up without her there and to get the water for the spaghetti started. Picnic basket, check. Sparkling beverage-check. “Wine” glasses – check. Blanket-check. Supplies from Ikea-Check. Balloons into a black plastic bag for transport and hiding – check. Fishing line – check. Flowers – Ch.. hey, wait!
I needed a few sprigs of lilacs, our wedding flower. I went into the backyard to cut some from the bushes we had planted there shortly after we moved into our house. Grown from sprigs cut from her childhood home, these blooms hold a lot of symbolism. And they were dead! OK, not totally dead, but all of the large blooms had significant portions that were brown and past their prime.
Did I mention that lilacs hold a lot of symbolism? There was no way that giving my Mrs. lilacs even slightly tarnished would be OK for an anniversary. Dead and dying was not a notion I wanted attached to our current state of matrimonial bliss – better no lilacs than dead lilacs! Fortunately, I had my doubts about the state of our bushes and had purchased a small purplish potted rose “just in case.” I took the best partial sprigs of lilacs, made sure I plucked off all the brownish blooms, and then cut small stems of the purple blooms to tuck in among the roses. Phew. It didn’t look half bad.
The familiar “mini-honk” of the car doors locking by remote announced my Mrs. arrival from work. My daughter would tell me later that we were just “too cute.” My love is the best hugger in the universe and her kisses always make me smile. She “landed” and watched me finish preparing and packing our meal: spaghetti, garlic bread, carrots, apple slices with dipping caramel, and a single small bag of popcorn.
Our picnic basket full and accessories packed, we headed out in the car.
“Someplace nostalgic or somewhere new for our picnic?” I asked. I had a couple of ideas in mind, but I was almost certain my Mrs. would pick a tried and true location.
I smiled knowingly. Perfect. Our picnic would be at a local urban lake park; the place where I first kissed my wife (but not the first place we kissed; long story <grin>), a setting full of warm memories.
We parked the car, pulled our supples from the car and walked hand-in-hand to a great piece of lawn to set up. I laid out our sports blanket and covered it with the red plaid fabric I’d acquired for the event. We put out a single mirror on the blanket to provide a sold base for the flowers and wine glasses.
Picnic basket empty of food and supplies, I unveiled the three mylar balloons I’d hidden in the large, black, plastic garage bag tucked in our supplies: a beautiful pink themed balloon representing my Mrs., a mostly matching tropical balloon representing me (moving to Costa Rica is a running gag in our house), and a third balloon with a silver cross in the middle to represent the importance of God and out faith to our relationship. I carefully unwound the spool of fishing line already attached to the end of the three purple balloon ribbons raising to the balloons to about 50 feet overhead and then anchored the line to the handle of the picnic basket. The sight brought back memories from when we first started going out as we’d flown balloons at this very lake over 27 years earlier.
I pulled out a second mirror and placed it on the blanket as a base for our candles. While we ate, we took turns lighting small tea-lights, each one accompanied by the retelling of a happy memory from our years together. I was actually really surprised by my Mrs. Normally the quiet sort, she really got into it… “Remember the time that…?” We easily reached our goal. 27 candles representing 27 memories for our 27 years together flickered in front of us.
Sometime during our meal, a rather boisterous middle aged woman (I think she was probably from my local group home) and her aide came up to us to ask if they could take our picture with her disposable camera. “This is what love should look like!” she said. We just smiled.
The main course of our meal complete, I broke out the apple slices & caramel and popcorn because it was movie time. My Mrs. favorite movie is the wonderfully politically incorrect “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and I made sure a copy of the movie was on my iPhone before our date. We didn’t end up watching the movie to the end (Mrs. found the singing a little shrill in the headphones) but she still made me feel appreciated for the gesture.
My Mrs. and I laid back on the blanket and snuggled for a while, staring at the fluffy clouds and watching the balloons flutter, all the while remembering and feeling the moment. Eventually, we packed up and continued the evening with a lovely romantic drive through Belcarra, a beautiful forested, oceanside area of our area, the “I Love You Just Because” playlist playing in the background.
We reminisced and digested for about an hour and then headed over to Mr. Mikes for coffee and dessert. While this steakhouse is not the most romantic restaurant in the world, it does happen to serve our favorite shareable dessert. “Rocky Mountain Madness” is a blissful combination of chocolate cheese cake and brownie that has parts for each of us. I don’t really care for cheesecake, my wife doesn’t really care for brownies, but there is something for both of us, something magical, in this combination. I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
The evening out portion of our anniversary drawn to a close, we headed home, satisfied and refreshed in body and soul, imagining the rest of our lives together.