For thirty years now, Alex and I have loved each other for richer and for poorer, for better and for worse, and in sickness and in health. We moved to a new country together, bungee jumped off the Kawarua Bridge together, and I have no doubt that we'll both meet the end of our lives together. (It will be when he makes a left hand turn on a yellow light.)
For thirty years he's been putting up with my goofy sense of humor while I've ensured that the top drawer of his chest is replenished weekly with clean, neatly folded underpants.
He's been tolerating my love of David Bowie, Rupert Sheldrake and Bernard Haisch while I've cleaned soap scum from the shower stall, polished the bathroom mirrors, and scrubbed the toilet bowl until it sparkles like diamonds.
He's been putting up with my lunacy while I've been howling at the moon and scratching my ears with my hind feet.
When our 30th Anniversary was approaching we both promised one another that neither of us would buy a gift. We were both lying, of course. We simply had to negotiate how big a lie it would be.
We're planning to go away next summer, so we tried to pretend that would be our Anniversary trip. But summer's a long way off and we wanted to do something special. I thought dinner would be great. Alex had other ideas.
Before I knew it, he was plotting to take me somewhere and all he'd tell me is that I'd be leaving on December 8 and returning December 13th. Now, if you know me, you know I can think of all sorts of spectacular things that could happen in a period of five days. Like a really, really quick trip to Paris. A seminar with Eckhard Tolle in Vancouver. Five days at a monastery where they chant the Vespers in Latin.
There's no end of wonderful things I can imagine Alex would be planning. Weekend in Bermuda? Visit to Quebec City to practice our French? Up to Alaska to be enthralled by the Northern Lights?
Unfortunately for Alex, when I'm lacking information, I don't imagine the worst. I imagine stuff so unbelievably fantastic that no one could hope to deliver it.
As the trip drew nearer, I started questioning Alex about where it was we were going. Did I need to pack my 1850 watt 120 volt hairdryer, 120 volt flat iron, straightening serum and Frizz-Ease hairspray? Or did I need my 1850 watt 240 volt hairdryer with the three prong plug for Britain, 240 volt flat iron with three prong plug for Britain, straightening serum, Frizz-Ease hairspray and an umbrella? Or did I need my 1850 watt 240 volt hairdryer with the three prong plug for Europe, 240 volt flat iron with three prong plug for Europe, straightening serum, Frizz-Ease hairspray, umbrella and French-English dictionary?
He refused to say a word.
But as the day drew nearer, he showed up with three carry-on suitcases and said, "We've got to put everything in these.
Everything? My hair styling aids alone would fill up 1/3 of the space! Where on Earth were we going? On a donkey ride up to Macchu Pichcu? Taking a ride on the Space Shuttle? Not only would he not give me a clue, he was getting downright annoyed that I wouldn't stop asking. But he agreed to tell me the night before we left, just in case there were something special I needed to pack -- like rain boots, a blow torch and a Snuggie. It was then he informed me I needed to get up at 3:00 a.m.
Yup. Three in the morning. Three hours after midnight. It's not "up at the crack of dawn." It's up before dawn has even reached Portugal! And then he gave me the news; he told me we were going to Seattle.
Seattle in December.
Cold, gray, wet, windy, gray, more wet, and more bone-chilling, freezing cold, foggy, wet Seattle.
To say I was stunned is an understatement. I simply refused to believe it. There was no way my husband was taking me to Seattle in December to celebrate our 30th Anniversary. Absolutely no way. Seattle is a place you leave in December. I've been there many times on business trips and even the people who live there say they can't stand the constant clouds and rain. Sure it's a gorgeous, modern northwestern city. In the summer, it's a paradise on Earth. But December? Hideous. Hideous with a raincoat and frostbite.
(Now, I hope I haven't given the impression that I'm spoiled rotten and demand exotic and expensive destinations. That's not true. I'd rather have a romantic dinner at The Wine Guy in Pickerington, Ohio than go to someplace cold and wet and gray. And cloudy.)
I decided to set aside the idea of going to (gray, wet, cold) Seattle and gave Alex the gift I'd had made for him. It was a beautifully framed, typewritten letter on a piece of memo stationery from Saffer, Cravit and Freedman Advertising. Alex had typed it the first day we met -- in 1979 in Toronto -- when I'd come for an interview for a job. He offered me the position on the spot and I was so shocked by the offer, I asked that he put it into writing. I'd kept that letter for well over 30 years.
I'm sorry to say that he was as shocked (and disappointed) by the letter as I was with the trip to (gasp!) Seattle. But he thanked me and reminded me we had to get up early in the morning.
We said our goodnights, cool goodnights I might add, and it wasn't until my crying kept him awake that he finally confessed he was taking me to Victoria, BC.
Ahhh...Victoria. Pilots call it the "blue hole" because the sun is almost always shining. For Victoria, BC I could get up at 3:00. Hurray!
We flew out of Columbus, Ohio when most people are still saying goodnight to each other, and landed in Chicago an hour later. After a brief wait, we got on a plane to Seattle. I think I slept. I'm not sure. I was getting really excited about going to someplace nice and sunny.
After we got to SeaTac, we took a bus to a little airport operated by Kenmore Airline. It's a little operation that flies into Victoria, taking off and landing on water. Having never been on a seaplane before, this was something really exciting. And it explained why we could take so little luggage.
From the sea plane I could see sparsely populated, forested islands where very lucky people lived in small cottages, grand mansions and everything in between. I couldn't imagine living so remotely, and wondered if the rainwater were enough to fill their reservoirs. And then I remembered...cold, wet, rainy... Yes, they'd have plenty of water.
When we landed in sunny Victoria, Alex told me it would be a short walk to the hotel, so we grabbed our luggage and started our trek up a hill. Much to my surprise, it WAS a short walk. (Even our kids will attest to the fact that Alex's idea of a short stroll is a Roman Legionnaire's campaign march. That man can walk so far that our sons-in-law have warned one another, "If he asks you take a walk, don't do it!")
It had been a long day, and I was ready to rest. Little did I know that the night had just begun. Alex had made reservations for us to eat at Stages, a great little restaurant that serves the world's best french fries and duck confit. And then we went to see a play, Jitters. It was a Canadian-written production (of course!) and was funny...but after being up for 22 hours straight, I have to admit we were both relieved when it was over.
We were exhausted. I thought the bed in the Chateau Victoria was wonderfully comfortable for the 2.5 seconds I was conscious.
The next morning, after a breakfast that included gluten-free French Toast, Alex announced that I was going for a massage at a local spa. Ahhhh... It was heavenly. I had a steam bath, massage, and reflexology. It's amazing what they can tell you just by touching your feet. I couldn't help but think of all the money I've wasted on CAT scans, MRIs, EEGs, EKGs, and Myelograms when all I needed was a lady who could read my feet.
After the surprise visit to the spa, Alex met me at the hotel. He'd bought flowers for our room and gave me a card that was so sweet it made me cry. What a romantic he is!
Instead of going to lunch, as he'd originally planned, we decided we were still full from breakfast so we went on a tour of the city. Victoria's a great place, capital city of British Columbia, and it has a rich history that's celebrated on plaques throughout the area and in lots of local museums.
Our first stop was the Christ Church Cathedral where we were greeted by the nicest lady who gave us a private tour. She was a member of the congregation who volunteered a few hours a week, and she was only to happy to speak about the history of the building, pointing out particularly interesting features. My favorite was a stone carving of a robin and a nest perched at the top of a column. It turned out that when the cathedral was built, a robin had her nest there and she tormented the workers for fear they'd destroy her nest. They waited patiently for her fledglings to leave before they completed their work on the column, then immortalized the bird with a statue.
Isn't that great? Right there in this massive stone cathedral is a carving of a bird who protected her babies.
The pulpit was also very interesting. It was sponsored by the Hudson Bay Company, who paid for the wood used to make it. An enormous tree was felled and stored for 30 years before the carving began! The artist paid tribute to the company by decorating the altar with intricate carvings that included a beaver and a bear.
We stayed a couple of hours at the cathedral before wandering through the many interesting shops, boutiques and book stores. For dinner, Alex had made reservations at the city's most celebrated Italian restaurant. Fantastico!
The next day, and our last in Victoria, we were up and out of the hotel to see an IMAX movie about the proud and noble beaver. Unfortunately, Alex had accidentally purchased tickets for the previous day and instead of a movie, there was a private event. Oh, well... That gave us time to enjoy the city before a surprise at 4:00 in the afternoon.
TIME TRAVEL BACK TO JUNE 1975. I was engaged to a guy whose cousin was being ordained as a minister, so I went with him and his entire family to see the ordination in Depew, New York. It was the first and only time I met Craig Knight.
Since that time, Craig has left the Lutheran Ministry and ended up working with the Minister of Health in British Columbus. I reconnected with him sort of by accident through e-mail (thinking he was someone else) and when he realized who I was, we struck up a great long distance friendship. He's got a really sick and twisted sense of humor...just like mine! Alex met Craig last summer when he was attending a photography seminar in Victoria, so he'd arranged for Craig, his wife Diane, and us to have dinner together. What a delight!
Craig and Diane gave us a tour of the city and their neighborhood, blissfully close to the ocean, and then we went to their home. Their gardens would have been lovely if it were summer. I could tell by all fruit trees, lavender and rhododendrons that the blossoms would be spectacular. The four of us had dinner at an elegant French restaurant and while I don't recall what I ate, I do know that when I returned home from our 30th Anniversary trip I weighed six pounds more than when I left.
It was a wonderful trip. Alex, who NEVER plans our vacations, had organized everything entirely on his own and had done a fantastic job of it. (This makes me wonder how I ended up as our official Travel Agent. He says it's the same reason I was assigned the role of Official Wirer of Electronic Equipment: He doesn't want to be bothered. What I thought he'd couldn't do, he simply didn't want to do!)
I hope that everyone has a 30th Anniversary as wonderful as mine. I can't imagine how it could have been better.
And now...back to another 30 years of ensuring his drawer is filled with clean underpants, and his toilet is sparkling clean.