Monday, March 2, 2015

An American in Paris.

It was six months until my wife's birthday in September and I had come up with the world's best plan to surprise her on her special day.  I was so excited it was hard to contain myself.

The plan would go like this . . .

I would save up some money for two plane tickets to Germany and then rent a car to travel to some friends in Germany.  We would stay there a little over a week visiting some of the best sights in Europe: The Swiss Alps, Paris, Neuschwanstein and the Black Forest.

The best part about my plan?  I would completely sweep her off her feet!  I would keep all of this a secret until about two hours before we need to leave for the airport.  In my head I saw the surprised and ecstatic look on her face as I told her she was going to Europe for the very first time!  "Grab your clothes, throw them in a suitcase and let's be off to Europe just the two of us!"  She would then throw her arms around me and I would win husband of the year.

That was in my head.  I love ideas when they are in your head.  There is a big difference, however, between your plans and reality.

Especially when your wife is a planner . . .

And you have two young kids . . .

. . .  and the day of your flight is the first day of KINDERGARTEN for the first child.

Yes, you read that right.  The day we take off was also the first day of school.  You know, pictures of your kids posing with their lunch box and backpack . . . mom wiping away tears.  Walking them to the bus stop.  Spending the rest of the day emotional about how fast the time is going.

I remembered this fact after purchasing the tickets.

Yeah, I just figured that was small potatoes when you consider EUROPE!  I was convinced that I was getting husband of the year despite the small 'first day of school' oversight.  She'll get over it, right?  

I justified and defended my actions in my head: Every mom of little kids instantly forgets their children and is ready for a romantic vacation with their husband in another country as soon as their little one gets on a school bus on their first day of school ever, right?

Well my wife sniffed something was going on in the summer when I asked her to get her passport for the 10th time.  She looked me in the eye and said, "what are you planning . . . tell me now."

"You'll ruin the surprise," I protested.

"Tell me now, I don't like surprises."

Excuse me, who doesn't like surprises - everyone loves surprises - what is she thinking?

"Trust me honey, you will want to be surprised"

"I am not going anywhere until you tell me what you have planned."

I gave in.  I was really sad that I was letting the surprise out of the bag but I figured I could at least collect my trophy early for what I was about to tell her.

It didn't go at all like I thought . . .

Her face turned from adamant to confused and then to what I can best describe as 'really confused.'  To her credit she thanked me for thinking of it all and planning such an amazing week.  She kept taking deep breaths and had this far away look in her eyes.  Having never been out of the country before was something that weighed on her as a mom with little kids.  So she was starting to get used to the idea and then she brought up, "but you are thinking of doing this before school starts, right."

And here is where the bomb goes off.  3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

"Um, no . . . I'm not thinking of it, I already bought the tickets."

You should have been there . . . I can laugh about it now, but it was clear in the moment how much I didn't even consider something as important as the first day of school.

"When are the tickets for?"  She asked.

How do you actually say, "the first day of school" in a way that doesn't make you look like the most insensitive man that ever walked the earth?

This was definitely not going well.  She was genuinely touched that I thought of her enough to do something like this.  She assured me that she understood I meant well.  However, she was equally ticked that for some reason I forgot we had children and that my plan for our son's first day of school involved her mother filling in for her.

This is why marriage is fun.  Maybe not at the time you go through it, but definitely looking back I shake my head at how clueless I was.  The discussion had some tears and some genuine moments of anger but it simmered and eventually cooled.

. . . until I told her that we were traveling on Air India.

No joke.  That took a few days to get over.  This was post-9/11 and she was convinced that we were going to die.

You should have seen how cheap those tickets were though!

And it was really cool to fly on a plane with live animals.

All this is to say take comfort - the thing that you think is about to break you may very well be the thing that you will laugh at in the years to come.  Seriously, you might think the fight you have with your parents or your best friend or your spouse is the thing that is about to un-do you.  Over time, with enough love and understanding (and the grace of God), you will look back and laugh.   As my mom always said, "this too shall pass."

Hold onto that, because it might be all you have right now.

And I will have to continue this story with the actual trip - the bugs in our hotel room in Paris were enormous (and yes, we can laugh about that now, too).

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