Monday night I came home a bit dejected-seeming from work. I asked Bridgette, “how bad would it be if I went a bit over-budget on your birthday?”
The cautious reply: “How much over budget?”
“That might be pushing things a bit….”
“How about $850?” I paused for her shock, and to let that sink in for a moment. “See, there was this ATV for sale, shiny-black, with a raccoon tail from the antennae and the mudflap girl on the back…. Okay. Relax. I didn’t buy the ATV.” We talked for a bit and I noted that I’d been looking at rings, and hadn’t been comfortable with the choices available or spending the money from our joint account.
“You’re tipping your hand about the ATV,” she noted. We explored for a bit, and finally decided that what I’d need was for her to join me in shopping for rings and looking at price tags, and hoped to do that later in the week, or perhaps the week after.
Tuesday was Bridgette’s birthday. I woke her to kisses and flowers, wished her a happy birthday and left her to go back to sleep. When she rose to shut off the alarm clock and feed the baby birds (she breeds birds) she found two boxes of crackers next to the clock, decorated with a bright bow and a card; “Why would this be a good present? Love you….” Following a chain of reason, she investigated the refrigerator and discovered a gift bag with a cheese torte(sun-dried tomato with basil and garlic. Mmmmm.) and a more sentimentally appropriate card.
And so the day went. She needed to wrestle boxes to find appropriate clothing for dinner that night, and on her boxes of clothes was another gift. Her niece and nephew had called her and asked her to stop by to receive hand-made birthday cards and found more gifts (one of these was a couple yards of foil garland to wear in her hair, something I’d asked her neice to insist on. Why? Because public humiliation is how we say “I love you” to those we hold close.). She knows me well enough that when she joined me to go to dinner, she was expecting a dramatic finish to the gift build-up. After the discussion last night, she wasn’t expecting (I believe) a ring, but might still be thinking a formal proposal was in the works. There was nothing. I was quite appreciative of how she was decked out (pause while I think about that for a moment.) but provided no new gifts. The tension, I suspect, was something that you could cut with a knife and spread on crackers, if you ran out of cheese torte with sun-dried tomato and garlic and basil.
Dinner was at the Jacksonville Inn. We got very nearly lost on the way; I was, I explained, following directions gleaned from the phone, but we relied heavily on Bridgette’s memory from 15 years ago to get us there. With obviously apparent luck, we overshot the restaurant by only a block and were there. The place is just wallowing in affluent luxury. I loved it. We were seated, and considered wines and appetizers and such, and things were lovely. After the appetizer was served, another tray was set near the table, and several gift bags were placed on the tray and then served to Bridgette. Inside was a ridiculous number of varied plant bulbs — I had given her a garden for her birthday, our first garden together. Misty eyes, big smiles, much kudos for a day of pleasant surprises and build-ups, and for seeming entirely ignorant of the location of the Jacksonville Inn when I had obviously set up this business during the day. Very nice. The dramatic finish was manifest, and the tension was correspondingly lower. A pleasant meal followed, with warm side passages into birthday appreciation, both for the birthday girl and the choreographer.
Dessert was brought, a tray of some dozen desserts, each one introduced to us by our server, it’s proper name given and its heritage discussed, along with the relative virtues of each dessert. Finally, she turned the tray 180 degrees on the table, saying, “And tonight we have a special selection –” and revealed the open ring box that had been facing away from Bridgette through the production.
I looked the tray over and said, thoughtfully considering, “I think we should have the ring.”
Bridgette was crying before I could hit the floor with a bended knee. Neither of us recalls exactly what I asked, but it was apparently quite eloquent. By the end of it I was breaking up, too. I was kissed and hugged and she eventually said, against my neck, “Yes.” There was more of the kissing and such, and then she continued the murmur through happy tears, “I think the lemon mousse.”
Perfect. Never let a minor issue like the proposal of marriage interfere with an important affair like dessert.
And, in fact, the mousse was terrific.
Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry