Surprise, Surprise!


Part(y) I
Personally, I don't like surprises, but Dani doesn't like planning things.  By default of both those corollaries, she's the one of us who's going to get surprised and it will be by something I've planned.  Usually she's surprised that her ADD partner can plan anything.  Odds are you've already heard several stories about the wedding surprises I pulled on her (starting with the proposal right on through the reception), but now everything was coming together all at once again.

See, I always have to work pretty hard around this time of year.  Dani's birthday is 12/1, then there was our old (i.e., before the wedding) anniversary on 12/22, and then Santa needs to show up on 12/25.  That's a lot of gifts to gather together in a short period of time.  I never ask Dani what she wants either.  It's a game I play with myself that presents are always a surprise.  Of course, it means I have to listen for ideas all year long, but that's part of what makes this fun for both of us.

One thing I knew was this: Dani loves horses, and a horseback trail ride has been among the things I've wanted to surprise her with for the last couple of years; it's just always been so cold (and rainy sometimes) that outdoor activities are not an option by the time her birthday arrives.  I thought that was a great opportunity for a birthday party, just one that would happen a couple weeks early this year... precisely when she wouldn't be expecting it.

I emailed a group of friends and asked if anyone was interested in going on a trail ride.  I got Mark and Brindle and Kristen to meet us out there.  I didn't tell Dani; I just told her to put tennis shoes on.

"But I'm on call for work," she said.

"No you aren't," I replied.

By now she knows not to argue because I'm going to make her happy.  The proposal, the wedding surprises, Halloween after Halloween, I'm all about making memories.  That's my job, and it's the one thing I'm good at.  She didn't know it, but I had one of her co-workers cover for her for a few hours.  I just steered her to the car and pointed the way from there.

The ranch is only about five miles from our place on the southern edge of FW.  I had scouted it earlier to see exactly where it was, how long it would take to get there, etc.  We scheduled the trail ride for 1pm and got there about 15 minutes early with the liability forms filled out and everything; they were under the seat.

As we got right up close to the place, it finally dawned on Dani where we were heading.  I told her where to park and she was like, "You've been here before?!"  As we got out of the car and walked up to the place, Mark and Brindle were standing in front of the main office waiting for us.  Dani was still reeling from the fact we were going riding, and then a couple friends were there as well.  A few minutes later Kristen showed up.  Not long after that, we were riding on the trail.  It was a group of about ten or so of us counting a couple of the guides.  I'm not into horses, but I'm always up for new things.

The ride itself was fun, and easy enough for a first-timer (like most of us were) to handle.  It was just an hour heading out into a well-trodden path through the woods that the horses have done about a thousand times.  These guys are more or less retired from anything but this monotonous job, so they were pretty easy-going.  Dani loved it just the same.  She's never been into anything more adventurous than that.

After the trail ride, Kristen took off to go visit her mom, but the rest of us headed over to a park down the street.  Once we got there, I popped the trunk and pulled out a carrot cake and drinks for everyone.  (Actually I had a separate vegan cake for Mark and Brindle, no eggs or something; I don't know what was special about it.)  Dani was shocked that so much planning went on without her knowing about it.  Superheroes are good at things like this.  For example, how many of you know my real name?  See.  There you go.



Part(y) II
What Dani didn't realize was that the trail ride was smokescreen.  Every time she would bring up something about her birthday coming up (which was surprisingly often for her), I would say, "Hey, you already had your birthday.  Don't be greedy!"  This was especially funny in light of the fact she forgot my birthday when it came around a few months earlier.  The whole morning of mine I kept saying things like "Could you make me breakfast in bed like it was my birthday?" and "Could you give me a massage like it was my birthday."  Her response was to tell me to go fuck myself; I didn't deserve anything special.  The guilt set in around 2pm when it finally dawned on her what the date was.

Like I said, the ostensible reason why I did the trail ride two weeks before her birthday was because I didn't know what the weather would be like on the actual date.  In fact, within a couple days of the trail ride, winter had arrived and it just as cold and rainy as I expected it to be.  I got the timing exactly right this year and finally crossed something off my "to do" list.

Of course, if you're one of Dani's friends, you know that the next Monday I started sending out Evites to the surprise party I was planning.  This involved a lot of digging around and calling because Dani does the worst job of almost anyone when it comes to keeping her address book up to date.  The evite itself linked to this page which prospective guests were alternately frightened by or found absolutely hilarious, but yes, I would have ruined the lives of anyone who spoiled the surprise.

Once I had a decent enough idea how many people were coming, I had to sneak around shopping.  A few days before the night of the party I was able to buy anything that didn't need to be refrigerated (e.g., chips, party plates, etc.) and just leave that all hidden in my trunk.  However, I couldn't sneak anything into the fridge like, say, a veggie tray without Dani knowing something was up.  I talked to my neighbor Linda and asked if I could use some space in her fridge.  She was cool with that (no pun intended).  Since she was going out the day of the party, so she let me borrow her keys.

I spent the morning finishing straightening up the place.  For the three days or so leading up to this point, I had Dani helping me clean around the house on account of the supposed fact that my OCD was flaring up and only she could help keep me out of the ICU.  We decorated for xmas, got piles of junk that needed putting away finally put away, and washed all the accumulated laundry and dishes.  While she was out, I gave the place a clean sweep both literally and figuratively and cleared lots of space to put out food, etc. for later that night.

Dani loves carrot cake, so I knew she would welcome a second helping in as many weeks, but of course that was the one thing Target didn't have when I went out that afternoon for everything else I still needed.  I'm driving around with a trunk full of groceries looking for this one last thing.  I end up at the grocery store down the street from us, but no luck there either.  I'm on my way to the third store hoping to end this scavenger hunt when the cell phone rings... from my house.  Worst possible news: Dani is home.  She tells me there isn't much going on at work so she decided to take the rest of the afternoon off.  I'm like, "Oh, shit."

I lie and say I'm out hitting pawn shops in search of still more guitars, that I'll be back in a little while.  It turns into the French Connection as I give Linda a call and we end up doing a hand-off of the groceries in a shopping center between where the two of us happened to be at the time.  She loads it all in her fridge when she gets home.  In the meantime, I go home and hang out with Dani for a bit, but around 5:30, as planned, her friend Jessica swings by and picks her up to go out to eat and to do some early xmas shopping.

From the time Dani leaves, I'm in a mad dash to get all the crap out the car, out of Linda's fridge, and all set up.  Fortunately and at my request, Tracy came over ahead of the rest of the guests and handled the cooking (okay, microwaving) and we put up most of the decorations before people started showing up (plus lots of folks blew up balloons once they got there).

When Dani finally arrived, she was just about floored when we all yelled "Surprise!" as she came through the front door.  She stood there for several minutes speechless trying to get her head around what was happening.  Honestly, I was a bit worried until just then because I really didn't know if she had found out and was just playing along, but it worked.  The secret was safe until the proper moment.  Moral: When in doubt, Dani won't notice most things hidden in plain sight, but it's best to play it safe anyway.


Copyright 2008 Alexplorer.
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