Posts Tagged ‘times square’

The Surprise

December 22, 2011

A gift and a surprise are two different things. A gift may not be a surprise and a surprise may not be a gift. But sometimes, you get lucky and get two for one – a gift that is a surprise to receive.

I’ve never really been one for giving or receiving “planned” or “scheduled” gifts. I like to call it “premeditated gifting”. It takes the fun out of it for me. Like birthdays, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas. You know someone is going to give you a gift on that day because they feel like they have to. Boring. Too easy. And for me, I don’t like the challenge of having to purchase a gift for someone just because a certain date requires it. I feel pressured and can never seem to figure out the appropriate thing to give.

What I do for people I really like is to keep mental notes of things they like, need or want. And when they least expect it, for no good reason, just because I was thinking of them when I saw it or decided to create it… I give it to them. It’s a surprise and because it wasn’t dictated by a holiday or some other  occasion, it’s even more special. Those are the types of presents I like to receive, too.

My husband, kids and friends know this about me, and we, therefore, very rarely engage in premeditated gift-giving. However, my husband and I have had an unspoken challenge to try and get each other with the surprise element whenever we can. I’ve gotten him pretty good a few times with unexpected surprises that we still talk about. After a few thwarted surprises, he’s been able to catch me completely unaware creating some awesome memories. But what he did this week topped them all…

The Surprise:

A couple of months ago, my husband sent me a calendar event request:

Wednesday 12/21/11 6:00pm – Date Night

I accepted the calendar request and went on about my busy life without thinking too much about it. As the date came closer, my schedule became more hectic with clients, classes, and various end-of-year activities. That Monday, I asked my husband if we could push back the time a little to accommodate a class I wanted to take. He firmly replied, “No.”

On Tuesday, I received a cryptic phone call… “Althea, you need to be at the airport at 11:00 tomorrow morning. Bring an overnight bag and dress warmly with comfortable boots.”

Huh? My mind immediately scrolled through my Wednesday to-do list and appointments. Payroll, client, drive friend to the hospital, etc. etc. “Uh, no I can’t do that, Maurice.”

“Uh, yes you can. Call and reschedule your clients and make arrangements for the other stuff. Your mother will arrive tonight to take care of the kids. Check your email and print the boarding pass that’s there,” he commanded. The tone of his voice let me know there was no use arguing.

Okay, I’d play along. It was only one night. I printed the boarding pass for LaGuardia Airport in New York and packed a small backpack. The next morning, I dressed comfortably, put on a lightweight coat and my favorite Converse All Star high-top winter booties and headed for the airport. I dutifully boarded the plane, flew 2 hours, and waited in LaGuardia’s baggage claim for my husband. While I waited, I started imagining what this surprise could be… I’ve never seen a Broadway show and I’ve always thought that would be cool. Maybe we’d see the Lion King or The Color Purple or something crazy I’d love. Maybe we’d hook up with some friends from the past and eat at a great restaurant and dance and party like we were in our twenties again. Maybe… Before I could fantasize about another possibility, there he was striding quickly through the doors.

“Come on, let’s go. We don’t have much time,” he said abruptly as he handed me a box, kissed me quickly, and headed toward the taxi stand. I jogged behind him to keep up.

We drove through the rush hour holiday traffic and ended up in front of one of New York’s oldest and finest landmark hotels. We quickly checked in, freshened up and then Maurice was looking at his watch again. I asked if I should wear the more stylish high heel boots I’d stuffed in my overnight bag. But the look on my husband’s face told me to keep on the All Stars. I briefly wondered what kind of activity would warrant such a casual look, but Maurice had changed from his work attire into a pair of jeans and comfortable loafers, so I trusted him and stepped back into my winter booties.

Once we were outside, Maurice asked the porter which direction to go for BB Kings. BB Kings? I hate Blues music. But I’d suck it up and go with it. I’d act like I loved it and enjoy the evening with my husband. So, we walked past the waiting taxis and headed up the street. The weather was nice, the lights in Time Square were bright, and people were in a festive holiday mood as they brushed past in various directions. It’s been years since I’ve hung out in New York, and I took in the smells of the street vendors, the various languages being spoken, and the horns blaring from taxis whizzing past with fondness. I was so wrapped up in walking, talking and laughing with Maurice, that I temporarily forgot that there was an end result to this evening.

At one point, Maurice looked over at me with a weird look on his face. “What?” I asked him. He didn’t respond, he simply shrugged and kept walking, but at a slower pace. I stepped in stride with him and continued looking ahead when I saw it. The marquee directly in front of us. I stopped in the middle of the moving crowd and let out a gasp. I literally couldn’t breathe as I read the marquee. Maurice began to laugh and took out the camera to take a picture of my face. I don’t know what I said or did, but I remember the people around us on the street looking at me like I was crazy. I hugged Maurice and felt tears well up in my eyes.

Background:

This past summer, several of our friends, my brother and his wife, and Maurice and I purchased tickets to a concert event with multiple groups performing. I liked them all, but there was only one I really wanted to see – my favorite R&B group. The day of the concert, though, Maurice was running late, traffic was bad and we couldn’t find a parking space once we got there. When we finally made our way through the line and into the amphitheater, the group I had been waiting a month and all that day to see had already finished their set and were gone from the stage. The second act was performing and I was absolutely devastated. I tried my best not to let anyone know how sad I was to miss my favorite group performing live, but I think my brother and husband knew.

Back to Time Square:

Mint Condition

Those were the only words on the marquee of the BB King music hall. My favorite group. Maurice knew how hurt I was to miss them when they were performing in Atlanta earlier in the year and he’d searched until he found them in a venue I’d love. The concert hall was an intimate room with a bar in the back, tables around the side and standing room only in the center. We ordered appetizers at the bar, then posted up along the rail in the standing room only section. Mint Condition blew it away. I sang, danced and jammed for two hours. I didn’t get off my feet until we stopped in Famiglia’s Pizza on Broadway for a slice at 11:30pm.

Christmas is three days away, but no gift under or around the tree could compare to the present I received on Wednesday December 20 in New York City.

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