April 6th, 2010

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Song Info (from Beatlesongs):”Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, and was 80% written by Lennon and 20% by McCartney. John said, ‘My son Julian came in one day with a picture he painted about a school friend of his name Lucy. He had sketched in some stars in the sky and called it Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Simple.’ For the rest of his life Lennon consistently maintained that his four-year-old son Julian’s name for a painting inspired the title, which many thought was a reference to LSD. [Personal note: I believe it, since other songs that were about drugs The Beatles said, ‘Oh, yeah, that one’s about drugs.’ Wouldn’t make sense for them to not cop to all of them.]

If Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that horrible things happen all the time, and even the good things that happen usually have horrible stuff happen along the way before it turns good.  It’s a rare movie where good things happen, and then more good things happen, and then everything ends up good.  Rambo never gets trained, gets in, gets the job done, and gets out – no, he’s gotta get captured or wounded or both before he can finally win, and even then the winning is usually tempered with some other Horrible Thing, like jail, or his girlfriend dying, or something.

Even romantic comedies suffer from this, but in different ways.  If the main girl is in love with a good guy at the beginning of the movie and meets a jerk 20 minutes into the movie, you can pretty much bet that by the end of the movie she has dumped the nice guy (who, in typical nice guy fashion, understands that she’s following her heart and so let’s her go because he values her happiness over his own) and proclaims her love for the jerk, who has loved her since that first meeting, even though he didn’t let on.

In the rare movie where a guy and a girl have been happily dating and are planning to get married, the Horrible Thing ends up being one or both of their families.  Has there ever been a movie where Boy tells Girl’s father that Boy wants to marry Girl and Girl’s father has been thrilled?  Usually the father hates Boy, or thinks Boy is not good enough for his daughter, or kills the Boy, or something.  It never goes well for Boy at the outset.  No wonder most guys dread telling the girl’s family he intends to marry her – the only model they’ve ever seen of it has always been something worth dreading.

I’m happy to report that real life isn’t necessarily like that.  Now, I’m kind of giving away the end of the story, I guess, but I think it’s okay in this case.

Earlier this year, I set up a meeting with Megan’s dad, mom, and sister.  They live about an hour and a half away, and I left right after work on a Thursday.  We met at Applebee’s, ordered dinner, and chit-chatted through dinner.  I kept looking for an opportunity in the conversation to segue into the little speech I’d prepared, but the opportunity kept not showing up.  I will admit to some nervousness, but there was no dread.  I’d been looking forward to this, and Megan knew where I was and why, even though she was not along for the meeting.

Finally, after I’d finished my meal and before the waitress came around to see if any of us wanted dessert, I decided to just jump in.  “I suppose it’s not really a secret why I wanted to meet with you all today, but I thought maybe I should tell you just so we’re all sure.  I love Megan and I’d like to mambo dogface to the banana patch.”

That may have not been exactly how it came out… I was nervous, but I don’t think I was that nervous.

Her dad, being a dad, asked me a few questions.  I answered them honestly, and he considered for a few minutes before saying, “Well, I don’t have a problem with it.”

That’s a direct quote.  I like it – it’s not a ringing endorsement necessarily, but it’s along the lines of “I think you’re an all-right guy,” and that works for me.  After that, Megan’s mom said she was okay with it.  She was more excited about it, but I don’t remember her exact words, I’m afraid.  Megan’s sister wasn’t allowed to disagree, I told her, but she and I get along pretty well, and I think if she were pressed, she’d say she was happy about it, too.

So then the question became, “How are you going to ask her to marry you?”  I didn’t quite know that just yet and said if they had suggestions I’d be happy to hear them.  Megan’s sister suggested I ask her at the top of the highest drop on a rollercoaster because that would be “awesome.”  Some other ideas were bandied about, but nothing was set in stone.  I headed back home, happy  and excited, but nervous about finding the exact right way and time to ask Megan to marry me.

It wasn’t too long before the right time presented itself.  Megan was visiting friends one weekend and wouldn’t be back home until Saturday night.  I knew having something set up and waiting for her was what I wanted to do, so it was just a matter of figuring out what.  She knew I was going to ask some time soon, and she had a pretty good idea that I had the ring already, so the only thing left to surprise her with was the way and time.

Once the time was set, I hit upon a way pretty easily.  Now it was just a matter of implementation.

On the morning of the Saturday in question, I went to a florist to get a dozen roses and another dozen roses’ worth of petals and then took them over to Megan’s apartment.  Then I went back home an nervously waited for Megan to call and let me know she was on her way home.  She was about two hours away and it takes me 20 minutes to get to her apartment, so I knew how much time I’d have to get everything set up when she called.

She called a little before 8p. Perfect.  But then I discovered she hadn’t called me right away, and was about 20 minutes into the drive already.  Okay, not a problem.  I still had time.  But then we ended up talking a lot.  And more.  And more.  Normally this is a good thing, right?  Not today!  I start freaking out a little.  I wander past my roommate and mime “What am I going to do?!?  AAAAGH!!!” which he finds to be somewhat humorous.  Somewhere around 45 minutes into talking, she says, “Oh, I need to call my dad back.”  Cool as a cucumber I say, “Oh, okay. Why don’t you give me a call when you get home so I know you made it home safely?”  I am the smoothest dude ever.

As soon as I get off the phone I quickly gather up the remaining stuff and run out the door.  Twenty minutes and three flights of stairs later I’m setting up her apartment: a dozen roses on the dining room table, with three candles lit, and a computer with a video file loaded and a Post-It that says “Press Play.”  From the door to the table I scatter the rose petals, and then I go sit in the laundry room, with plenty of time to spare.

I sat in the laundry room for about 20 minutes, the first ten of which I was nervous as a cat in a roomful of firecracker-laden rocking chairs.  I finally started calming down, and by the time I heard Megan’s footsteps on the stairs outside, I was excited but relaxed.

To hear her tell it, when she opened the door it took her a few seconds to figure out why there were rose petals on the floor and lit candles on the table.  It was probably around that same time after she opened the door that I heard her use my name as a question, but I held my ground and stuck to the plan and didn’t emerge.

I left the door of the laundry room open a crack, just enough that I could see her when she went to the computer and pressed play.  I had made a video slideshow of pictures of us and memories we’d made together, put to the song “Love Changes Everything” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and sung by Michael Crawford.  Even though I couldn’t see the screen from my vantage point in the laundry room, I could tell when she got to the last slide, because she laughed. here’s what she saw:

I wanted to be sure she wouldn’t freak out or mace me or something, you know?  You can never be too careful.

So I exited the laundry room on cue and got down on one knee in front of her and said a few things and then asked her to marry me.  It certainly looked to me like she couldn’t say “yes” fast enough, which was all right by me.

We are planning to get married on June 26, which isn’t very far away.  Things are coming together pretty well, but there’s plenty left to do.  It’s fun to make plans and talk about it, but I’ll do my best to keep this blog from becoming an “all wedding, all the time” sort of thing.  If I slip up, though, and write about it more than I plan to, I hope that your response will be somewhere along the line of…

“I don’t have a problem with it.”

July 21st, 2009

Camp Romance

I went to a week of summer camp for most of my elementary and middle-school years, and even twice in high school. My priorities changed over the years that I went, from “staying alive” to “being good at air hockey” to “being remembered” to “meeting girls.” None of these priorities meshed with the stated priorities, which included “getting exercise” and “listening to preaching,” but I did those things, too, to varying degrees of success.

When I was pretty new to the weeklong camp scene, I figured out that people would recognize and remember me better if they could latch onto some particular aspect of me. Somehow I figured that an iconic T-shirt would be the way to accomplish what I was after, so I wore my Morris the Cat T-shirt pretty much every day. It worked, for good or ill, and people even started calling me “Morris,” a practice I encouraged. The program had so much success that people would even remember me from one year to the next. The shirt slowly wore out, of course, and its last days were spent being my “lucky football shirt” in high school, being worn under my shoulder pads.

I remember two camp romances rather vividly. One was the last week of camp I ever went to. I was in high school, and my friend Eric and I went to camp together for the express purpose of being crazy and meeting girls. I’m not saying these were lofty goals, folks, I’m just stating facts here. That week I met the improbably-named Buffy, and we spent the week enjoying each other’s company and breaking my heart. She wasn’t looking for anything past the week, and I didn’t know that’s how people did things. Live and learn.

I don’t know how many years before that it was that I had my most memorable camp romance. The way this camp worked is that everyone would meet for family-style meals in the dining hall. Every cabin had a name and had a sister or brother cabin that was on the same team (competition between the two teams drove all the activities throughout the week), and the sister-brother cabins would sit next to each other at the same long table. We either had assigned seats or my seat just became the seat I always sat in, as I ended up sitting in the middle of the row, right next to the girls’ cabin. This was before my express purpose was meeting girls, but it was certainly right in the middle of my “entertain everyone” phase (which I still flirt with now and again), and I remember making several of the girls laugh during mealtimes.

Somewhere about midweek I sat down in my usual space and after the prayer, turned my plate over to discover a purple envelope with my name on it. I don’t remember if there were hearts and other stuff on it, but I do remember disappearing the envelope rather quickly. There was NO chance I was going to open it right then and there, and I hoped few had noticed it. It seemed like some of the girls had, but I just did my best to soldier on.

The first chance I had after the meal I found a place away from other people (the bathroom) and opened the envelope. I don’t remember the specifics all these years later, but it was basically an “I like you!” note – an anonymous “I like you!” note, with varying levels of “This is what I like about you” writings scattered throughout.

Crazy mixed emotions floodgate status: OPEN.

On the one hand, hey, someone liked me!

On the other hand, who??

Over the course of the next days, more notes appeared. I came to anticipate and dread the meal time, anxious to hear more, but afraid I’d get hassled by the guys in the cabin and still having no idea who was writing the notes.

Again, specifics have been lost in the sands of time, but I remember getting the indication I would find out who it was on the last day of camp. Another mixed bag of emotions! After all, it might be someone I thought was nice and cute, but… it could also be someone I’d avoided like the plague all week. Hey, I was a kid. I wasn’t all enlightened about how everyone is beautiful just yet.

The big reveal came that Friday. You’d think I’d remember what meal it was, or more specifics, but the truth is, I haven’t thought about this in a long time, and I suspect it was something I buried, for reasons that will become clear in about two seconds.

So who was it? The whole cabin. All of them. Every girl in our sister cabin AND the counselor was in on it. All of them.

I wanted to crawl in a hole that was inside another hole that was buried beneath fourteen other holes. I couldn’t have felt more hurt and embarrassed, I didn’t think. (I came to find out in later years that I was wrong on both counts, but I was still relatively young here.)

Our cabin counselor somehow found me and he and the counselor from our sister cabin explained to me that this had been the way the girls cabin had decided was the best way to tell me that they all had enjoyed eating meals with me and thought I was neat and fun and all that. It was a like a big group “We think you’re great!”

To any future group of girls that will end up in the same cabin at summer camp someday who think that this is a great way to handle this sort of situation: it isn’t.

I wish I had a better ending to this story, something along the lines of “And when I got to college, I met one of those girls, only I didn’t know it. In the process of getting to know each other she told me a story about how she had the hugest crush on a guy at camp once, and when the other girls in her cabin found out, they concocted this plan to write him anonymous notes. Once we discovered who the other was, we had a good laugh about things and fell in love, which only ended when she had to move away and was sadly unable to return to college and the distance between us proved to be too great, and even though we still occasionally keep in touch, what might have been never was.”

I’d like to tell that story, but it didn’t happen. I don’t know that I learned any lessons. I still jump into things heart-first and I still have big dreams where love is concerned. I still get hurt, and I still look forward to the next opportunity without saddling it with what those girls did. After all, this one isn’t one of them.

As far as I know, anyway!

February 2nd, 2009

Groundhog Day

Question: If you had to relive the same day over and over again until you really, truly fell in love with someone, who would you choose?

You’re familiar with the movie, I’m going to assume.

A quote from this article (emphasis mine):

The turning point comes when he explains his predicament to Rita while they’re in the diner, where he can tell her the names and backgrounds of everyone who lives there. They get on much better than before, and Phil decides to become the man she’ll fall in love with, irrespective of how many Groundhog Days it takes. This is the true payback part of the movie, where we see Murray doing lots of good things for people, knowing when they’ll hurt themselves or mishaps will happen. He also decides to better himself, learning foreign languages, reading extensively and even learning to play the piano. This will eventually lead to Rita falling in love with him, which breaks the spell and ends the loop.

Followup Question: Why aren’t you doing that with the days you have?