My ex-husband smiled his lop-sided smile and raised his right eyebrow as he delivered his Valentine invitation to me. Chad excelled at planning and implementing surprises. Fortunately, I savored experiencing them.
“You will be prepared to depart your flat early Tuesday evening and return home on Thursday evening. That means you’ll have to take off work Wednesday and Thursday.”
I looked at my calendar and decided that I could afford three days off in the middle of the week. Nothing wrong with my math. Given that the following Monday was a holiday, it made sense to me to extend the time off. Why go back just for Friday? Chad liked that idea, and I could tell he was re-thinking his plans.
I decided to push my advantage. “O.K. I assume I’ll need special clothes?” I thought I might be able to guess where we were going if he told me what I would need to wear. Just a little trick I had learned.
“Well, I’ll be wearing the grey Fedora on Tuesday and the black Bowler on Wednesday.”
Chad loved to attend events wearing one of his many hats. This was a tradition he initiated at our first Valentine’s event. We had only known each other for a few weeks at Cal where we were both students. I was studying political science and Chad business administration. I had quickly grown to enjoy his sense of humor, but was not prepared for his appearance when he picked me up for our Valentine dinner.
I opened the door in response to his knock, and gasped. Chad stood there in jeans, red flannel shirt and a huge straw hat. Not to be taken aback, I said, “Where is your tooth pick?”
My mistake. He pulled out some kind of weed he must have cut from outside and started to chew on it. Fortunately he disposed of the weed before we went to Zachary’s and had a great pizza accompanied by lots of laughter.
When we got married, we upgraded our Valentine Day restaurants for the next ten years as our income increased, but Chad continued the tradition of wearing a special hat. His wardrobe of hats grew, and he tended to wear one wherever we went. His colleagues at work even joined in the fun, and he received a genuine 10-gallon hat from Texas, several French berets, and a Spanish Cordobes hat for those wild dances he pretended were Flamenco. However, of course, after our divorce, we stopped.
Now that we are seeing each other again, Chad had decided we needed a special Valentine’s celebration to properly re-start our relationship. He seemed very proud of himself, and decided that I needed a clue to guess what the special celebration might be. “Well, on Valentine’s Day itself, we’re going to a special place in Berkeley.” O.K. I got that one right away. We’re going to go to Zachary’s where it all started. So that couldn’t be the big surprise.
He continued, “We’re staying at the Fairmont Tuesday and Wednesday night, and we’re going to play tourist in The City Wednesday and Thursday during the day. However, you’ll have to guess what we’re doing Wednesday night. I think you’ll find it highly entertaining, full of laughs, and for sure it will remind you of me.”
I was definitely excited about the prospects of touring The City. “There’s so much to see. Will we have clam chowder in a sourdough bowl at Fisherman’s Wharf? And take a cable car ride? And go down Lombard Street? Oh, and can we go back to Fort Point?” We had just visited Fort Point with its incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge where I was directed by an annual Christmas note left by my deceased father.
“You’ll see. But you’ll never guess where we’re going Wednesday night.”
“Mmmm.” I tried to think about the clues he had offered – entertaining, full of laughs, and something reminiscent of Chad.
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