His plane was just taking off for a week long meeting in San Francisco when my husband’s secretary called me. She wanted to know who our family photographer was so that she could get a professional photo of my husband. A legal journal would be covering the news about his appointment as president of a national organization. Its meeting was taking place in San Francisco that week.
I was stunned. What presidency, I asked? She explained that my husband had been chosen for a leadership position by his peers. There would be news coverage, receptions, etc.
Is that why he pressed me to go with him? Oh, now I get what he said about some “nice receptions/events going on” this year. My schedule was full that week. Several pressing family situations combined with work and the activities of three kids led me to give very little consideration to going with him, even though I loved San Francisco…and my husband. In his usual self-effacing way, he said nothing about the presidency, knowing I would feel pressured and torn between responsibilities.
I felt guilty and embarrassed. My mind began to spin with ideas about how to affirm and celebrate this good thing in his career while holding down the fort at home, caring for an ailing father and working. I was in the bedroom during this phone-call revelation. As I looked around, I saw his parents’ old bedroom furniture, drapes and bedspread, which he had been wanting to change. Our bedroom was the last room in the house to get a face lift.
So I decided to surprise him by re-doing the bedroom in his absence. That would be something he’d enjoy, a way of celebrating a significant career accomplishment and a wonderful surprise! So I called a girlfriend for ideas, a painter for help, and gave each of our school-aged kids a job. They thought it was a goofy idea, but we stripped wall paper, pulled up the old rug and then I went shopping. In five days, the miraculous transformation was complete except for the window blinds.
When he arrived home, we were beside ourselves with excitement. We tried to act normal at the airport and we had milk and cookies when we arrived home, waiting to walk up to the bedroom until he had told us about the events of his trip. We walked up the stairs, all three kids crowding ahead of him so as to see his face when he stepped into the bedroom. The sign said, “Congratulations Dad!”
He was floored, surprised, and incredulous! It was one of those family moments we will remember forever, each child describing his or her part in the effort, my eyes filling with tears at how much we loved him and how our love spilled over into this quirky little project. When I think of the first task of a family, “forming an intimate community of persons,” I think of all of us crowded in that doorway with pride and love for our daddy/husband and just being goofy about it!