Monday, March 19, 2012

Six Weeks Out From our 20th Wedding Anniversary, and I'd Like to Beat the Tenth

This is one of those "Do as I say, not as I did" kind of stories...

For our tenth anniversary, I bought my wife a house. Closed on the house. The first time she saw the house was two hours after the movers left.

The Story:
I was going to be the new Assistant Scout Executive (number two professional) in the Boy Scout council headquartered in Racine, WI. It wasn't our first move with the BSA, and we had a deal: we would try not to move during the school year because my wife is a teacher.

One Saturday afternoon, I went to Racine on a house hunting trip. My wife had never been to Racine, Wisconsin...or Wisconsin. She couldn't come with me on the house hunting trip because she was testing for her black belt that day. Here's a tip for you--don't mess with your wife, especially if she's skilled in the martial arts.
   I asked, "If I find a place I think we'll like, should I buy it?
   She answered without batting an eye. "Yes."
   "I'll take a check with me for good faith money."
   I'm not entirely stupid. I also took a video camera so I could tape the houses I saw, just in case I lost my nerve and couldn't just buy a house without my wife seeing it.
   Armed with a list I had to convince her to make, a list broken into three areas: 1) what she required from a house, 2) what she wanted in a house, and 3) what would be bonus material in a house. We agreed on the list. It should have three or more bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a fireplace (which fit #2), a big yard, and--bonus--a wood shop. She works with wood. I'm a lefty. Power tools are my ticket to an ambulance ride.
   The realtor showed me several homes. if the heavens opened up and beams of light shot down, we pulled up to a nice ranch house on a corner lot with a big green lawn, and a long porch in front. The two car attached garage wasn't on our list, but I liked it. There was a living room, a family room with a fireplace, three bedrooms, a bath and a half, a finished basement perfect for a home office, a separate room in the basement...a woodworking shop.
   I looked at the realtor, looked at the little sheet of paper with the price and other information, and said, "I'm offering the asking price and I'll write a check for a thousand bucks good faith money."
   The offer was accepted before I left for home an hour later.

   When I got home, I got a phone call from my mother-in-law. I get along great with my mother-in-law and always have...but I pushed it that day.
   "Did you find some houses for my daughter to look at?", she asked mildly.
   "Did better than that!" I was full of happiness. I found the perfect house!
   "What do you mean, you did better than that?"
   Men, be warned!  When your mother-in-law, no matter how nice, phrases anything with "What do you mean...?" You're in deep poo.
   "I bought her one." I had no idea I was standing like Wile E. Coyote...on nothing.
   "You did WHAT?"
   I discovered I was in trouble. Too late. "Put down a thousand bucks. The house is ours."
   "She'd better like it."
   That was the end of that phone call. There was a bit more chat, but I was lost in a haze I like to call "Oh Lord, what have I done."
   My wife was thrilled I saved her the trouble of house hunting, by the way. She was happy I got everything on our list and was still safely in our price range.
    She was in school when I closed on the house with power of attorney for her. It's legal, but it's a pain in the hand. You have to sign your name, and her name, and write, "Her attorney in fact" under each signature you put on the paper for her.
   Then the weird part -- over the next month, we didn't have the opportunity for her to go visit her soon to be new house. The movers came and packed up our old house on the second-to-last day of school for her. That was our 10th wedding anniversary. I spent that night in a hotel about a mile up the road from our new house, and she spent the night in a sleeping bag in our old bedroom. We talked on the phone.
   The next day, the movers moved our stuff in. They left at about two in the afternoon. Using directions I gave her, my wife drove to Racine, WI -- her new town--for the first time. She pulled into the driveway of her new house...for the first time.
   She loved the house. The house we own now is our fifth house, and it's a nice house. But it doesn't have quite the thrill of that house in Wisconsin. Unlike that house...she was here when we bought this one.

Still--if I had it to do over again, I'm not sure I would. She loved the house and enjoyed the surprise. I felt the pressure. I spent $150,000 on something she had never seen!

That was almost ten years ago. She's still as loving and trusting...but how the heck am I going to top that for an anniversary present on our 20th? ...I probably won't, but you can bet I'll try!

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