I’m patting myself on the back right now. That’s because this week I surprised my wife with a birthday gift.
This doesn’t happen often. Bess is not psychic – she doesn’t know what’s going to happen before it happens – but she sure knows what’s happened as soon as it happens.
For example, she might leave me at home watching football with the boys, then return and say, “Nice job cleaning up the nacho cheese spill in the den. I can’t even tell it happened.”
Wait, then how…?
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Or as I’m walking back to work from lunch, she might call and say, “I wish I had time during the middle of the day to go eat at Minnie’s.”
This is her specialty: financial tracking. She gets an alert from our bank when I – or any of our children – make a debit or credit card purchase.
In our house, we have a mantra: if you’re buying something you don’t want Mom to immediately know about, pay with cash. Of course, she’ll ask how you spent the cash you withdrew, but you can cross that bridge when you come to it.
Which brings me to my dilemma. Bess had a milestone birthday coming up, and I wanted to surprise her.
I won’t tell you her age – that wouldn’t be right – but let’s just say she and her sister Leslie are turning a combined 100 years old.
Did I mention that Leslie is her identical twin sister?
I decided to surprise Bess with a plane ticket to Houston – yes, a round-trip ticket – so she could in turn surprise her sister, Leslie, who lives there with her family.
A couple of months ago, I reached out to Leslie’s husband to figure out a date, but then Hurricane Harvey struck. Leslie, a nurse, was working around the clock.
Several weeks ago, her husband got back to me and said things had slowed down there and maybe we could pull off the birthday surprise after all.
Though keeping it a surprise would be a challenge, he said. You know, because Leslie would probably wonder why he was making calls to Georgia. Did I mention they were identical twins?
We figured out some dates and I went online and found airline tickets. But there was one problem. If I paid for the tickets with my credit card, Mama was going to immediately see I’d made a transaction with Delta. The surprise would be spoiled.
So I began to explore other options: PayPal, prepaid credit cards, using a friend’s card, driving to Atlanta and paying with cash.
I could already hear Bess’ questions: “Why did you set up a PayPal account?” “Why did you buy a prepaid credit card?” “Why did you write your friend a check?” “Why did you take out so much cash?”
So I went home and sat her down. “Look,” I said, “I’m going to surprise you with a big birthday gift.” I made a subtle nod toward her jewelry box, implying that I was going to get a fabulous piece of jewelry, and she started to tell me that she didn’t need a fabulous piece of jewelry.
I cut her off. “Do we have a credit card that doesn’t immediately send you an alert after we make a purchase?”
Yes, we did. She told me which one.
“Great,” I said. “I’m going to use that one. If you want to be surprised, then don’t go online this month and look at the statement.”
So I used the credit card and Bess didn’t look.
On Wednesday, she returned from Houston, where she spent three days celebrating with her sister. They had a great time, and both of them were surprised.
“I like being surprised,” Bess said.
Could have fooled me.