Once in a lifetime


Our trip of a lifetime actually starts in our basement. Not really a strange place to start a trip because we actually live in our basement.

Why? Well, there are two reasons, and they are as cute as they can be. Our two granddaughters live upstairs. Ours is a unique family situation, but that’s a story for another time. This story is about our trip of a lifetime.

The Wife and I had just finished dinner and were enjoying a glass of adult beverage while listening to the pitter-patter of little feet running upstairs when she suddenly said, “You have a big birthday coming up in April. We should go somewhere and do something really special. You only turn 60 once.”

I had been expecting this, although not so soon. My sweet wife was going to plan a surprise birthday party for me.

My mind then started its storytelling and painted a picture of what the party would look like. She’ll probably rent out the small room in back of my favorite local restaurant and invite Best Friend Mitch and a bunch of my old fire department buddies; maybe even the Chief will attend.

Weeks in advance, she’ll order a special cake shaped like the ladder truck I used to drive. The day of the party, the food covering two tables will be a menu of my favorite things to eat: chili cheese dogs, onion rings, fried peach pies, and a Big Orange.

All these gastronomic delectable delights will be catered from The Varsity. Balloons and paper streamers will adorn the small room. Our two granddaughters will also be there in their special birthday dresses. Wouldn’t be a birthday party without them.

Smiling at the picture of the “surprise” party in my mind and thinking of how loving it is for her to go to all of that trouble for little old me, I said, “I think that’s a great idea. What are we doing?”

She replied with a smile, “Don’t you worry, I have everything already planned. We already have dinner reservations for two at a world famous restaurant.”

Wow. My party just got better. The Wife must have rented out the party room at The Varsity just for us! Already knowing the answer, I asked her where were we going. With her response the small surprise party I had imagined instantly changed. It turned into a really big surprise.

The celebration with 10 or so of my friends would now be replaced by thousands of strangers in attendance. The small party room at The Varsity is now going to be set aside and upgraded considerably. The Wife has a much, much bigger venue in mind, one with a famous view.

Chili cheese dogs, onion rings, fried Georgia peach pies, and certainly a Big Orange will not be found anywhere on the menu. Instead, there will be things I’ve never heard of, much less pronounced. The portions would be small and oh sooo expensive.

She said, “We have reservations for 8 p.m. so after dinner we can take an elevator up to the observation deck and enjoy the city lights. We are going to the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant. It’s located on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower.”

Yes, Dear Reader, this Georgia boy is headed to Paris, France, for a birthday bash to top any in my history.

Except, perhaps, my 10th birthday party. Mom booked the party room at the Greenbriar Mall and invited Candi Samples. Candi gave me a kiss for my present.

Then I complained, “What do I pack? I don’t know what they wear in Paris. Sure my blue jeans with holes in the right knee won’t fit in.”

The Wife had an answer ready. She walked out of the room and soon returned with a backpack, and two large suitcases. Opening the suitcases, she said we were already packed. Both were empty. She unzipped the backpack. It had a change of clothes for each of us and a small bag of toiletries.

Looking at the empty suitcases I made, what I thought was a silly comment, “So, think this will be enough?”

The Wife replied, “You’re right. After all, it’s Paris. We really don’t need to pack suitcases going over. Just got to make sure we have enough room for all the clothes we’re going to buy.”

Soon she emerged from the storeroom with another large suitcase, “That should be enough. Now we’re ready.”

Then I mumbled that it was way too expensive. That’s when The Wife shook her head and smiled, “Just thought of a way to cut 50 percent off of the trip.”

Saving money on the trip of a lifetime? Now that is awesome! Right up to when I asked her how she was going to accomplish it.

She replied, “Keep complaining. I’m still going to Paris. You can stay home.”

Our once in a lifetime eight-day birthday party trip to Paris will start April 1, and I’m counting the days until we board the plane.

Some folks say I have a good imagination, but I never could’ve imagined anyone would give me such a wonderful gift. Going to the city of love with the lady I love.

Now that’s the best way to celebrate my 60th birthday. And the best present I could ever receive.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]