Friday, June 26, 2009
Only a few short weeks after I returned from Minnesota, in-laws Norm and Brenda came to visit us in Amsterdam. This is, at minimum, an annual trip for them. We've shared many fun times on this European continent, often heading out to see new cities or countries together.
On this trip, we decided to stay in Holland and take a two-night trip to Maastricht, a Medieval city in the southeast corner of the country.
Before doing that, we spent a few days together in Amsterdam. We went out for a fantastic dinner together. Norm and Brenda got to sit in on a rehearsal of mine. We watched movies together. All good fun.
But unbeknownst to them, Dave and I had a surprise event lined up that would top the proverbial vacation cake. You see, we had miraculously managed to keep the news of the Sheldon-to-be a secret from them, knowing that it would be WAY more fun to tell them face-to-face when they came for a visit.
An agonizing 36 hours after they landed in Amsterdam, Dave and I set out our trap!
Now, as background for those of you who do not already know this, there is something one of a kind about Jewish grandparents. This was not something I realized fully until I married into a Jewish family. But when an adult Jewish child announces they have created another family member, it's like the sun shines for the first time, global warming has stopped, and scientists have announced that eating chocolate is the best thing you can do for your health...all rolled in to one! Coming from a more reserved Scandinavian Lutheran background, experiencing this kind of energy is so lovingly entertaining, it literally makes me giggle!
So, now you can understand that this revealing had to be something special.
Dave and I decided that the best way to surprise these two (because believe you me, they have been surprised more than a few times by their clever offspring...they are no rookies when it comes to the Art of Off-Guard) was to distract them with a secondary surprise. And we had the perfect thing...
Let me tell you about the Sheldon horses...
About thirty years ago, Norm's mother bought a large ceramic sculpture of three white horses. One is reared up on his hind legs. Another is pointing his nose forward, probably snorting. The other is throwing his head back playfully.
Although well-crafted, one would probably say that the aesthetic of said horses is...well...rather heinous (no offense, Grandma Hilde, may you rest in peace). And after Dave's grandparents died, the piece become somewhat of a traveling family white elephant gift:
Norm's sister Vivian passed it on to Dave's brother Dan, as a housewarming gift. I think from there, it went to Dave's sister Audrey on her wedding day. Then it went back to Dan for his wedding day. Back to Audrey for the birth of her first child. Somehow, Dave got in on the mix. And he slipped it into his parents' hotel room at his cousin's bar mitzvah....
Well, you get the idea.
Three years ago, when we got married, the last recipient of the horses (Dave's then 2-year-old nephew Jonah) decided to ship it to Amsterdam as a wedding gift. But Jonah's youth shone through when he decided to ship them in an over-sized box with only a handful of packing peanuts.
That's right. The horses arrived in about two hundred little equine pieces.
We discussed a few ideas for the fate of our ceramic thoroughbreds. Throwing them away. Painting the pieces different colors and creating some strange Picasso pastiche. Making a movie about how the horses died. Etc, etc, etc.
In the end, Dave wanted to remain pure to the original sculpture and take on the painstaking exercise of putting them back together to look like the original sculpture.
This process took - off and on - about three years.
Now, back to the present.
Norm, Brenda, Dave and I were sitting at the dining table, finishing a lovely dinner when Dave announces that we have been "working on something for quite a while now" and that "they (Norm and Brenda) will be very excited to learn what we're talking about..."
Undoubtedly thinking we were talking about BABIES, they leaned in closely and gave wide-eyed smiles...
I excused myself from the table and returned moments later with....DUT da da da!....THE HORSES!
Laughter and giggles ensued as Norm and Brenda accepted their fate as the next keepers of the horses, and Brenda took a closer look at the card I had attached around one of the horse's necks:
"Dear Brenda, Happy Early Birthday!...And don't even THINK about sending the horses back in fall for the birth of your new grandchild!"