Eeep. It's been a good long while since I've last blogged (sorry mom!), so I thought I would remedy that situation this morning.
Please excuse any tangential ramblings and other nonsense - I'm functioning at about 67% capacity right now, due to lack of sleep.
But, that lack of sleep was for a good reason.
Adam and I traveled "overseas" to Victoria on Saturday and returned early (VERY EARLY) Sunday morning.
Why the short trip? We went to surprise my mom and help her celebrate her birthday in style.
Dad first approached me with this idea one hot day in July when I was visiting Nanoose Bay. I believe I was basking in the early morning sun like a lizard when he approached, all sly-like.
He told me that this birthday was a big one for mom and he told me, very earnestly, that he wanted to make this year's celebration truly memorable.
As I've hinted to before, my family has been braving some figurative storms for a while now, and dad told me that he wanted this trip to be a nice and welcome distraction for the whole family. He wanted us to concentrate on love and family and togetherness, and not on the negatives that have been at the forefront for far too long.
And, so, as the months progressed in their steady march towards the fall, dad's plans began to take shape.
He planned a trip to Victoria for himself and mom, including reservations for dinner at a very chic restaurant and an overnight stay in a beautiful hotel suite.
He also arranged animal care for the dog and cat - all behind mom's back.
Meanwhile, as the day approached, Mike, Adam and I all fostered and perfected our excuses as to what we were doing that weekend. We figured that if the three of us invented complicated weekend plans, mom would be less suspicious that we had anything to do with dad's master plan.
Dad broke the news that mom and he would be going on a trip on her actual birthday (September 7). He gave her no more hints and I did my part by feigning surprise when mom called to tell me about dad's plan.
I talked to her on the eve of the surprise weekend and put my theatre degree to work.
"Do you know where you're going yet?" I asked mom, trying to gauge if she was cluing in to anything.
She responded in the negative and then asked what I was doing this weekend.
"Oh", I said, putting a tinge of sorrow and weariness into my voice, "I have to work. I have to go to Chilliwack and put on an investor education seminar". I think I played things up by sighing loudly at this point.
I then went on to weave my tragic tale about having to figure out directions to the Chilliwack Rotary club and having to do the presentation myself and telling mom that I was nervous, etc.
Adam was on the chair next to me smirking quite distractedly.
Truly, it was an award winning bit of lying.
And, with that, I told mom to have a good time and to call on Sunday and give me all the details about the trip.
I must admit that I was excited to hear that dad planned to take mom to Victoria. I love Victoria and will pretty much come up with any excuse to wander around that city.
I'm not sure if I would have been able to muster the same kind of enthusiasm if dad had been like "Hey! I'm surprising your mom with a trip to Winnipeg."
Victoria is my heart city. It lives in me and I feel more at home there than I do in Vancouver. I was proposed to there, I was married there, I have lived there and I hope to live there again in the not so distant future. But until then, I have to content myself with small trips to get my fill.
So Adam and I took off on a morning ferry and met up with a friend for lunch. After that, we drove leisurely through the different neighbourhoods of the city and basically reiterated to each other our great love for Victoria.
We stayed at the James Bay Inn, a purportedly haunted establishment that will be celebrating its centennial next year. I think I should demand a refund, as we didn't experience any other worldly visits that night. Not even any suspicious noises! It was a perfectly corporeal room.
We retired to our hotel room after lunch for a brief rest, where I subjected Adam to approximately an hour of the "Real Housewives of New Jersey" television show. As evening drew closer we got ready to go and meet my parents and brother at Vista 18 atop the Chateau Victoria hotel.
The plan was that Mike, Adam and I would be at the table at 6:45 and be waiting there for when dad and mom arrived for their 7:00 reservation. There was a kink in these plans, as the table wasn't actually ready until well after 7:15. So we ended up surprising mom in the lobby of the restaurant, right near the elevators! But it still had the desired effect.
We all sat down in the bar area and our table was finally ready. But not before mom had made friends with approximately everyone in the restaurant. I think as she ages, mom just gets friendlier and friendlier. Next year, I'll probably have to keep her from giving out random hugs to strangers.
The meal was...amazing. We stuffed ourselves on fantastic food and mom peer pressured me into having two cocktails. Steph + cocktails = loud, inappropriate laughing.
After dinner, I gave mom her gifts. I had two wedding pictures printed out and framed. One of Adam and I (see below) and one of Mike and I. I also wrote her a wee poem.
As dinner wound down, I looked around and was struck by the realization that I was so lucky. Lucky to have such a wonderful family. Our family may be small, but we make up for it with the size of our hearts. I feel so safe with my family because I know that I'm kept buoyant by their love and support.
I wanted to crystallize that moment and hold it close to me forever, because it was just so indicative of the kindness that we all feel for one another. And how we could pull off this amazing present for mom, despite dealing with setbacks that might have pulled apart a lesser family.
I'm truly blessed to be part of the Butler clan.
Happy birthday, mom. I love you.