I am not often surprised by Bill.
It's not his style, I guess. Since I don't revel in surprises, I don't miss their absence in our relationship.
When a surprise does come along, it takes on an epic, legend quality that I can feel, even at the time.
Like the time my husband walked into the car dealership and bought our family a car that very day.
Oh, wait. That was just last week. See how it already has the feel of a tale?
So that is how I shall tell it:
Once there was a girl who didn't like to shop. For anything. Ever. Oh sure, there was a garage sale mood, a thrift store mood, or a used bookstore mood that struck once in a blue moon, but with the addition of two kids who found even that kind of treasure seeking completely boring, the whole enterprise had lost all appeal.
She married an analytical consumer who liked to research before he shopped. The poor man would try to share his enthusiasm for the details of said research before bed, but was met with (at best) courteous quiet while he talked or (at worst) a glassy eyed stare as he clicked through lovely websites on his tablet.
But the analytical consumer did not lose heart. He did his homework. He arranged their finances. He talked to buyers. He read about sellers. And he settled on a vehicle that he thought was the right fit for his family.
On the day they went to test drive it, he didn't even bring his checkbook. They were not buying a car. They were investigating cars. To his nonshopping wife, they were out lining up invisible ducks that needed to be in a row before any decisions would be made.
Surprisingly, those ducks lined up faster than they anticipated and they found themselves beginning to hope that they could do this thing.
The analytical researcher got in the ring and began negotiations for a price much lower than they hoped to pay. When the manager came out to deliver the bad news of "no dice," to her husband, he hesitated for just a moment.
"I know you," his wife said. "That is the number you have in your head and if you walk out of here paying anything else you are going to regret it."
The dancing deal went on. The sales manager went back to his fish bowl office. Who was he calling? His wife? His brother? In fact the General Manager who lives in Oz and approves these deals? We never find out. But after the final round he brought out the paperwork that listed everything the analytical consumer wanted, and not a penny more.
"We cannot pay anything tonight. We didn't even bring a checkbook," her husband admits.
And then my favorite line of the whole tale:
"That's ok. With a credit score like yours, your word is golden. Bring the check by at your convenience."
I sit a little stunned. We will be driving off with a shiny new car without paying them one penny? Because my husband's word is golden?!
We are not wealthy people. Bill is a teacher and I sub for a library district. We're not going to pretend that replacing our 14-year-old wheezer of a car is not a big deal for us. We won't deny that we have been saving for new wheels for years, have been budgeting for this day, and that one of us has considered the decision from every angle before we ever stepped foot in this place. The fact remains that adding a car payment will require careful attention to a budget that already runs rather precisely.
All that aside, at that moment I felt extraordinarily rich.
To be married to a man whose very word is golden. A man who responsibly manages all his affairs so that he has built a reputation for trustworthiness.
When they bring our lovely red chariot around I name her Ruby Valentine, in honor of the day we bought her, February 14. It would be such a cliche if either of us had seen it coming.
But in fact, Bill has truly, generously, enormously surprised me.
(and maybe himself just a little, too)