A Surprise. “For Us.”

Michael stretched a measuring tape from one corner of the television to the other, then extended it a little further. “See, hon? This is what a fifty inch would look like.” “Mm-hmm,” I said without looking up from my crossword puzzle. “And this is how big a fifty-five inch would be.” Now I had to look up, before this got out of hand. “But I think that’s too big,” he continued. “What do you think?”

“I don’t think we need a new television,” I said.

This same conversation, with the same props, happened twice more before I left for my writing retreat.

The day before I was due to return he told me he bought something. A surprise. “Is this a surprise for me, or is it something both of us will use?” I asked.

“It’s for both of us,” he assured me. Which meant,  “I bought something I wanted that you don’t think we need.” This was how he told me about the rice cooker. And the Vitamix. And the Kitchen-Aid. Convinced that once I used them, I would wonder how we ever lived without them. This has yet to be the case.

So the night before I was due to return home, I told the women at the writing retreat, “I think I’m going home to a new television.”

When I arrived, Michael said, “Uh-oh. You didn’t get my text message.”

“Nope. What did it say?”

“I asked if you could come home 45 minutes later,” he said.

“So do you want me to turn around and leave?” I asked. “No,” he said. “You just can’t come in the bathroom.” And with that he closed the door to the master suite.

I flopped onto the couch to watch some television. Michael came out to fetch tools from the tool box. Twice. There was a lot of loud banging. I wondered why he was putting a television together in the bathroom. To keep me from seeing it? Then it occurred to me that there is nothing to put together when one purchases a television.

An hour later, he swung the door open wide. “Ready?” he said, an eager smile on his face.

“I have to come into the bathroom to see this thing?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. I walked in and he pointed to the toilet, which now sported a new toilet seat. I stood, mouth agape. “You’re kidding me,” I said.

“Do you know what it is?” he asked me. I was stunned into silence, then laughter took over.  I knew exactly what it was. I’d visited friends the previous week who had one: our toilet now doubled as a bidet. I couldn’t speak I was laughing so hard.

“So you know how it works, then?” he asked. “No, I just saw it,” I said, gasping for breath. “They don’t use it.”

“Well, it’s plugged in here,” he said, pointing to an outlet by the toilet.

“Wait–it requires a plug?”

“Yeah–the electrician just left before you got home.”

“The electrician?” I asked.

“Yeah, he had to put the outlet in.”

“Michael, we’re renting this house. And you hired an electrician. To add a new outlet. For a bidet?

“Let me show you how it works,” he said, pointing to the wall beside the toilet. “Here’s the control panel–” I doubled over laughing. “A control panel?”


I could hardly focus. I put my hand on the counter to hold myself up. I heard Michael say, “massage” and “heated seat.”  I sunk to the floor, hysterical. I could hardly breathe. “Why is this so funny?” he asked.

“Because I thought we were getting a new television.”


Entertaining Meg

“So what are you going to do with  your sister when she comes to visit?” Michael asked me many weeks before she was due to arrive.

“Not sure,” I said.

“Well, you might want to start thinking about it. You don’t want her here with nothing to do.”

“What are you talking about? It’s Asheville. There’s plenty to do here.”

“Are you going to take her to Biltmore?” he asked.

“No, she’s already been there.”

“Then what will you do?”

“I’ll show her downtown, we’ll go people-watching at 5 Walnut . . . one day we’ll walk up to Haywood, Mom and Dad said I should take her to Sierra Nevada.”

“You can do all that in one day. What about the rest of the time?”

You could do all of that in one day. Meg and I like to stroll, look in the shops, see where the day takes us.”

“Okay. So two days,” he said. I named off a few other things, but Michael still wasn’t convinced. He told me he was talking to his best friend earlier in the day, and they were discussing the fact that most visitors to Asheville only stay for a weekend. Or maybe a long weekend. “But your sister is coming for four days. I don’t think there’s enough to do here for four days.”

“I don’t think you understand,” I said. “She’s my sister. We could camp out in the living room watching movies for four days and we’d be happy.”

“She’s not coming down here to watch movies,” he replied.

“No. She’s coming to spend time with me. It doesn’t matter what we do.”  He still didn’t get it. “Don’t worry about it,” I said. “She’ll be fine.” We had the same conversation twice more before I forbid him to ask me about it again.

A few weeks later, I picked Meg up at the airport. As we drove to the Sierra Nevada Brewery for dinner I relayed Michael’s concern–and the number of times he expressed it. “So is there something in particular you really want to do while you’re down here?” I asked.

She laughed. “Nope. I really don’t care what we do. We could just watch movies all day if you want . . .”

Meg at Sierra Nevada

Meg at Sierra Nevada