Having been married since the day that the first wild hair set down roots on the human head (my brother-in-law is as yet unfamiliar with this concept), I can tell you that there is a direct proportionality between the number of years a couple has been together and the difficulty encountered in keeping a secret or presenting your partner with a “surprise” gift.  When further complicated by a 100% togetherness factor, joint bank and credit accounts and the desire to present the aforementioned “surprise” gift on Christmas Eve aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean, the task becomes even more daunting.  However, it can be done, albeit with no small measure of creativity and unbridled sneakiness.

Descended from those bold seafarers of yesteryear, the Vikings, my Norwegian war bride likes nothing better than a boat ride and I like nothing more than to fulfill her every desire.  Yes, I am a sweetheart!  To this end we booked a two week Caribbean cruise over Christmas and New Years and christened the event our mutual Christmas gift.  However, since I am, as previously stated, both a sweetheart and sneaky, I decided a little something extra was required to brighten the day for my unsuspecting bride and I set about on a clandestine mission to acquire that special something.

As it happens I have my own account at the Blue Nile on-line diamond center and was in possession of a Holiday Special 20% discount certificate on all diamond stud earrings.  This made gift selection a relatively easy proposition: earrings!  The problem was in purchasing and receiving them without my Bunkie catching on.

One morning while she was out riding her new Pee Wee Herman lookalike bike while I feigned an inability to go for my morning walk due to an old war injury, I snuck over to the campground office and arranged to have the earrings delivered to the park manager.   I then called Blue Nile to buy the earrings and to let them know they were a surprise Christmas gift and they should not call me for ANY reason.  My next call went to the credit card company to let them know of a mega purchase that would soon appear on my card and it really was me who made it.  After answering a bunch of security questions concerning the eating habits of my first grade teacher and the name of my first dog, I was assured that the charge would be accepted and they would not be calling back.  I then erased both calls from our phone’s “Outgoing” log.

Thus far Operation Stud was proceeding quite nicely.  To ensure that my bride would not inadvertently stumble upon my shenanigans while surfing the net, I changed the passwords to our credit union account, my Blue Nile account and our Yahoo e-mail account.

Later that afternoon the first of a seemingly endless stream of e-mails designed to sink my ship of deceit began arriving.  The credit union informed us that our password had been changed and wanted to verify that we had done it.  Oh, and by the way, a rather significant charge was just made on our credit card that they wanted us to be aware of.  Blue Nile sent us a notification that our “diamond stud earrings have been shipped by Fed-Ex and would arrive the next day”.  I managed to intercept and delete both of these before you-know-who happened upon them.

The next day, as promised, the Fed-Ex truck arrived at the campground office with my package.   A short time later an e-mail arrived from Blue Nile informing me that “your diamond earrings were delivered at 1:05 pm by Fed-Ex”.  Delete.

The next morning, as my bride sped off in one direction on her bike, I took off in the other direction on foot and stopped by the office to pick up “the package.”  I hadn’t really given any thought to where I was going to hide it until we departed for our boat ride but decided that the safest place would be in my closet beneath a stack of t-shirts that haven’t been moved in years.

Two days before we departed, my bride asked if I had any old t-shirts she could have for some obscure reason and then set off to my closet to check.  What followed was a shell game comparable to any perpetrated by any vagabond standing on a street corner with a table, a pea and three walnut shells.  As she thumbed through t-shirts I moved the earrings under the socks and when she began sorting through socks the earrings vanished beneath the underwear.  By the time she was counting out underwear, the earrings had been safely re-nested beneath the socks.  Deception is definitely not a young man’s game.

We left for New Orleans on Friday morning with the earrings tucked securely into the left side pocket of my jacket while I spent the day wearing the thing despite the warmth of the day and regardless of the interior temperatures of a variety of shoe stores we explored looking for a comfy pair of black pumps.  The other trick consisted of a ballet of motions choreographed to keep her always on my right side and thereby avoiding any accidental encounter with the left side pocket and the resulting inquisition.

We spent the night prior to our voyage at the Le Richelieu Hotel in the French Quarter.  It was there that it occurred to me that, although I had the perfect Christmas gift, it was not wrapped.  Leaving my Bride dealing with “girly” stuff in our room, I ventured down to the hotel lobby, explained my predicament to the desk clerk and she kindly volunteered to wrap the contraband I had smuggled through 3 southern states so far and was about to take international.  Upon hearing my tale of woe, she actually unwrapped one of the presents under their tree to get wrapping paper and snagged a ribbon and bow from another one.  I don’t need to tell you where we’ll be staying on all future visits to the French Quarter!

When we finally lined up to board the ship I was panic stricken to discover that we had to go through a security checkpoint consisting of an airport-type x-ray scanner and a very attentive security guard ensuring that everyone emptied their pockets of all things metal.  Gold.  Dammit!!  While my bride was checking her pockets and arranging her purse on the conveyor, I subtly removed the earrings from my pocket and slipped them into our backpack and began praying that they wouldn’t set off some kind of alarm which would necessitate the backpack being opened and the contents dumped on the table.  Prayer does work!   I then had to get them out of the backpack and returned to my pocket before we arrived at our cabin and my Bride began her ritual of unpacking and nesting.

My original plan involved a glass of Christmas morning Mimosa and the presentation of a beautiful pair of diamond earrings to my completely unsuspecting and adoring shipmate.  However, by this time I had become so totally stressed by the mounting number of “near misses” that I wanted nothing more than to give it to her soon before my incredible luck ran out and I lost that all important element of surprise.  And so, in a closet-sized cabin in the bowels of a tramp steamer chugging down the Mississippi River en-route to the Gulf of Mexico on Christmas Eve, this old pirate gave up the booty…

 Secret Santa                                                             January 14, 2012

Although she was both completely surprised and deliriously delighted with her new ear candy, I was feeling pretty smug having avoided that size and color dilemma we men usually encounter when presenting that special gift to a lady by opting for the epitome of “one size fits all” gifts.  And they do.  Happy New Year y’all!!!!  Hugs, Chuck and Kalyn


P.S.  An Update of our voyage should be forthcoming within the next week or so.  See you then.