And yes, to my daughter's horror, I remember using the outhouse -- though we did install indoor plumbing before I went to school. My father built beautiful homes. For other people.
We lived in an old family farmhouse that had a kitchen floor that sloped to such a degree bowling alleys might have been based on it. It was heated for many years by a wood stove. My Dad was a true-blue Pentecostal believer who took too closely to heart the Scripture about how it's so much harder for a rich man to get into heaven than it is for a poor man.
My dad was really looking forward to Heaven and the damn Old Testament better be right about the rewards you get for having suffered on Earth. Job would have felt sorry for my father's tribulations, those self-induced and those thrust upon him. But that's another story.
Jeff grew up in a modest family too. But normal people modest. Not like us.
Regardless, Jeff and I are frugal people. Some might call us cheap. I clean my own house. We have used cars that we keep longer than most modern day marriages. We use the coupons that come in the mail. We do own own yard work.
But we're not crazy about being frugal. We eat out well. We have a three bedroom home with three full bathrooms, and we buy good wine and great food. Alison doesn't want for much -- though she has to do chores for her allowance and she often has to contribute to the growing pile of electronics, jewelry and boatloads of perfumes and lotions that are taking over her bathroom. (Bath and BodyWorks is her crack house.)
That's what made this weekend unusual.
We'd been looking forward to having Jenna for a couple of days while her brother played hockey in some far off state. Wisconsin or Michigan or someplace colder than here. On Friday night she asked me what the plan was. I had no plan other than to spend some time in the yard and some time at Alison's school where they're putting the final touches on the 7th grade play. Alison will be the Genie in Aladdin.
Earlier in the week, Ali had mentioned in passing that she'd like to see Wicked. She'd seen a commercial for it and she's been tra-la-laing for weeks now, preparing for her part in the school play.
I'd been wanting to see Wicked for years. But remember I'm cheap. I mean frugal.
The production had never come to Indianapolis at a birthday or anniversary or Christmas season before -- or if it had, I wasn't in a mindset to ask about going. Going to the theatre seems like such an extravagance. I WANT to be more artsy and sophisticated, but I generally let the odd thought pass. I've gotten better about it: witness last August, or was it a couple years ago, when Blake Shelton was in town. Jeff is a rock guy, but he suffered mightily to give me that night. It was a GREAT night.
Anyway, I spend some time in the yard yesterday. Jeff wandered out and we talked about the need for chores. (I'd already grocery shopped while the hoodlums slept inside but there other things.) I could return her basketball uniform when we stopped by the school to help with play stuff. He went in to corral the girls and prepare to do the dry cleaning, etc...
But then he had a thought and asked if I thought the girls would want to see Wicked. Adding my own ovaries to the equation, I sent him off to find tickets. He loves that kind of thing. He called me later at the school with the bad news: it's sold out. We could go next week, but that would leave Jenna out and it would interfere with volleyball try-outs and Alison's own play.
Jeff's a great scout. In moments when he's annoying me, it's easy to forget just how great a person, husband and father he is. But he's a keeper. He called me later saying he's found great seats but they're pricey. Like, Blake Shelton birthday pricey. Like, more than Bruno Mars -- Alison's first rock concert pricey.
But you only live once, right? And why do we work? He negotiated a bit while we finished up at school to rush home to find clothes to wear.
"Can we wear make-up, Mom?" Alison asked hopefully.
"Sure!" I said. "We'll need to get a little dressed up, too. And you HAVE to brush your hair."
"Ugh. Like how dressed up?"
"Nice clothes. No, you can't wear your black stretch pants. No sneakers. And you HAVE to brush your hair."
Jenna had packed for our normal weekend. So I found something that sure, I CAN wear; but SHOULD I wear it? for her. Alison came up with a totally inappropriate LBD from who knows where. I made her wear a jacket with it, but it's headed off to Goodwill today, I'll tell you that. Nothing in our shoe collection would fit Jenna and go with her outfit.
While Jeff fed Alison, Jenna and I sped off to Target. In under five minutes we had the cutest black suede boots to complete her outfit.
"This is why you need to get a good job, Jenna," I said. "One day when you're older, you're going to want to be silly and buy things you don't need. You need a good job to do that."
Now let's be clear here. I took her to TARGET to splurge. Macy's is right next door but we didn't go there. I might be occasionally generous but I'm still cheap.
So we get back in time to throw down some lunch, brush our hair, slap on some makeup and judge each other on what else we might need.
Back in the kitchen on his laptop, Jeff showed us where our seats were. Dead center in front of the stage. Row N.
"Mr. Reed, can I ask how much the tickets cost?" Jenna said.
Never one to miss a teachable moment ala Pete the Planner, Jeff said, "Why yes you can, Jenna," and then proceded to talk to her about value and fiscal responsibility. I don't know if her eyes glazed over. I was with Ali getting ready.
Jeff, who hadn't wanted to go with us, decided to be our chauffer so we didn't have to worry with parking or coats. He did marvel at how quickly we'd manage to transform ourselves from donut-glazed, bed-headed girls and a pony-tailed leaf gatherer into a trio of hotties in so short of time.
The show was amazing. It's nearly three hours long with an intermission after the first hour or so. When it came, the girls, who hadn't unglued their eyes from the stage, looked at me and started with the squeals. They thought it was over but were totally happy with it. When they found out there was more, you'd have thought One Direction had stopped by for tea.
Jeff picked us up and we chattered all the way home about the plot; favorite parts; favorite songs; the set; the $300 chance we passed on to ride in Glinda's bubble; Alison's struggle to buy something she could afford yet still have as outer wear for school; the voices; the acting; the ways in which they sped through time to get all the story in. The dragon. The flying monkeys. What elixer is.
Jeff had suggested dinner out when we'd all agreed we'd have dinner in. Plus, it was Saturday and the whole event was spur-of-the moment. We couldn't get in to the first place without a long wait outside and we didn't have coats. The girls were happy with the dinner at home.
Later, Jeff and I were talking about it. The girls were downstairs eating. He and I were at the kitchen counter. Caught up in the moment, I casually mentioned that I'd wanted for years to see Wicked. I'd read the book -- it's around here somewhere -- and I'd envied my friends who'd seen it already. Several more than once.
He just looked at me. He stopped eating and he said, "Hey. I want you do do something for me."
I'd already been planning a suitable reward after the girls had gone to sleep, and it had a few wicked elements to it if you know what I mean.
I was caught up in reliving the most fun moments of the show, seeing the girls have so much fun with their big night out, and I was totally amazed that he'd gone to so much trouble. He'd had to go get cash and meet the guy who had the tickets; he'd fixed lunch; he chauffered us and then helped with dinner. He could have asked for a lot and I would have happily agreed.
I looked at him, inviting him to ask me anything.
"The next time you really want to do something, would you tell me?" he asked.
Now that's not wicked. That's a wicked good man.
And I'm one lucky witch.