For months, I’ve been fielding phone calls from my sister and brother and Dad, explaining why I won’t be coming home for Christmas.
Defending this decision (the first of its kind), all kinds of lies come out of my mouth:
That I need to explore this for my own personal growth; that Bruce is starting a new tradition by planning a Colombian countryside retreat; that it is simply... out of my hands.
Mostly I just say words, followed by: “You know?”
To which they say: “You’re not making any sense.”
But gradually, beaten down one conversation at a time, they start to resign themselves to my choice.
After each round of deceit, feeling mildly guilty and unsure if I'm being too selfish, I hang up the phone and call my mother -- the only one in on the charade, the grounding force who encourages me that seeing Elizabeth's face will be SO worth whatever anxiety we're feeling in advance.
The plan is simple: I will board a red eye in Medellin the week before Christmas and stroll into a Boston bridal boutique at 10am the next morning...
... JUST in time to help my sister pick out her very own wedding dress.
Then I will fly back on Christmas Eve, so that Bruce and I can spend the day together in Colombia.
When the time comes, I leave Bruce (who has generously accepted the role of the Grinch in order to deflect attention from the trickery) asleep in our Medellin apartment, and take a taxi alone to the airport.
I fly to Boston, drop my bags at the hotel, and walk the few blocks to the bridal boutique.
I walk in and see my sister up on the pedestal, with huge orange clamps pinning the white fabric in place around her body.
At the sound of my voice, she turns and squeals and cries and holds my face in both hands and says: “You’re so mean!”
My mother feigns having a heart attack right then and there, forced to lie to all her loved ones for the sake of seeing my sister’s face in THIS moment.
The week at home flies.
Occasionally, I text Bruce that I miss him and he texts back photos of himself, one standing in front of the giant tree in the town square of Jericó, a tiny mountain town a couple hours outside Medellin that my friend Das and I had journeyed to without him during her visit.
Then, two days before I am due to fly out…
I’m in the kitchen straining nettle drink into a mason jar (don’t ask), when our family friend Marianne arrives with her husband and daughters for dinner.
“I’m so sorry,” she laments when she sees me, handing a small package to my sister. “I don’t have a gift for you; I didn’t know you’d be here!”
“No worries, Marianne!” I sing, mopping up spilled nettle juice with a dish towel.
But she continues her lament, as though she doesn’t hear me.
Then, she pauses.
“Actually,” she says, as though the thought has just occurred to her, “I may not have anything small to give you… But I MIGHT have a BIGGER present for you.”
And when I look up, Bruce is standing in my kitchen.
There is a crowd of people around us; when I watch the video later, I will see my sister’s jaw dropping open, my dad bursting into hearty laughter behind me.
But in this moment, all I can see is Bruce; the fact of his presence making my brain short-circuit…
Considering all the things that have to be true, to make this a reality.
I.e. countless lies, poorly photo-shopped evidence of Bruce's falsified trip to Jericó, a mother who is also a beautiful spider spinning an elaborate web of deceit in cahoots with my boyfriend...
And notably, the tricky collaboration of multiple loved ones, behind my back, just to be able to see the look on my face...
As we reflect on another year drawing to a close…
What surprises (big and small) popped up for you in 2018?
And how can you make room, for 2019 to offer you the BEST surprises yet?
And how might you make room for 2019... to offer you the BEST surprises yet?