Friday, July 27th, was Oksana’s big day. The oath ceremony, where she would be sworn in as a U.S. citizen, was scheduled for the morning, and we were planning a party at the Thane Ore House for her that evening. What she didn’t know was that I had a surprise lined up for her on Thursday night!
We’d been talking about the after-party for weeks, coming up with a location, deciding who to invite. Oksana said more than a couple times that it would have been nice if my parents could have come up from Ketchikan for the ceremony. Of course, they already had plane tickets, but I didn’t tell her that. I always kept a straight face and said, “Well, why don’t you call them and ask?” She never did.
I’m good at keeping secrets, but for some reason I came close to slipping up a dozen times with this one. The worst was just an hour or so before the big reveal when I mentioned that I’d need to swing by work sometime tomorrow before the party to pick up some stuff. Oksana wondered aloud why I couldn’t just pick up my stuff while I was at work. Which would make sense… if I hadn’t arranged to take the day off to spend with her and my parents.
Fortunately, she didn’t think much of it, and the plan went down just like my mom and I had planned it. With the invaluable help our friends Mike and Leah, here’s what happened:
My parents arrived at about 8pm on Thursday night. I wouldn’t have been able to slip away without arrousing suspicion, so Mike and Leah picked them up at the airport and took them to a nearby restaurant. Mike did an awesome job executing our plan earlier that day with an innocuous e-mail inviting us to go see Rattatouie. It would have to be the late show for them, he wrote, and they were thinking about going to dinner beforehand at either the Broiler or the Hot Bite. (Our plan was always the Broiler — he’d overheard Oksana express her disappointment with the Hot Bite before.) The only concern I had was that Oksana might balk at a late show on a week night. I needn’t have worried; she’d planned to take the next morning off to get ready for the naturalization ceremony.
That evening, Oksana decided to take a walk after work. Which was perfect, as it allowed me to check on the flight and realize it was late. I called Mike and we decided to tell Oksana that they were running late, that we would meet up for dinner a half hour later than planned. Turns out the flight actually landed early — Thanks Alaskaair.com! — but Mike and Leah made it in time and simply waited with my parents at the Broiler. Oksana and I left our apartment at about 8:25pm and I pretended to be interested in small talk during the drive. It was torture; I had to concentrate not to let an anticipatory smile slip out.
I opened the door to the restuarant and ushered Oksana in ahead of me. She glanced around the tables, looking for Mike and Leah. When she spotted them, she smiled, waved, and said “Hiiii…,” while walking toward their table. I made sure to fix my stare on her face, to see her reaction. There was a moment of confusion — why are there people sitting at the table with them? — and then her mouth dropped open. All the way. And stayed that way until after she’d hugged both my mom and step-dad. There were tears in her eyes, and all she could say was “Wow!” and “Oh my God!” and “I can’t believe this!”
So totally worth the effort.
We all had a nice dinner and explained the New Plan to Oksana. My parents were only in town for about 36 hours, but it was long enough to go to the citizenship ceremony and after-party. I would be taking Friday off to hang out with them. When I asked if Oksana could maybe take part of the afternoon off from work, she said, “Well screw that, I’m taking the day off, too!”
It was a late dinner, so afterwards we said goodbye and thank you to Mike and Leah and checked my parents into their hotel with plans to meet them for breakfast in the morning. Oksana wasn’t disappointed about missing the movie. I don’t think she even remembered we had once planned to go.
(to be continued)