Oksana and I thought it would have been cool to walk straight downstairs to the post office after the oath ceremony and submit the paperwork for her passport. Earlier in the week we even went so far as to take new passport photos at home and get them printed at Fred Meyers. We didn’t know for sure if she’d actually receive her certificate of naturalization at the ceremony or if it would take weeks to receive it by mail. The latter seemed likely, so we didn’t plan on standing in the post office line. Besides, my parents were with us and it wouldn’t be fair to have them wait around.
Oksana had to take care of one or two financial crisises at work, so she dropped us off at the hotel. I ran over to McDonald’s for drinks and passed the time talking with my mom. Oksana was back with us barely a half hour later and we were off to go shopping.
Home Depot was first, but we didn’t do much more than browse. Don opted to stay in the car; he’d brought a book. We left Home Depot for Auke Bay, to drop off Don before more shopping. Oksana opened up our apartment and turned on the PlayStation for him, just in case he wanted to fell like a Guitar Hero. When she got back to the car, my mom asked if we could stop real quick at a convenience store to buy my step-dad something to drink. Took us maybe 5 minutes. Just before she went back into our apartment, she grinned and said, “If he’s playing the game, I’m going to buy it for him.”
She walked in, he was playing Guitar Hero. “Do you really like that game, Don?”
He didn’t miss a beat. “Buy one! Go buy it! Just make sure you get two guitars!” We added Fred Meyer on our list of stores to visit that afternoon.
We hit both Costco and Fred Meyer, but bought far less than we usually do when my mom’s in town. At Fred’s, I loaded a PlayStation 2, Guitar Hero 2, an extra wireless guitar controller, and a memory card into our cart. My mom planned to buy all that, but Oksana and I overruled her. We paid for it instead (after they’d spent so much money on plane tickets and a hotel for just a 36 hour stay, it seemed the right thing to do.)
While wandering past the Costco bakery, I had an idea. We called up the Thane Ore House, where I’d made reservations a couple weeks before, and asked if we could bring our own desserts. “No problem.” How about champagne? “Well, that’s more of a problem.” We could bring it, but they’d have to serve it and charge us an uncorking fee. How much? “How does a dollar a bottle sound?” Like it’s not going to be a problem! We added 4 pies (key lime, raspberry-rhubarb, cheesecake, and a symbolic apple pie!) and 6 bottles of champagne to our list.
Back at home, Don was still rocking out on the PlayStation. My mom joined in and while they traded solos, I unpacked their new PlayStation and made sure they knew how to hook it up. Dinner time rapidly approached and soon we were on the long drive out to Thane. We made one quick pit-stop at Media Services to pick up the mingle-inducing games I’d created… and to show off the new HDTV equipment we get play with at work.
We arrive slightly late; a few of our guests were already waiting for us. The Thane Ore House had originally reserved the back room for us, but their afternoon reservation had run longer than they’d expected. Instead, they put aside 7 or 8 tables in the main room. I sent Oksana to mingle while I took care of business.
I grabbed the attention of someone that was working there; he turned out to be the owner’s brother. While I handed off the champagne and pies, I asked about how the evening would go. The deal was an all-you-can eat buffet for $19, kids under 12 eat free, champagne would be poured when I requested, and a head count confirmed 32 adults for dinner. Other than a few walk-in customers, the place was ours.
I raised my voice to get everyone’s attention, gave them the low down, then went off to set up a few “games.” On one table, we had a blank world map and encouraged everyone to color in any countries they’d visited. I then walked around each table and handed out tiny flashcards with all 96 questions on Oksana’s citizenship study guide. Each guest drew three questions out of a hat and were challenged to try to stump Oksana. I told them that if she couldn’t answer one of the questions, I’d buy them a drink. Unfortunately for me, Oksana hadn’t studied those questions in almost a month…
Somewhere in all that, I found time to sit down and eat.
Later in the evening, once it looked like everyone had finished eating, I had the servers bring out the champagne. When everyone had a glass in their hand (kids with sparkling cider, too!), I gave an impromptu toast to Oksana. It was off the cuff, so I really don’t remember all of it, but I said something like, “This is one of those special occasions that calls for well-rehearsed toast… unfortunately I don’t have one. I just want to say that I’m incredibly proud of Oksana and happy that she’s finally an American. Today makes being a male-order husband all worthwhile!”
Everyone laughed, but I hope I didn’t sound flip. I really am proud of her, and didn’t want to belittle her accomplishment.
A little bit after my toast, I sat down next to my parents and encouraged them to offer up a toast to Oksana, too. Not so much because I wanted them to say something, but to let everyone else know that if they wanted to say something, they certainly could. My mom and step-dad agreed that it would be great to tell the gathered guests about surprising Oksana the night before, but neither of them wanted to stand up in front of everyone. Finally, Don stood up and tapped a spoon on a glass to get everyone attention. He began telling everyone the story and then, half way through, said, “…and now (Peggy’s going to kill me for this, but…) she’ll tell you the rest.” Then he sat down. My mom gaped in a good natured, how-dare-you surprise for a few seconds, then rose to tell the rest of the story. It was cute.
As the party wound down, the champagne was poured off and the pies were sampled (naturally, the first slice of apple pie went to Oksana!) Even after sharing some of our dessert with the other patrons, we had a ton of leftovers. I gathered up the extra bottle of champagne, our party games, and a beautiful vase of flowers that Oksana had received and packed them out to the car.
Finally, around 10:30pm or so, we said goodbye to the last of our guests and drove back out to the valley.
I’m sure I could have planned more for that party, but I’m not so sure it could have turned out any better. (Thanks to everyone that came!)
Early the next morning, Oksana and I picked up my parents for a quick breakfast before dropping them off at the airport. Then we went back home and took a nice long nap.
(to be continued one more time)