I'm sure Maxine suspected something. Her husband Ron had been acting strangely for the past couple of weeks: making more jokes than usual about the ring he'd promised for their 10th anniversary, having a few too many phone conversations on the front porch out of earshot, working late on days he didn't normally.
Despite her suspicions, she still acted shocked when we surprised her in the hotel room he'd rented, surrounding a candlelit table crammed with wine and a huge meal cooked by my husband.
Ron called us several weeks ago asking for help to present the special ring he'd bought for Maxine. He wanted to re-create their 1st anniversary dinner they had 9 years ago at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. My husband (who is a chef) agreed to cook a scrumptious meal of steak, lobster, asparagus, and fingerling potatoes with bacon, sour cream and shredded cheddar. Ron wanted to eat in a private place, away from the hectic household and their 3 children, so he rented a hotel room.
The logistics of this plan were quite intricate. My husband and Ron met at the hotel the night before to view the room, getting an idea of the layout and travel time. We went over the next day to check in for them and start setting up. Luckily there was a microwave to do a last minute zap to the food so it would be nice and hot. We decorated the room with scented candles and little "Happy Anniversary" signs. Ron bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers for the table. We set up a dessert and coffee station with little heart chocolates and gummy strawberries. I even went to the thrift store the day before to buy vibrant linen napkins to match the decor (betcha didn't know that, did you Max?)!
Ron had his own set of challenges: how to pack an overnight bag for his wife without her knowing, how to sneak a boom box in the car to play the CD he created of her favorite music, and how to keep his son quiet about the whole deal.
My daughter, on the other hand, was just bursting with the clandestine activity of the whole operation - just like a genuine spy-kid. We brought the walkie-talkies with us so that I could wait in the hotel lobby and buzz them when Ron and Maxine arrived. The code phrase was "the eagle has landed, the eagle had landed!" My husband would know he had exactly 5 minutes to heat up the food and they would both be ready in the room to "show" Ron and Max to their table. (While I was waiting, which was awhile because they were late, she kept calling "check, check" and "roger that" to me - the front desk agent was cracking up.)
It was a pretty fun surprise when all was said and done. We had some laughs recounting the events of the past few weeks. My husband was anxious about the food being just perfect, so we skedaddled out of there soon after they arrived. They loved the food and she loved the ring. I told my husband that it felt like a family catering and maybe we should start a business on the side! He's not too sure about that but we were happy to be involved!