Thirty-eight days ago, the newlyweds came to our house for a summer barbecue. John cooked burgers on the Traeger wood pellet grill. Cedar smoke puffed from the exhaust, filling the back yard with an enticing aroma that made my stomach growl. Lindsey (33), Nick (35), and I stood near the grill, breathing deeply, chatting about their upcoming one-year anniversary. John opened the grill’s black lid and slipped four slices of American cheese on the hot patties. The burgers sizzled.
“We wanna go back to the Ory-gun Garden,” Lindsey said, waving her arms in the air. She looked like a baby bird struggling to fly. “You know, Mom. The same place you and Dad gave us for our honeymoon,” my daughter added, like I might have forgotten where they’d stayed.
Last October, John and I had purchased a package from the Oregon Garden Resort that included a king-size room, two dinner entrees, a bottle of house wine or sparkling cider, and breakfast. Lindsey described the bed and how it was so comfortable that the next morning they’d slept later than planned.
“We almost missed the free breakfast,” Lindsey said, shaking her head. Her short, dark curls bobbed to the beat of her shakes.
Lindsey and Nick talked about the steaks they selected off the resort’s menu, how they picked French fries instead of baked potatoes, how the room came with a gas fireplace and a huge bed–a recounting we’d heard many times since their honeymoon. “We almost got lost in that thing,” Lindsey said, referring to the king-size bed. Her blueberry eyes darted right, then left like she was searching for the correct words in her head. She waved her arms in the air some more, changing subjects, explaining that they’d ordered sparkling cider but the waiter brought them red wine instead.
Pinot Noir,” Nick said, his blue eyes widened. He did a better job of pronouncing pinot noir than I did. “And it was tasty, too.” Nick smacked his lips together, brushing a loose strand of blonde hair from his face. The newlyweds giggled, obviously sharing a secret between themselves. I raised my eyebrows. Lindsey didn’t generally drink alcoholic beverages because of her medications. But they seemed happy with the waiter’s mix-up, so I chuckled along with them. My heart swelled. I wanted Lindsey and Nick to have a memorable first anniversary celebration. And at that moment, I wanted to book them a room in honor of this achievement.
But then I remembered.
They both had been rather careless with money recently (Lindsey more than Nick)–buying two identical DVDs at the video store, “Just in case we lose one,” Lindsey explained when she saw my confused expression. “We do it for all our movies.” Her clarification wasn’t helping ease my concerns. They had at least three bookcases filled with VHSs, DVDs and CDs. Two of every single movie? Was that necessary? Lindsey thought so. Nick shrugged.
“We buy lots of video games too,” Nick added, telling me they had at least thirteen additional used movies and games on hold at the video store.
Since their wedding day, Lindsey hadn’t been as obsessed with buying papers, pencils, pens, and stickers as she had in the past. But if she had a dollar in her Hello Kitty backpack, she acted like the money was a pile of hot coals; she must spend it, get it out of her hands as quick as she could. She’d buy a bottle of shampoo (although she already has five different brands in the cupboard), or she’d spend it on an unnecessary kitchen gadget (I say unnecessary because Lindsey and Nick do not cook all that often), or on a new toy for the kittens, or on twelve Dora The Explorer coloring books at the Dollar Store. And then there was the recent stop at Artic Circle. Lindsey crammed her last seven-dollar bills in a front denim pocket (leaving her with no spending money for the next thirteen days). She scanned the menu board to find an item that cost exactly the amount she had pulled from her pocket and scrunched in a tight fist. Lindsey ended up not liking her selection and tossed most of the meal in the nearest garbage can.
Nick bragged about hoarding his allowance. He pulled out several folded greenbacks from his wallet. “This is my spending money,” Nick said, a smirk on his long face. “I don’t have to share. I keep some for later.” Nick flicked a fingernail against the bills. “But Lindsey spends hers faster than a rocket heading into outer space,” he added. Despite an attempt to hold my lips in a straight line, they curled into a grin.
Lindsey nodded her head up and down in quick succession. “I’m not a saver. I’m a spender. That’s for sure.”
“Well,” I said, thinking of suggestions on how they could save for a night at the Oregon Garden Resort. “You could return pop cans, save your date night money, or order smaller quantities at the fast food counter.” My gaze rested on Lindsey, on Nick, back on Lindsey. “But you should start now since it will cost a couple hundred bucks to do the same package.”
Lindsey stared at me, her face went blank. Nick’s blue eyes seemed sad. Was he worried his wife wouldn’t be able to save enough for an anniversary celebration? He scratched his head, causing an unrestrained strand of blonde hair to fall against his cheek. Nick pushed it away. Neither of their faces held any excitement about my suggestions.
“If your anniversary is important to you, you will find a way to make it happen,” I said, stacking dirty dinner plates on the patio table and carrying them inside to the kitchen sink.
Lindsey and Nick peppered John with questions: Exactly how much would they need? When would they need it by? What would they get for their hard-earned cash? John answered between bites of homemade wacky cake and vanilla ice cream.
When Lindsey and Nick left that evening, I wouldn’t have bet a penny on either of them saving a single dime for their one-year anniversary. But mentally, I’d already vowed, if they saved at least half the hotel’s price, we’d fork over the rest.
Fast forward thrity-eight days. Lindsey and Nick stopped by our house to drop off some medical paperwork. Our conversation turned to their upcoming anniversary.
“How’s everything coming along?” I asked, planning to give the newlyweds another financial pep talk. I tilted my head, crossed my arms, and waited.
“We’ve already saved $138,” Lindsey said, a huge smile made her eyes twinkle like stars. She waved her arms in the air demonstrating how, on her State Farm payday, she stashed their “agreed upon” date night monies into a metal box with a lock.
“I keep the key,” Nick said, his tone serious as a stone. “That was her idea.” He pointed to his wife.
Lindsey nodded and smiled. “It’s best that way.” Lindsey’s eyes darted right, then left. “Now we don’t spend our date night money every week like we used to. Our anniversary is im-po-tant to us. So we’re savin’ hard.”
“She’s been doing good in the savin’ department.” Nick said, ignoring Lindsey’ mispronunciation of “important.” He rocked his head up and down, a wide grin brightened his pale face.
We looked on line to see how they were to being able to book a room at the resort. October prices had dropped. Lindsey and Nick had saved enough cash for the dinner and breakfast package, including tips for servers and housekeeping. When I told them, Lindsey clapped her hands like a child.
“Book it, Mom!” Lindsey said, high-fiving her husband.
My special girl never ceases to amaze me. She proved me wrong once again. Lindsey and Nick decided this event was important enough to save for and they made it happen. All on their own.
And I’m so darn proud of them.
My first book, Loving Lindsey: Raising a Daughter with Special Needs will be out September 26, 2017. If you would like to learn more, click here.