I met Michael in June and two weeks later we were engaged. It was crazy fast and all of our friends were stupefied. Both of us said “never again” to both a serious relationship and/or marriage. And there we were.

I’ve often described meeting Michael as if you were walking down the street and a complete stranger fell in step with you and you both went the same way down the same streets and it was as if you were walking that way your entire lives. As if nothing out of the ordinary just happened. As if you were now walking with your best friend and you trusted this person completely and without words, you just knew. you knew.

Yeah, it was like that.

We looked for a house that summer (where I lived because I wasn’t moving my kids) and we bought one and moved in September. We were supposed to get married in the spring and we had talked about venues and guests and all that.

My 40th birthday was approaching and he thought it would be SPECTACULAR to do something SPECTACULAR. Only he had no idea what that would be. He talked to some of my friends about a get together and he talked to the kids about buying me some diamond earrings and a video camera.

The thing about Michael was that he cared SO much. He wanted it to be special and wonderful and out of this world and he was frustrated with the idea of just a birthday party and some great gifts.

He came to me and said, “Tell me what you’ve always wanted to do and have never done. I want to give you that for your birthday.”

I said, “I’ve always wanted to spend the night at the Plaza Hotel but a standard room is like $400 (this was 1996 and that was very pricey).”

He said we’re going to stay at the Plaza Hotel not for a night, for a weekend, and we’re not getting a standard room, we’re getting a suite. And we’re not just getting a suite, we’re getting one that looks over Central Park.

And I was blown away but the very thought of that. He wasn’t doing it to “be the man” or impress me. He was doing it because he wanted to give me the best present I’d ever had. He wanted ME to have it. I was blown away because I knew he was truly doing it because he loved me. It was really unbelievable to me.

As we made our plans, somehow we got to thinking that it would be fabulous to get married that weekend. I don’t know how it evolved but it did. And I talked to the Plaza and a minister and we set out to do it.

On my actual birthday, 4 days before we were getting married, I had a little party and Michael gave me the video camera I had wanted and a pair of diamond earrings.

We arrived at the Plaza on Thursday and we lived in the Oyster Bar because Michael fell in love with the steamers (The Oyster Bar is no longer there, you bastards), and we had high tea where Michael bugged them for extra whipped cream for his strawberries. (Everyone is very proper at high tea at the Plaza, but Michael was being Michael which is unpretentious and silly.)

There was a refrigerator in our room with some babybel cheeses and Michael opened it and popped it in his mouth. I said, “Those cheeses are like $9.00 a piece, don’t eat those!” He laughed and said, “I’m paying $1500 a night for this room, I’ll eat the $9.00 cheese.”

I was entralled being at the Plaza. But we weren’t acting all high-faluting or anything. We wore our leather jackets, Michael had his Harley stuff on and we were probably staying in one of the most expensive rooms in the place. So even though the white-gloved staff gave us looks as we careemed around the place being ourselves, we were having a blast. A BLAST.

On Friday night we ordered room service and had it in our suite in front of the fire place. We had ordered filet mignon and it was cooked to perfection.

We took a million pictures out of that window of the duck pond in Central Park and Wollman Rink. Thankfully Wollman Rink was still as I remembered it as a child and not the bizarro place it is today.

The weekend was magical and wonderful and the best present I have ever received. The Plaza was just as I dreamed it would be. And it was just incredible staying there. And Michael was the most fun traveling companion I’ve ever known and he enjoyed every minute of it. I always think of him as just enjoying the hell out of life….just calm and easy and easy-going and light and fun. And he was all of that and more that weekend.

And I think that the experience could have been a lot less fun with someone else (maybe someone who was conscientious about the fru-fru place or concerned about the bill or just not as fun as Michael).

When I think of that weekend I think of him. I see his smiling face a dozen times…walking across the lobby…getting in the elevator…up in the suite…and running (running!) to the Oyster Bar and going in like he owned the place — for “his” steamers. Asking for more whipped cream from the very stern and serious waiter at very proper high tea. And then saying, “More.” And making me laugh.

And the next year we did it again. And he was as charming and as fun…and I loved him even more than I did the weekend I married him.

We were going to go back on our 10th anniversary but it was closed under the new owners. We never got back.

But every time I was in New York and he wasn’t and I was standing in front of The Plaza, I would call him. Every. single. time. And he would say “Bring me home some clams.” 🙂

We have so many things from The Plaza. And on our 5th anniversary I bought him a sweatshirt that has The Plaza emblem on it. When I gave away his clothes, that was one thing I kept.

Any time I was really angry with him, which wasn’t often, I would think about The Plaza and that magical weekend with him and the best present I’d ever received and the best time I’ve ever had.

That weekend was truly a weekend of love and magic. The most I’ve ever known. But we kept it alive and whimsical for the next 12 years…and we always showcased our Plaza memorabilia in a prominent place in our bedroom.

I knew, at the time, that I was experiencing something wonderful. I’m so glad I appreciated it at the time. And as the years went on our gift giving evolved. We would give each other some nice gifts now and again but for our anniversary and Christmas we would do “we” gifts…weekends away…a night out. On Valentines Day we gave each other cards and that was about it. We were both so secure in our relationship that we gave gifts when we wanted and didn’t let the times dictate that for us.

And he’d always ask, “What are we doing for…” and if I shrugged that was okay with him. We each picked out special cards for each occasion. And we each kept one special one by our desk for the rest of the year. The anniversary card I gave him two years ago is still on his desk. I haven’t moved it. We never once had an argument or an upset over any occasion….we both went with the flow…I learned that from him…and love was 365 days a year and that was the best gift of all.

I can’t say that any of my ex’s were terrible birthday gift givers. In fact some of them were very charming and sweet. But I always had some sort of emotional issue on my birthday and never really enjoyed them.

But I enjoyed the first one with Michael and every one thereafter. Last year we went to radiation on my birthday and he was upset that he didn’t get me anything. We were fighting for his life and he was upset about a gift for me after all he had done for me and given me over the years. I said just be here next year. And he said, I will.

And I know he would have if he could have.

And today I miss him so much that my heart feels as if it’s breaking all over again.

His gift to me was always him. Not the extravagant Plaza suite or the diamond earrings or one year he had my engagement ring reset with newer, better diamonds…but him…that’s all I wanted.

Just him. He was such a gift. And I am trying to be grateful for having had such a gift in my life for so long.

I miss you hunny bunny. I truly do.

Thank you for giving me the best birthdays of my life.

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