I was raised to never brag about myself or my family. But doggone it, I just can't help myself. My 87-year-old mother and my 34-year-old son are the coolest people I know.
Mom and I flew to Michigan last week for a two-week visit with Jimmy and his three young daughters. All of us, along with Jimmy's girlfriend of four years, spent three days in Chicago, where I was born during my father's dental school days.
Between sightseeing and shopping, we must have walked a hundred miles. At least that's how it felt, especially if you count all those stairs up to the elevated train stops. On our last night there, we got a late start on the hunt for dinner after an exhausting day. It was after 9 when we entered the House of Blues, only to be met by a burly, bearded doorman. He looked more like a biker than a bouncer, and he politely but firmly informed us that the place was closed for a private party. "Seriously?" Jimmy asked, "The whole place?"
"Sorry, folks, the whole place. It's a corporate party. Kid Rock is playing upstairs right now."
I turned and explained the situation to Mom, and she said, loud enough for the bouncer to hear, "Tell him we know that; we're here for the party!"
The guy chuckled. "I like your style, lady. OK, Grandma can stay, the rest of you gotta leave."
Traveling with Mom is always a fun adventure. Some years ago, she and I were strolling down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki when two servicemen in a sporty little convertible pulled up alongside us. "Hey, ladies, how would you like a night on the town with a couple of young studs?"
Mom didn't miss a beat. "Sure! Do you know where we can find some?" Speechless, the smart alecks drove off.
Jimmy's a great travel companion too, and this trip was made even better by his big surprise. I've kept the secret for weeks and now I can finally tell. Our visit to the Windy City gave him the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend, Staci, in a big way. Her best friend, who happens to live in Chicago, Staci's parents, Mom and I were all players in the elaborate scheme, along with a filmmaker friend and the staff at the historic Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University.
Before we left for the big city, I told Staci that the one thing I really wanted to do there was to tour the majestic Auditorium, and that I had already purchased tickets for all of us online. But on the night before the scheduled tour, Mom and I made up an excuse to bow out and take the girls with us. We suggested that Staci invite her best friend to use one of the tickets. At the end of the tour, after the other sightseers left, Staci was directed by the theater staff to watch a short film.
The movie began with anticipatory music and a mysterious figure putting on his coat, striding to a car, then driving along a country road. The next shot was of Staci's parents' front door, as they opened it to welcome my son. The camera followed the three of them as a slightly nervous Jimmy delivered an earnest and eloquent speech, describing how he and Staci fell in love during a particularly rough time in his life, and asking their permission to marry their daughter.
"I felt like a capsized ship in a storm, but she jumped in with me, not to rescue me, but to remind me that I could swim. . . . I would brave the darkest of oceans for her as she did for me. I promise you that I am the partner worth fighting for and the partner worth fighting beside."
They happily gave their blessing and the film ended with Jimmy's friend instructing Staci to turn around so that Jimmy could pop the question. He did so on bended knee, right there in the lobby, with a pianist playing "their" song while he proposed. She said yes, of course - how could anyone resist?
Staci's best friend videotaped the live action, including Staci's surprise at finding her parents and the rest of us waiting outside. It was the perfect start to what I think will be a perfect marriage. Naturally, I cried. I'm such a sentimental fool.
At the engagement luncheon, 11-year-old Lilly, Jimmy's oldest, told me she was proud of her dad. "I hope someday I'll get married to a guy who's just as romantic as Dad!" Later, when we were alone, I told him what she had said.
"Good! I've set the bar high," he grinned.
My son may be as sentimental as I am, but he ain't no fool!
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose Sharing Mana'o column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.