Twelve years of marriage and six small children had filled our lives with demanding routines and round-the-clock busyness. Spontaneity had taken a backseat to the rigors of mealtimes, bedtimes, and carpools. Daily life had become predictable and orderly, often at the expense of surprise.
I decided to do something to put some zest back into our well-ordered life. I envisioned my overworked husband, Whitney, at his desk decoding a message attached to a bunch of bright helium balloons delivered to his office. The picture seemed delightfully inconsistent with our routine. With that vision as motivation, I staged a treasure hunt for my husband.
His hunt began with the arrival at his office of the helium balloons, to which I had attached a poem:
It’s Valentine’s Day and you’re in for a treat.
Hang onto your hat and warm up your feet.
With balloons in hand, go to the shopping mall “See’s.”
Say, “I’m Whitney Clayton, you’ve a note for me, please?”
Surprised and slightly embarrassed, yet pleased to have been so remembered, he set off for the mall to uncover the next clue. The balloons were so inflated he could scarcely fit them into the back seat of his compact car.
As he wandered through the crowded shopping area, the balloons attracting attention to their ordinarily conservative bearer, he felt half his age. The poems led him from shop to shop, retrieving small pre-planted gifts and clues, and finally to a local hotel with a discounted weekend rate, where the registration desk clerk handed him the key to Room 305.
Meanwhile, having found a capable college girl to care for our children, I waited for my husband.
I heard Whitney take the card I’d taped to the door and fumble with the key in the lock. Soon we were laughing and talking and reliving the lighthearted events of the afternoon.
When we returned home the next afternoon after only twenty-four hours and five miles away, we felt as rejuvenated as if it had been a week in Tahiti.