Wholeheartedly by, Laura Beck Nielsen

Heart- the first of which I reveal when I act on most everything. My heart is passionately exposed, therefore making it extremely difficult to keep a secret, especially from my sweet loving husband. Saturday, however, I performed a miracle.

Actually, an entire population of folk helped me.

In another post I will have to tell a more detailed background story, but for now, know this- my husband and I have overcome several of life’s blows, any one of which would have shipwrecked many other marriages. After each trauma, however, the two of us became stronger and dare I say, more in love. FAIR WARNING: this is a love story! Proceed with caution and potentially tissue.

We celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary last February. We promised no gifts, just a fancy dinner. Everything was well planned. We had the weekend alone in Dave’s parent’s waterfront property in Door County, the fireplace consistently roaring, a few four-mile snowshoe hikes on the ice with the dogs, and dinner reservations at The Whistling Swan in Fish Creek. Unfortunately, an hour before dinner, Dave was still feeling…compromised… from a mid-day snack of fried cheesecurds. We canceled dinner.

To my surprise, Dave pulled a box out of his jacket. “We’ve been through a lot, Honey, so I figured that ten years is a really big deal. I had to get you something.”

I cried when I saw a pair of gorgeous agate earrings and a teardrop yellow agate pendant on a beautiful silver chain. Then my face turned red. “I didn’t get you anything.” I didn’t deserve the jewelry. What a heal I am!

After several kisses and Kleenex an old promise rattled back into my brain. I had promised myself years ago that on our ten year wedding anniversary I would make sure Dave had an official, real, wedding ring. Ten years ago we were broke. Really broke. Dave’s wedding ring was only a $16 sterling silver band a friend helped him get at a head shop a few hours before we flew to Las Vegas. That wasn’t going to cut it for proper representation of our lifetime together. Afterall, Dave is my favorite person in the world.

While Dave was trying to find a good movie to watch, I emailed my family jeweler, Draeb Jewelers in (remind me to tell you the story of my wedding ring- it’s a pretty cool story that explains the generations of the Beck’s and Draeb’s through one ring). I stated that I had jewelry to melt down and the diamond Dave inheried from his grandmother. Would they be able to help me make a ring for Dave? Bill Draeb sounded excited and honored to take on the project. The few criteria were that the ring be durable, classy, and unique. Bill came up with this exellent design in which the two silver bands on either side of the gold band looked like raw silver out of the earth, and the diamond would be embedded in a deep bezel in the gold band. It was perfectly imperfect. The surprise is in creation mode.

OK- so now I need to figure out how to surprise Dave with the ring.
To eliminate boring details, let me just say that we had good reason to go back up to Door County, this time staying with Dave’s parents while they were there, so I asked Dave if he could please let me give him his fancy dinner for our ten year wedding anniversary that first weekend of April when we would be back. OK. What he didn’t know is that I made the reservation through a friend of ours who waits tables there purposefully to scheme the ring presentation.

Thinking on the plan, I realized one grand flaw- staying at the in-laws with the in-laws. Two reasons why this was a concern: 1) Papa Nielsen gets offended if we don’t stay for dinner, and 2) I needed to get away from the house to buy the ring without creating an interrogation of questions and concern. So I called the in-laws and got them in on the plan.

Now fast forward to Friday, April 5th, 9 PM. We arrive at the in-laws from Madison.
Mama Nielsen: “Oh and Laura, thank you so much for going into town for me tomorrow morning to run that errand for me. I really appreciate it.”
Me: “No problem. No problem at all. What is it that you need me to get?”
Mama Nielsen: “Oh, I’ll have to think about that.”
Me: (nails imbed into the arms of the chair)
Papa Nielsen: “Maple Syrup! We need Maple Syrup for breakfast!”
Mama Nielsen: “We don’t need maple syrup!”
Papa Nielsen: “Yes, yes we do! We must have some maple syrup!”
Before Mama Nielsen could disagree again, because disagreement is a common pastime in this house…
Me: “I’ll be happy to get maple syrup, and why not try to find some turkey sausage as well? Won’t that be nice for breakfast?”
There was no disagreement.

Saturday, April 6th, 7 AM.
Me: “Honey! What are you doing up? I thought you would want to sleep in as usual…” (Mink musk smelling sweat instantly drenches the armpits of my t-shirt).
Dave: “I just can’t sleep.”
Me: “Well go back to bed!”
Dave: “Nah, I might as well just stay up.”
Me: (teeth grind slowly and quietly)

8 AM
I leave for “the errand”

10:30 AM
Me: “Hi, I’m almost home. I just ran into some people I knew.” (Supposedly Dave asked his parents why it was taking me two and a half hours to pick up some maple syrup. The answer, “Well, you know Laura.”)

4:00 PM
Me: (text to Dan, our waiter to be) “the ring will be in my jacket in the right inside pocket, as well as the envelope with your $35 for the cognac.”
“please use my iphone in the left inside pocket for photos.”

4:15 PM
Dan: “You got it!”

7:30 PM
Dave is visibly tired and looking disinterested in dinner. We are in the car on the way.

8:00 PM
We get to the restaurant and they are slammed. Our friend, Dan, suggests we sit in the cozy lobby in front of the fireplace with these two beautiful hipsters about our age drinking expensive wine. Dave tries to order a whiskey old fashioned, but alas, they only serve wine and beer.
Dave: “Oh, no worries, I’ll go order a beer at the bar.”
Me: “Dan, could you please take our jackets?”
Everyone looks at me with a furrowed brow, even the hipsters. Dan is visibly very busy.
Dave: “That’s kinda rude, honey.”
Dan: “No, no, that’s my job. I’d be happy to take your coats.”

After a glass of wine with the hipsters we get seated on the opposite side of the two-way fireplace. It’s lovely. Throughout dinner Dan brings us little surprises we didn’t order and each one is a culinary treasure. Dave and I finish dinner and Dave reminds me that Door County is truly home to us. We have great friends who are pretty much family. Just as I was reminding Dave of all the ways I knew he was one way back when…

Dave: “Hey! Eggert! Come sit at our table we just got done with dinner!”
Our good friend Eggert just migrated back to Door County for the summer season. He gladly takes a place at our sweet little table. I smile and excuse myself to go to the ladies room. I find Dan.

Me: “Dan! I love Eggert but this is bad timing! He needs to go!”
Dan: “I know. I got it. I’ll make it good. But where is the ring? What do you want me to do?”
Me: “I thought you got my text…”
Dan: “You want me to take pictures, I got it, but what about the ring?”
Me: “It’s in my jacket, inside right pocket, with your $35 for the cognac. iPhone in left pocket.”
Dan: “Got it! And…”
Me: “Yes, please serve the ring in the cognac.”
We give each other a thumbs up and a smile.

When I come out of the ladies room, Dan is digging into my jacket like a muppet- he looks like the giant monster muppet and my heart jumps. I look at Dave from across the room. He’s oblivious to the dramatic gestures at the coat rack because he and Eggert are completely engaged in some comedic conversation.

Dan: “Don’t worry. I gave Eggert the stink eye. I think he got it.”

When I arrived at the table, it seemed Eggert had not “gotten it.”

Eggert: “What’s with Dan? He’s giving me these weird faces.”
Dave: “If you’ll excuse me, I must visit the john.”
Dave leaves.
Me: “Eggert I love you, and I would normally want you to sit with us the rest of the night. But what you don’t know is that Dan is about to serve Dave a ring I got him as a surprise, and well, I’d rather you weren’t sitting here when that happens.”
Eggert’s face lit up.
Eggert: “OH! I see! No problem. I’ll just tell Dave that Dan didn’t get me the dessert menu and I’ll just go to the bar. You can meet me up there if you want…”

Dave returns. Eggert uses above excuse. Dan promptly arrives with the snifter of cognac.
Dave is so excited about the cognac he can’t stop thanking Dan.
Dan is laughing and trying to explain to Dave that this was my idea, not his but Dave is too excited.
Me: “Honey! There is something in the glass!”

Dave was incredibly impressed that I, Laura Beck Nielsen, completely and successfully surprised him. Despite all of the bloopers that happened along the way, he had no clue whatsoever.

The rest of the evening is full of sweet kindnesses, kisses, holding of hands, and the occassional tear dripping down to the corner of a smile.

10 year anniversary

Dave told me a long time ago, “I thought the worst thing ever would be if we lost the property, the house, and the studio. But that’s not it. The worst thing would be if I lost you. As long as we stick together everything will be fine.
Well since then we did lose the property, the house, and the studio along with my boutique. But we stuck together and everything has been more than fine. And it wasn’t just Dave and I who stuck together. Our little community on our little peninsula stuck with us. We all stuck together, wholeheartedly, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

A special thanks to those who helped me perform the greatest surprise of my life (so far):
Bill and George Draeb of Draeb Jewelers
Dan Luedke
Scott Zimmerman
The Whistling Swan
Mary and John Nielsen
Jessica Farley
Dan Eggert


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