Cartoons and the Wedding Proposal, part 1

What’s that saying? If you love something, set it free. I’m a big fan of cartoons. Cartoon 101 tells you that if you love something or someone you should hug it and squeeze it and name it George. Obtuse? Yes, but if you don’t get the most basic of cartoon references I can’t be held accountable. You need to fix you.

Now that all the romantics have left the building let’s get started. One day I was fighting a bout of Netflix. When I say “bout” I mean like sickness. My daughter Lila infected me. I gave the approval to watch some cartoons on Netflix. When time was up, I came into the room with my TV scythe to cut her viewing life short. The grim TV reaper has no regard for how close to the end of a program you are or what might be coming up next or the word please. Sometimes Lila can stave off the inevitable by enticing the grim TV reaper to tell her about what the reaper used to watch – before he acquired the scythe. So, she got some extra tv time by getting me to tell her about Fat Albert and getting me to watch a couple of episodes with her. This time she also got me to allow some viewing of old Bugs Bunny cartoons where the aforementioned reference comes from. This put off cleaning her room for another 20 minutes.

After watching the “George” episode the reaper quickly snaps back to the focus of getting Lila off to clean her room. Her 8-year-old brain is racing like Batman ready to get band sawed in half by the Joker. She needs to go for anything. Quickly, how do I engage the old man, she thinks. She has it from the loose reference of “I’ll love you and name you George”.

“You love mommy, right”

“Yes,” I say impatiently.

“Can you tell me the story of how you met?”

“Once upon a time your mommy and I met at a party and lived happily ever after….until about 5 minutes ago. Just kidding,” I say trying to move her along. “You need to get that bedroom cleaned.”

Then she asks if I can tell about how I asked mommy to marry me. She knows it’s hard for me not to tell a story, even if I know it’s part of a devious plan. I tell her that when people really love each other they will lie to each other. She is obviously confused by this talk of lying and loving. I need to explain. We’re not talking about “I like that scarf”. Sometimes mommies and daddies want to surprise each other so much that they will do anything or say anything to make this surprise happen. This includes lying.

“Oh, a good lie?” she responds.

I nod “yes” just so there is no record of me acknowledging the existence of “good lies.”

Cynthia and I had been dating for almost two years. She was and is an independent woman. But sometimes even independent women start wondering where things are going with us guys. We knew we were in the L word and steps needed to be taken. As an independent woman who is also a fan of the traditional, she was caught in the awkward position of not mentioning the marriage word. We were both thinking about it and talked about being together a long time, but not at the “what are we going to name our fictitious children” stage. I could sense her wanting answers. To this end I had begun to work on a devious plan (probably where Lila gets it).

I had never really fancied myself a romantic, but I wanted to ask her to marry me and I wanted to make it special. Not unlike every other guy. The problem I’m saddled with is this nagging need for some kind of creativity that pokes me every time I do things like everybody else. I wanted to make it memorable and big. No, I was not thinking about a jumbo-tron at a local sporting event. For me, that would have elicited no for an answer. I should mention at this point that not only did I lie, but I began with stealing.

Neither one of us had much money so I had to be creative about how I was going to acquire an engagement ring. I could buy one or I could steal one. If I stole one, someone would surely report me. What if I steal one of Cynthia’s rings? Genius. I already know it fits her. So that’s what I did. She wore a couple of rings, I believe for decoration, on her non wedding fingers. The coveted ring finger must remain bare. Her ring finger stood tall and naked and proud, but it was starting to be in need of some covering. One day while at her apartment I saw her rings sitting on a coffee table. I took the one of the two that I thought she liked best, just to assure that she would like it. A few days went by and she asked me if I had seen her missing ring. I shrugged and asked what it looked like. She said it was silver and round with a hole in the middle. I said that I would keep my eye out for it. What I really did was take it to a jeweler and had the initials for a phrase that I always told her engraved into it. I will let you know the initials. You’ll probably get what the first few initials stand for, but she’s the only one that knows the rest. It was and is ILYMTMPLO.

With phase one in place I moved to the second part of my evil plan to ask for her hand in marriage (to me). This is where the jewel heist goes international. My last name is Spafford and my family can trace their history back as far as 900 AD to the northern part of England. And guess what. We had a castle. The Spofforth Castle still stands in the town of Spofforth about 10 miles outside of Leeds, England. Spofforth means “fork in the river” or something like that. When the Normans invaded England one story has us being kicked out of our castle. You win some, you lose some. My cousin had visited the castle while travelling ten years earlier and took some pictures. We were all saddened by the fact that our castle is now only partially standing, but it’s still a castle – our castle. My plan was to ask Cynthia to marry me at my family’s castle. This is the part Lila likes because it makes her mom and dad seem more like William and Kate.

I contacted Anna, a very good friend of Cynthia’s who was living in London with her boyfriend Ramy. They were both in school and had a small apartment, but said we could stay with them. I secretly bought plane tickets and planned on being there a week. I only told Anna that I was surprising Cynthia with a trip to London. I got a week vacation lined up for myself. Back then, for Cynthia and me, a vacation mostly meant not going to work for a week and not getting paid. Cynthia was 26 and back in school getting her teaching degree and working at an art gallery. I was 30 and working and conniving.

We had recently made our first purchase together as a couple. It was a tent. We both enjoyed camping so I decided to make this part of my plan. I said we should go camping in Montana for a week. She loved the idea. Maybe I should have picked something that she wasn’t going to love so much, but I couldn’t turn back now. Her parents were visiting for a week from New Hampshire. Upon leaving, they dropped her off at my friend Dave’s house. I had set up an apartment in Dave’s basement. I had two octopus furnaces and our friend Will’s boxes of belongings for walls. When I wasn’t sleeping there I was killing spiders. Cynthia and I said goodbye to her parents and they left. She was excited to get on the road and start our trip. I was supposed to have packed the car. I had only packed a suitcase for myself.

I hadn’t really thought this part of the story through. Past Jason assumed Future Jason would figure it out. Future Jason hated Past Jason with a passion. I said at the last-minute I thought it would be more fun to just fly to a city. I said that we could just go to the airport and find a standby flight and go to New York or New Orleans or someplace. This was 1994 so things were easier to do with regards to flying, but getting a standby flight to just go someplace and for a cheap rate was not very realistic. She knew this and was starting to get a little irritated with my thought (or lack of thought) process. I suggested that we just give it a shot. We could go to her place and she could pack for “general” weather in a city. It was August so we were somewhat safe on the clothing front. Dave was out of town, so I called my friend Dan for a ride to the airport. Dan obliged and we were off to the airport after packing.

I’m not sure why I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. To this day Dave is still irritated that I didn’t at least tell him. My parents and friends were calling looking for me and Dave had no idea where I went. I had vanished. All Dan knew was he dropped me off at the airport and he silently confirmed Cynthia’s confusion about getting a standby flight to “someplace”. I left a note hidden in between Dan’s front seats with a secret plan to call him from London and tell him when we would need to be picked up at the airport and have him get the information between his car seats.

Once in the airport Cynthia’s frustration was starting to reveal itself. The word “reveal” makes it sound like her frustration slowly showed itself, so maybe that’s the wrong word.

“Now what?” she interrogated.

I suggested we split up and check out a couple of airlines and see if there were any tickets to be had. I told her to check one airline and I’d check another. At this point, the only thing keeping me alive was the fact that our love was still young and fresh. We parted. I immediately went to exchange currency. Some weeks ago I had suggested that I could hold onto her passport. I told her that I had a filing cabinet that was mostly fire-proof. I think she agreed because I was annoying her. I would find that this annoying ploy would not continue to work once the vows were exchanged. Nonetheless, my devious plan rolled forward and I stood waiting for her where we had parted. When she came back I asked if she had any luck with tickets. She said no in a told ya so kind of way. I said I had some luck and showed her the two tickets I had purchased. She was surprised and starting to suspect me as a liar. Nonetheless, the type of liar she could fly on a plane with. I told her we had to get to the international terminal.

Once our bags were checked and we went through the limited check in procedure of pre 2001 she asked where we were going for the fifth time. I showed her our tickets that said Amsterdam on them. She asked what we were going to do in Amsterdam. I told her we were going to get on a plane to London. And that is what we did.

Once in London we got to Anna and Ramy’s apartment. Cynthia was very excited and happy to see Anna. We started our site seeing and visiting. At this point, Cynthia probably suspected something along the lines of a proposal might be upcoming. I needed to play it cool – and figure out the rest of my plan. I had a small problem. I didn’t really know where the family castle was located. I thought it was near Leeds but didn’t have a chance to talk to my cousin to confirm. Being pre easily accessible internet, I needed to procure the information about the castle the old-fashioned way via some kind of papery creation such as a map or a book. Under the guise of being really interested in books and reading I suggested a trip to Charring Cross in London. I knew from my limited books and reading that this was the place to go for all the best book stores. I could only assume that there would be information about castles. After the morning of searching and trying not to let her see what I was looking at, I was able to find Spofforth Castle in a book of old castles. At the end of our trip to Charring Cross Cynthia had purchased several books and I had purchased a road map.

“All these books and you’re only getting a road map?” she asked.

“Yes. It’s a nice roadmap.” I answered quietly.

Now for some theater tickets. I had been to London back in high school when I sold hundreds of candy bars to fund my trip with the drama department. Looking back it had been an interesting time to be in London. In 1982 there were many first generation punks still roaming the streets. They were not terribly friendly and should not have been petted. But, oddly enough, I could only assume that most of the punks were pro heavy petting, if push came to shove. The mornings of 1982 London were always punk free. They didn’t start coming out until 1 or 2 pm. At the time, I assumed it was because it took that long to get their hair to stand up.  I was heartened to see a punk in 1994. He hung out on a park bench like he’d been taught by a master. I was so happy punkdom was not dead. It’s great to have these wonderful societal cues to help people find and define their own individuality. It makes everything so much easier. I asked ’94 punk if we were going the right direction to Leicester Square. He said we were. I noticed he had no tattoos on his arms. I was so happy that I almost volunteered up the idea of tattoos to him – The perfect thing for those looking to sprout individuality and, at the same time, in need of a group. I decided he’d probably get there when he was good and ready.

Leicester Square is where you can get half price tickets to see plays. This is what I learned from my high school drama class trip. The other thing I learned was to be careful what you get tickets to. There might be a reason tickets are half price. On the high school trip our teacher got us tickets to a show that had the curtain opening to a totally nude man groping a totally nude woman – they were blind. It was meant to be the most dramatic thing ever. I was seventeen and had seen enough Monty Python to know that this was really funny. But very awkward for the teachers and chaperones who had made the trip with some students being younger – and no one expecting to sign up for this eyeful of skin as a drama class excursion. Oops. So, I decided to bump up from the half price and found some tickets to a new Tom Stoppard play called Arcadia.

Arcadia is a play about order in nature at the most simplistic level. I’m probably only half right, but I’m not writing a review here. It struck me at the time, because I think I was lacking some order in getting this proposal put into motion. During the play I decided that we needed to get up to the town of Spofforth – where the castle resides (in nature) – and we needed to do that in an orderly fashion – meaning the next day. After the play, as we walked I told Cynthia that we should rent a car the next day and take a trip up north. She asked if maybe we shouldn’t take a bus instead of driving. I told her driving wouldn’t be a problem. I’m a big driver, I said. Let the cartoon begin.



Sadly Yours,

Jason Spafford

1 comment

  1. Kathy Laraway Decker says:

    Okay, Jason. it’s been a month. Suspense achieved! Anxiously awaiting part 2!

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