We stepped onto the plane just in time to hear a man say, "Tomorrow, I'm going shoot something!"
But because we were going to Oklahoma, we knew what he meant.
We arrived on Thursday, picked up our luggage and ran into one of WG's dad's employees who was picking up his daughter...a woman who had actually sat right next to WG on our flight from California. Oklahoma is a small state.
WG's sister picked us up.
I spotted a slightly weaving ginormous, brand spanking new, red Chevy pick-up truck with a big bold OU front license plate and said, "Is that her?"
Sure enough, the girl who usually drives a little Pontiac Crossfire was barely handling the biggest truck known to man, WG's father's brand new purchase.
I took one look at her hair and knew for certain that I would not be asking her to take a pair of scissors to mine anytime soon. She's fashionable in her crowd, but her style is a far cry from mine. She had short, platinum blond hair with a darker brown underlayer, and, what I learned later were "extensions for volume." Uhm. No thank you. WG kept teasing me, "Would you like me to ask her? Did you want me to tell her to bring her scissors over?"
We stopped off at WG's dad's house to change clothes and visit with his dad and step-mom. We walked into his dad's office and saw about six gun cases out on the floor. If I hadn't known it already, I knew then that I surely was a long way from California.
Thanksgiving was an assortment of people who look like WG. Well, more like a pod of people clearly cut from the same genetic pool. Since I've only met a small portion of my man's family before, it was both refreshing and startling to be around so many people like him. They were loud, but not brash. They were curious about me but not obnoxious. And they were all there to eat the 950 different things on offer for dinner. And his cousin's wife was just about to give birth (honestly, that baby could have just slid on out at the dinner table).
It was at the dinner that I met his mother for the first time. She gave me a big hug, talked to us for a bit, and then went back to enjoying her Thanksgiving with her family and her boyfriend of four months. I don't mean this as a bad thing. I wasn't given the Spanish inquisition (or whatever they call it in Oklahoma), and I wasn't the focus of 23 people curious about their relative's California girlfriend.
Friday, I got to witness WG assembling his mother's Christmas tree in all it's glory. This meant four hours of very careful winding of lights around a vast number of individual branches. I handed over the lights, as I have been trained to do after two decades of being my dad's holiday-light-hanging assistant. I'm apparently the only assistant he's ever had who he didn't want to yell at throughout the process. I'm also the only assistant who's ever made out with him :Þ.
On a mid-morning outing to the world's largest Wal-Mart to pick up MORE lights for the tree, we had an interesting encounter.
Me: Hey, I see a dead deer in the back of that truck.
WG: I swear, I've seen more guns and dead deer in Oklahoma this trip than I ever have in my entire life. They've all come out to scare you.
Me: I see a dead deer in the back of that truck, and I can tell by the placement of it's antlers that the head is no longer attached.
WG and his mother laughed and laughed and laughed.
That same day, I also got proof that WG existed before the age of 14. I saw baby pictures! I saw screaming from the birth canal, brand new WG for the world to see, naked and all. And the scary thing? He looked just like himself. You know how there are people who always look the same, well that's WG. His mouth has the same set, thin line when he's displeased, the same smirk when he's up to trouble, the same light in his eyes when he's actually happy. I like that.
In the evening, I got to witness him playing Settlers of Catan with a glint of determination in his eyes that isn't usually there when he plays with amateurs. Seeing WG in his home environment, with people he's known for years, meant watching him come alive in a way I haven't experienced before.
Saturday involved exceedingly cold weather (well, exceedingly for a California girl standing outside for five hours straight) and some real, live
Oklahoma football. And those boys were big. They looked like giants out on the field as they tackled the OSU quarterback and knocked off his helmet. I had turned into a real Oklahoman by that point, and realized it as I caught myself thinking, "Son, you best put your strap on a bit tighter next time."
Ah, but it was fun to watch as WG saw the Pride of Oklahoma rush the field. I could see him fall back into his memory, and, for one of the first times, I didn't feel jealous, didn't want to pull him right back to the present time with me.
Sunday, I awoke in bed beside the man I love. Almost as soon as I opened my eyes, he said, "Happy Birthday," and a rush of warmth filled my body. I missed my mom and dad, felt a longing for some of the birthdays of the past, but I also felt truly blessed to be where I was. Thanksgiving is meant for gratitude, but, despite some evidence to the contrary, it is on my birthday that I feel most grateful for my blessed life. I had texts and calls from my parents and friends throughout the day.
We went to church and attended a worship service led by Vicky Beeching, then to lunch (there were so many "then to lunch" moments throughout the visit that I thought I might have to roll out of the state on Tuesday), then back to his dad's farm to ride a four-wheeler around and heard the faint echo of hunters' bullets as they tried to chase down some white-tailed deer.
We learned that his cousin's wife had given birth, and there is now someone else in the world to share my birthday.
It poured rain that night. We drove to Oklahoma City in the rain, both commenting on the difficulty of holding hands while he drove, because he was in another of his dad's jumbo trucks, and were further apart than we are used to. It poured rain, and we walked around "Bricktown" (aka downtown Oklahoma City). It poured rain and we settled down for crawfish etouffe and then went to see August Rush.
And as we drove back to the farm, the rain turned into snow. It snowed on my birthday.
Before we knew it, it was Monday, and our last full day in Oklahoma.
We strolled down the rode in the truck to his grandfather's farm, where his grandfather toured us around.
WG: How old are these colts, Grandpa?
The Grandpa: Well, they were born in May last year, but they'll be two on January 1st, according to the American Quarter Horse Association.
Me: That's better than being born on December 1st and turning one on January 1st.
And his grandfather looked at me with approval. "You know a little something about horses."
And then we went to lunch in a restaurant where they let you eat peanuts out of a bucket and throw the shells on the floor.
The rest of the day we spent in Oklahoma City. We stared in confusion at the bombing memorial, not sure what to say, not sure how to make sense of the tragedy that happened there. Parts of the building still stand as a memorial, so it's hard to forget what used to stand in that very spot.
Then, WG, his dad, step-mom and I went ice skating. And I rocked. And by rocked, I mean I didn't fall on my bottom. WG did. I laughed.
And finally, one last dinner in Oklahoma. A fine, glorious, Napa-worthy meal (accompanied by wine made by WG's winery, but purchased at full price by his dad, with WG shaking his head throughout the whole exchange) of decadent pasta and tiramisu for dessert.
One cozy turn around a vast park filled with Christmas decorations, and it was time for one last talk with his step-mom, who had drunkenly advised me in Las Vegas not to settle.
"I may have been drunk when I said it, but I meant it. It's important not to settle."
"Well, I respect my father very much, and I wanted the man I dated to be worthy of my father's respect. And WG is a good man."
"It's true. We all think very highly of him. He is a good man."
And with that, WG and I went to sleep in a room full of clocks so that we wouldn't miss our 4:45 wake-up call for our 7 a.m. flight.
And then we came home.