So you may have read my blog about my boyfriend and my birthday in which I describe why receiving gifts is a love language of mine. I blame my father who "spoiled us as little girls with presents hidden in the pockets of trench coats, sitting in the carseats when we opened the door, discovered at the end of treasure hunts with clues wehad to decipher to find." In the comment section of that blog, my father offered his rebuttle:
Writing: Day one. Beautiful, revealing, touching, self centered, delightful and of course...as always, written with wit and style.
Clue # one. If you look inside a book on page thirty three perhaps you'll find a gift so special that the Bard would say, "love can be found in many places, but the best come in small surprise packages.
Great... (she muttered with a suppressed smile).
Assuming that he hadn't planned that far ahead and left a small surprise package in the Shakespeare books on my bookshelf when he had been to visit in early May before my birthday, but not wanting to risk arriving in St. Joseph in mid-June, devouring my father's thousands of books only to discover that page 33 referenced a book in my own library, I took down my Complete Works of Shakespeare and turned to page 33. Nothing. So I'd have to wait til I got to Missouri.
Several weeks later I found myself in Missouri. Oddly enough, my father found himself in Texas. I was on vacation visiting my parents and grandparents (as a nanny, you vacation when your nanny family vacations) and my father was at work at the National Debate Tournament.
He wasn't home to watch me, but that first morning that I awoke, I started in my bedroom, which had been his former office over 20 years ago, and perused every shelf of books (22 shelves in that room) for Shakespeare books. Having googled, "love may be found in many places but the best come in very small packages" and found no play or book citing this quote, I planned on checking every Shakespeare play, but was betting on an anthology.
From my room, I moved to the official library of theater books in the den (only 15 shelves in there but they're much longer, but they're also mostly alphabetized, so I was counting my blessings).
So I moved to the third library of books in the living room (13 shelves but scattered with photographs and plates on stands - subconversation: why plates on stands? - so not as many books).
I was puzzled. Surely the reference to the bard was to the most famous bard in Shakespeare, but if it wasn't, if it was to some obscure "other" theatrical bard then I was screwed. I just don't know my theater that well. On the other hand, maybe my father forgot. Maybe he read the blog, thought he'd leave me a little clue and then, well, forgot to. Life is busy. He had to retire and prepare his kids for nationals. It could have slipped his mind.
So I facebooked my father. "I have looked on page 33 of every book about Shakespeare or written by Shakespeare in both my house and yours. And you can imagine how long that took... but I got nothing. Another clue please?"
When he returned from Dallas, he came into my room and reported that "it" was still there and that I obviously hadn't looked hard enough. "Two gentlemen could find it," he mumbled as he walked off.
Okay. So Two Gentlemen of Verona, the play or in an anthology. So I went through every Shakespeare book in the house. Again. And lo and behold, I did indeed find clue number two on page 33 of one of many Shakespeare anthologies (found in the living room to be exact - and I promptly moved it to the den where it belongs).
It's about time, I thought you'd never find this. Your clue finding skills are slipping.
Now where to go for Clue #2.
Another book... perhaps an old shoe.
When you find this note you'll giggle with glee
Cause then you'll be ready for Clue #3.
Hmm. Possible hints in the clue: Book, Shoe, Glee. Book, shoe, glee. Book... shoe... glee.
In my sister's room where I sleep when I'm the only child at home (her bed is a double and the most comfortable bed in the house - and yes, I still only have a twin bed in my room!), there are a pair of Amy's old tap shoes probably a size 5 in little girls. I ran to the room and grabbed the shoes. Nothing inside. Flipped them over. Nothing taped to the bottom. I remembered a favorite framed poster or painting of my sister's with an old pair of ballet slippers on it. I searched the house, but the painting was gone. They must have given it to Amy at some point.
Let's go with the book reference. What about a book about a shoe? Brilliant. Old Mother Goose! I found the book of nursery rhymes in my bedroom (in case you hadn't noticed, that's where all the random books are stored) but no "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe..."
So I went for help again.
"Now dad, here's where I've checked so far. I'm oh for three on books and shoes. Do you and mom have the DVD of Glee by chance...?"
He just laughed and said no. And he mentioned how proud he was of how clever this clue was. "Take some time off. Look again tomorrow."
So I did. Frustrated, I quit for the day and mom and I probably went over to Grandma's to play dominos that evening. I don't remember. What I do remember though, is what I dreamed that night. I dreamed about that damn clue! I dreamed I was searching the house for the clue and that indeed mom and dad had Season One of Glee and I found it in the cabinet and found the next clue inside.
I woke up disappointed.
Dad had to go to Savannah High School to finish up some things that night and mom had to go to work, so I spent the morning revisiting the clue. "I'm really proud of my cleverness on this one..." my father had said, so I looked harder at the clue.
Some other words began to pop out at me. "Slipping" and "giggle" in addition to "book" and "shoe" and "glee." Holy cow, I've got it. Cinderella. In Into the Woods, Cinderella slips and falls every time she enters the stage which is a reference to the golden slippers she's wearing with her ball gown (needed by the Baker's Wife to reverse Rapunzel's Witch's spell... I'm digressing). Amy and I were both in that and loved it. How clever! I was giggling now! And off I ran to the DVD cabinet to find Into the Woods.
While it was there, another clue was not. Hmm. Up to the theater books again and my figured perused the S section. Sondheim. Into the Woods, there was the score. But there was nothing in it but my father's old markings. Okay... Back upstairs to the hallway of memories where my father has pictures hanging of all his old shows. There are five pictures of Into the Woods, the last show he directed. I played the Witch (don't even start in with me on type casting cause my sister played the Cow), so I checked the picture frame of me first. But after moving one by one to each, I found no clue.
So I posted on my family's private facebook page. "Amy, Emily and Mom, where are all or any references to Cinderella in our house? I've checked the Into the Woods pics in the hallway, Sondheim's script in dad's theaterlibrary, inside the DVD case of Into the Woods, there is no Cinderella Disney VHS, there's nothing in a book of fairy tales in my bedroom. HELP. Any other things in our house that reference Cinderella?!"
They were no help. I had less than 24 hours left and I was only on clue number two. This was not good. But my father did write on my wall... Okay, here is a clue. You have already been so close you were nearly burned by the clue."
Sonofa... So I checked all the frames again and the DVD and the Sondheim script and Amy's shoes... and there, tucked UNDERNEITH the tap of the shoe was the corner of a sliver of paper. Seriously dad? Could that have been more obscure. And could it have been the FIRST PLACE I CHECKED and I MISSED IT?!
"Well it's about time," the next clue read. "What happens when Noah and your birthday collide?"
A biblical reference! I've got this one.
So I began looking for the Bibles. However, as part of my Father's Day gift to my dad and part of the reason I came home in June, I promised to help him move his office from work back home. This required going through his old study (my bedroom) and getting rid of books, making piles of books to go through, give away, sell in the garage sale, etc., moving books downstairs to where they belonged. And I'd already collected all the Bibles and made mom choose which ones she didn't want or need anymore (likewise, I made my dad go through all his dictionaries and do the same - there's no need for 15 dictionaries in one house). Afterwards, I'd boxed them up and put them in the garage sale pile.
So I opened back up the boxes and in each Bible I turned to Genesis chapters 4-11. Nothing. Hmm. Not in a single one of the Bibles. Strange.
"When Noah collides with your birthday..."
Well, Noah had an arc, and ships sometimes wreck. So maybe that's the reference. My grandfather had painted a picture of a boat in a sunset that was hanging in the living room. I checked it. You got it. Nothin'.
ANIMALS! Duh. I love animals and Noah had tons of them (two of each in one version of the story and seven of each in the second - yes, there's more than one version of the Noah's arc story). So I ran back up to Amy's room and checked Binky, Emily's old stuffed bear that she loved. That and my Raggedy Ann doll are about all we've got left. Nothing.
So I asked mom for help. She had no clue (pun intended) I had even spent the week looking for clues and now here it was, 4pm the day before I was supposed to leave and again, I was coming up empty handed.
My father watched us brainstorm on the couch from his easy chair and laughed. Finally he said, "Stick with the numbers..."
"Is that a clue?!" I demanded.
Animals went on 2x2.
The flood lasted 40 days ("and nights" my father threw in).
Your birthday is 5...18... 1978.
UGH. Frustrated, we decided to quit for a while and go see a flood of our own: the Missouri River. Afterwards, while dining at a new local restaurant in St. Jo Mo, we returned to the clue.
"There's a chance you've got the wrong Noah," my father suggested.
"What?!" I demanded. "The wrong Noah? I don't even know any other Noahs. At least, not any famous ones."
So I thought and thought and then again returned to Glee. "Noah Puckerman! Puck on Glee! His first name is Noah!... But you don't have the Glee DVDs, we've been down that road before." My father got his biggest laugh yet on this deduction.
"Honestly. I don't know any more Noahs," I announced. "I'm turning to Google."
My father wasn't happy with this option, but it was almost 8pm and I was to leave the next morning. So I grabbed my iPhone and stuffed a little more ravioli in my mouth. "F...a...m...o...u...s...N...o...a...h..."
I scrolled past the Noah and the Arc entries and then read... "Look it up: Noah Webster's famous dictionary..."
"The Webster's dictionary guy's name was Noah?" I asked incredulously. "Who knows that?!"
"I did," my parents both reported. Turns out my father had given my mother the hint of "wrong Noah" earlier in the evening and she'd guessed the correct answer right away.
"Oh no," I said, suddenly remembering something. "I already packed all those dictionaries for the garage sale too!"
With my parents in stitches we drove home and I began going, yet again, through the boxes of books already twice packed now for the garage sale. And in the largest Dictionary of them all, on page five hundred and eighteen I found my final note.
"That's better. Are your bags packed?"
All that work and the game was finally over.
Who knows how many hours I wasted (waking and sleeping) trying to figure out those clues. But my dad got a good laugh at my expense. And is was fun... most of the time. But the best part was after returning to Austin, finding one last little note in my... packed bags of course.
My dad loves me and loves to torture me.
And for the first time in my life, I think I'll be able to wait for my next birthday.