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Fri, Oct

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“Your mission should you decide to accept it.…”  
We did accept it. And, upon accepting the mission, instead of a self-destructing tape, we were given a series of text messages with strict instructions not to reply and told to tell no one.
Our target was Kennedy, the love interest of my nephew Kevin. Our mission: staging a proposal amid the corona virus pandemic’s Stay at Home Order. Sure, the Stay at Home Order guidelines allowed for essential trips only. This was more than essential; this was a trip to create a positive, beautiful, romantic memory during the 2020 pandemic crisis on a lovely sunny spring Saturday in April.
The pandemic crisis closed all bars, restaurants, parks – anywhere the public could gather, kept all people home, cancelled all travel plans. The crisis changed all parts of our lives:  work, eating habits, daily attire, communications, toilet paper hoarding, and TV binge-watching. The crisis taught us new jargon, how to Zoom, DIY masks, the Tiger King’s plight, the value of washing hands, and trending hashtags: #StayHomeStaySafe, #SocialDistancing, #WearAMask, and #QuarantineAndChill.
Before the virus kept us all home, Kevin had planned an entire weekend involving both families leading up to the proposal followed by a small gathering of friends and family to celebrate the moment.
    Kevin had kept the ring secret and hidden, no small task in a small loft apartment where both Kevin and Kennedy lived. Kevin felt he was in the middle of a real life, yet happy, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  Fearing that she might stumble upon the ring, Kevin asked Kennedy’s parents and sisters their thoughts, as they were all confined in their homes far away in Iowa. Her family unanimously said, “just do it.”
    But, how to surprise someone that you are living with 24/7 in, again, a small loft apartment, under the Stay at Home Order?  Creative thinking and a team of women were needed, according to Kevin’s mom, my sister. Her words, “good thing he has women in his life.”
    The team:
    •    Audrey – The Brains aka Kevin’s mom and my sister
    •    Kelly – The Organizer and Visionary aka Kevin’s cousin and my daughter
    •    Tom – The Muscle – and pickup truck owner – aka Kevin’s uncle and my husband    
    •    And Me – Kevin’s aunt
We were allowed a 20-minute window to stage a roof-top proposal vignette. We were to be standing by to carry out our mission sometime between 1:15 - 1:45 PM, when Kevin and Kennedy went out for Starbucks. We synchronized our preferred timekeeping instruments and planned to leave our homes at 12:45.
But earlier than planned, an urgent all caps text came in at 12:20 “GO NOW”. Kevin’s stalling tactics were waning as Kennedy repeatedly prompted him “let’s goooo!”  Kevin, understandably anxious about trying to keep this life changing moment a surprise, was beginning to paranoically think Kennedy was getting suspicious. Kennedy, who later confirmed complete cluelessness to everything leading up to this event, was suffering from lack of daily caffeine, it being well into the afternoon already.
We all went flying out of our homes, driving with purpose, abiding posted speed limits, arriving in Oak Park within a record 20 minutes due to the rest of the population staying home, whereupon we sat in our vehicles two blocks south of the apartment building, awaiting a text.
    “NOW” came the text, all caps again, code for they had left the building.
    We pulled our vehicles into the building’s back parking lot and began unpacking our gear. “Wait a second,” I asked Audrey, “why are you so dressed up?”  
    “I’m going out!”
    “Where are you going,” I asked somewhat accusatory remembering our Stay at Home Order, yet ironically none of us were at home at this moment.
    “Here!”  Audrey was tired of wearing her daily Stay at Home uniform of leggings and sweatshirts. Kelly, I noticed, had curled her hair. I confess that I applied makeup. But I digress….
    Keeping social distancing in mind, we started stretching ourselves as we surveyed the two flights of stairs we needed to climb with our gear. We hauled up a white antique wrought iron bistro table with two matching chairs, a small colorful rug, a bottle of Kennedy’s favorite white wine in a bucket of ice, a bountiful bouquet of white hydrangeas and roses for the table, and a basket lined with a decorative white beaded shawl holding two crystal flutes and a smaller bouquet of white hydrangeas.
    Audrey found the pre-hidden key. The apartment had access to a large open roof space, but we had to crawl out a window to get onto the roof. No problem for the flexible, yoga and Pilates loving pandemic imposed fit women. At least Audrey was wearing stretchy, fashionable houndstooth cigarette pants, albeit with 2-inch heeled boots. Appropriately, my smartphone played at full volume the “Mission Impossible” soundtrack as we climbed out onto the roof and passed gear out the window. Tom, carrying the heavy stuff, characteristically rolled his eyes.
    We staged the proposal vignette a safe distance away from the window behind a brick wall, ensuring a complete picturesque surprise in a spot taking full advantage of the beautiful spring sunshine, which would further enhance the moment by highlighting the sparkling ring reveal. Yes, Kelly, was into the details.
    We snapped a few quick photos. Our mission complete in less than 15 minutes. We all raced to get off the roof, replaced the window screen, made sure we picked up any trace of our task. Our team was all smiles, but sadly unable to high five or hug each other as we all got into our vehicles to return home and wait for the outcome. Audrey texted Kevin the prearranged code “No, we don’t need anything from the grocery store, thx.”
    Tom’s parting comment, cracking himself up as usual, “What if she says no?”  We rolled our eyes in unison.
    Later our team received a series of texts and photos thanking us for going above and beyond.
    Mission accomplished.

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