Twenty years! That’s how long Mr Prescott and I have been married. Does it seem like a long time? The concept of twenty years sounds like forever, but frankly, two decades have zipped by. Suddenly, our baby daughter is a beautiful young woman with only a year left at school, and our tiny son is a handsome young teenager who, when he isn’t at school, is defying gravity at local skate-parks, or hanging out by the lake with his buddies. In a few more years, my husband and I will be the only occupants of the Prescott household. Does time fly? Pfff…
I’m not worried about the passage of time. Of course, sometimes, when I look in the mirror – especially holding a magnifying mirror to the north light with my reading glasses on! – I can get a little nostalgic. Heck, I’m no spring chicklet anymore! But with my (mostly) sensible eating habits and a little help from my magic creams, with regular exercise and plenty of fresh air, even the north light tells me I’m not doing too badly. As for Mr Prescott, I don’t know whether it has anything to do with the new variety of pale pink and white aubergines I’ve recently discovered at my local farmer’s market and keep on serving up for dinner, but for someone who just celebrated his 5th decade, he’s looking pretty amazing. No sign of love handles on my man! When I look at my husband, I see a gorgeous, tanned, blue-eyed, healthy, sporty, kind and confident person. I won the love lottery when I married Cedric, on a sunny March day in 1989.
I know I’m lucky. I know I’m blessed. I know Cedric feels the same way. We enjoy each other’s company and, most evenings, we spend hours chatting over dinner with a couple of glasses of wine. We can get pretty silly too, giggling over ridiculous rude jokes, embarrassing the kids with the daft things we say. “Ok, I’m leaving now,” my son will mutter, getting up, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. Nevertheless, the amused glint in his eyes speaks heart-warming volumes. “I can’t believe you just said that!” my daughter will exclaim, her giant blue eyes wide as she tosses her long blonde hair and shoves her plate in the dishwasher before retiring to her room to multitask (homework and Facebook). Cedric and I will chuckle, give each other knowing looks. We’ll finish our glasses of wine, put the cork back on the bottle and clean up together. It’s lovely! Honestly! We’re lucky.
Even after twenty years of marriage, my husband still manages to surprise me. Actually, surprise me is putting it mildly, because just last week he left me speechless. Stunned. Somewhat weak at the knees. What he managed to orchestrate as a twentieth anniversary gift for me is simply a tour de force, especially considering that, only six weeks ago, he was in hospital undergoing major knee surgery to reconstruct torn ligaments and a chipped meniscus. Our children were privy to my “surprise”, as were some close friends, and it’s also thank to them that “Operation Greg Miller” went as smoothly as it did. Me? I was clueless.
Greg Miller is an American artist with a studio in Venice Beach, California. We came across some of his paintings in an art gallery while visiting San Francisco last summer and fell in love with his funky, original, “post-pop-art” work. My husband was especially enamored by a large painting of skier jumping off a snowy ridge, to the extent that he spent the rest of the holiday obsessing about it. Wouldn’t it look great in our chalet in the mountains? It would, wouldn’t it?
Cedric was still thinking about the painting when we returned to Switzerland and, after a few more weeks of reflection, contacted the gallery to enquire whether it was still available. It was. A deal was struck, and pretty soon the massive painting was delivered to our place in the mountains. It looks fabulous up there, somehow managing to make the living room seem bigger than it really is. And my son was pretty thrilled when he found out, courtesy of my mother’s in depth reading of “In Style” magazine, that Jessica Alba has a Greg Miller painting in her Hollywood home!
As an artist, I know how wonderful it feels to receive feedback on your work, so I took some photographs of the painting over the Christmas holidays, found Greg Miller’s email and sent him a message with a photograph attached. A few days later I received a nice email from Greg, thanking me for my message and the photograph, telling me how thrilled he was to know how much we appreciated his work. End of story? Not exactly. A few months later, in early June, I received an invitation to Greg Miller’s new exhibition in Malibu. The front page of the invitation featured a stunning painting of a laughing blonde woman at the beach, her hair scrunched back with a blue head-band, wearing sunglasses and looking relaxed and happy. The painting leapt out at me; having seen more of Greg’s work close-up I knew immediately how vibrant it really was. It was a feel-good painting that instantly put a smile on my face, so I forwarded it to my husband at work with a brief note that read “I love this painting!”. And then I forgot all about it. I mean, we weren’t about to hop on a plane and mosey on down to Malibu to sip Margaritas and mingle with the likes of Jessica Alba, were we?
Fast forward two months. Cedric and I have some wonderful friends who live close by and whose gardening skills are…well, not quite as well-developed as mine! However, they’re working on them and needed my input on selecting perennials at the local garden centre. My friend Sabina has nicknamed me the “Garden Guru.” Judging from the state of my cherry tomatoes, I’m not sure I deserve this title, but whatever. Anyway, last week, while pottering around the supermarket, I received a phone call from Sabina, requesting my urgent presence at Perennial Paradise. Time was of the essence; her husband Patrick was on a tight schedule with other places to go, other people to see: they needed me NOW. A little surprised, I plodded home hoisting multiple bags of shopping where I was greeted by Cedric who also informed me that our friends were in a rush. “Just go! I’ll put the shopping away,” he said with a casual wave of his crutch.
Since putting shopping away is, in my hausfrau opinion, as sexy as emptying the dishwasher, I didn’t argue. I got back into my car and headed to the garden centre to meet Sabina and Patrick. We spent a few leisurely hours strolling through this temple of floral temptation, discussing the merits of delphiniums, asters, jasmine, etc. My friends didn’t strike me as particularly frantic to get anywhere else at top speed, but I didn’t say anything; after all, it was a beautiful sunny day and social calendars can change at the bleep of a mobile phone. And there did seem to be quite a lot of random mobile phone bleeping going on… We cruised on through the aisles, trolleys laden with pots of colorful bounty, and even took a leisurely beverage break in the tropical greenhouse, marveling at the heady scent of giant pots of gardenia.
“Isn’t your horse stabled around here?” wondered Patrick, sipping his Coke.
“Yes, Kwintus is five minutes down the road,” I answered, sipping mine. “I’ve got to go and ride him afterwards.”
“I’d love to see him,” he answered. “Sabina, what do you think? Shall we stop by and see Cesca’s horse?”
“Why not, darling,” replied my pretty friend. “I’d love to meet Kwintus! I’ve heard so much about him.”
Clearly, prior engagements had flown the coop.
So we loaded the cars with their purchases and went to visit Kwintus who was happily munching away in the paddock, swishing flies. He trotted up to me immediately and followed me back to his stable where he was only too happy to be fussed over and offered carrots. Patrick soon began sneezing and scuttled out. Why the heck did he want to meet Kwintus if he’s allergic to horses? I put it down to a momentary lapse of judgment triggered by an attack of botanical overspending, said goodbye to my friends and saddled up.
Two and a half hours later, Cedric greeted me at the front door. “I decided to rearrange the furniture in the living room to accommodate something special,” he said, waving his crutch and looking mighty pleased with himself. I eyed him suspiciously, noting a definite skip in his hobble as he escorted me into the living room.
I caught my breath. For there in the living room, taking up almost an entire wall, was the Greg Miller painting of the happy blonde woman that had leapt out at me on the invitation to the Malibu exhibition.
“Do you like it?” asked my husband, a little perturbed by my silence.
“Oh my God!” I replied, sinking onto the sofa, taking stock of my new, utterly revamped (and definitely zenified) living room.
“Is it the right one?”
“Oh, that’s good. Because I wasn’t sure… I mean, I thought it was this one, but there were some others the kids and I thought you might like… so….”
“It’s the right one! Are you mad?”
“It’s a beautiful painting! It goes really well in this room! It’s yours. I wanted to get you something special for our twenty-year anniversary, but I didn’t know what, so when you sent me the email saying you loved the painting I decided to buy it. For you! But I couldn’t have pulled off the surprise without Sabina and Patrick. We’ve been in contact all day!”
Never in a trillion years of marriage did I expect anything like this. The big bouquet of flowers I’d received on March 31st had been enough for me. Not only had he bought me this fabulous painting, but he’d also gone to extreme lengths to orchestrate its delivery and hanging without me suspecting a thing. He’d hired a professional to come over on a Saturday afternoon to help him hang the painting. He’d even secretly argued with the deliveryman that very morning, because he was running ahead of schedule and wanted to bring the painting two hours early, which would have utterly ruined the surprise. He’d also coaxed our teenage son out of his busy social skateboarding schedule (our daughter was on holiday in Italy) to help him move furniture, clear out clutter, vacuum, and dispose of all residual tell-tale signs of intercontinental painting delivery. All this with a wonky leg!
I texted Sabina and Patrick immediately. “You HAVE to come and see!”
“See you in half an hour!” beeped the smiley face peppered reply.
That evening, the four of us kicked off an impromptu celebration of twenty love-lucky years with a bottle of champagne on our terrace. Dinner at a local Chinese restaurant concluded that unforgettable day, followed by some private moments spent in quiet admiration of Greg Miller’s tousled blonde lady, illuminating our home with her vivacious energy.
I am lucky. I am loved. I love my painting. But most of all, I love my husband.
If you'd like to see a photo of my husband and I on our wedding day, and maybe check out Greg Miller's beautiful painting, please visit my website: www.francescaprescott.com where you'll find the original version of this article under "Exciting Things". Oh, and don't forget to leave a message on my guestbook!