There it was -- a terse message scrawled across the following Saturday's date on my desk calendar, a date for which I had auspicious plans. My golfing foursome would be playing its final 1980 match and, at its conclusion, there would be a prestigous award presented to the Most Improved Golfer, for which I had been desperately contending.
"Remember your promise!" was not a bogus reminder, because it was notarized with a caricature of a smiling balloon, a suspect signet my wife attaches to messages to be heeded. Thus it imprint on my Day of Days was no smiling matter.
I summoned my son, who happened to be raiding the refrigerator. "Glenn, do you recall any project I promised I would do for your mother next Saturday?"
"Let's see," he mumbled with a mouthful of lettuce. "Mom mentioned after yesterday's rain how bad the leaks in the attic were getting. . . ."
"That's it!" I cried, peeling off a leaf of lettuce. "Let's get started, partner."
"Just when I think I've got you figured out, you do something like this," chided my spouse two hours later as we were retiring.
"The long-range forecast suggests some rain next Saturday," I said, falling wearily into bed.
"Well, you promised to secure the roof before the first snow, but I had no idea you were planning to do it next Saturday," she replied, turning out the light. So, my roof job had not pricked that beguiling balloon of hers.
Two nights later I collared my teen-age daughter in the basement during a rare pause in her social life. "Honey, have you any idea what cheerful chore your mother's got planned for me next Saturday?"
"No -- unless it has something to do with a discussion mom and our neighbor had the other day about those dead oak branches you said you'd cut down some day ," she offered.
"A-I-I-I right, sweetheart. Good as done," I said, reaching for the saw over the workbench.
About 35 branches later I sagged into may den's lounge chair cooling my brow before a rotating fan.
"Here's some ice-cold lemonade for a husband who likes to put some teeth into his work," said my spouse gently. "What on earth made you do such a thing at this hour?"
"'There are smiles that make us happy, there are smiles that make us work,'" I parodied in my best alto-soprano.
"Well, I hope you'll have some of that drive for next Saturday. You might need it," she cautioned as she left the den.
I grabbed my desk calendar, "Pooh! Why won't you pop!"
Just before supper the next day I happened to intercept a phone call for may wife. "This is Harvey's Hardware. The primer your wife ordered has come in."
"Thanks, I'll tell her," I promised. Of course -- for the wrought-iron railing at the front steps, an eyesore for too long. If I forsook supper I might finish the tedious task of sanding before dark.
As she was serving my supper two hours later than customary my beaming wife complimented me on my latest extemporaneous endeavor. "That's a real professional job out there. You've been a dynamo all week."
"I guess that lets the air out of your balloon, right?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," she answered, "but I wish you'd pace yourself for Saturday."
I rejected my dessert -- a scoop of raspberry sherbet. Its resemblance to a balloon made it entirely unpalatable.
"Why don't you ask Mom what it is you promised her, Dad?" asked my son sensibly, as we discussed the situation while painting the picnic furniture a couple of nights later in yet another effort to solve the mystery of the smiling rebus.
"Because after she told me, I'd have to tell her I couldn't honor that promise. Then she would be hurt to think my golf match was more important. How could I enjoy playing 18 holes under those circumstances?"
"You want me to ask her, Dad?"
"No, son, this is my balloon," I said, painting froms inside of circles on the picnic table.
"What a shame," remarked my wife Saturday morning at breakfast as rain pelted the house.
"I think I'll check my roof job," I said gloomily.
"Hey, Dad!" called my son while I was in the midst of my tour of inspection in the attic. "One of your golf pals just left something for you."
My son handed me a large manila envelope inscribed on the outside with "Award for Most Improved Hacker -- 1980."
"Open it, Dad!" ordered my daughter impatiently.
As I did so, my wife whistled, "That's the biggest smile button I've ever seen. You must be proud, dear."
"While we're on the subject, what did I promise to do today that you noted on my calendar?"
"You promised," said my wife, pinning the broad grin on my shirt, "that if you won this award you would celebrate the occasion by taking your family to a steakhouse and a movie afterward."
"Now that's something to smile about," allowed my son.