We have just (and by just, I mean five days ago) returned from an eventful weekend in my hometown. Do you know anything about my hometown? ("No, and we don't care!") Well, I come from a very small town called Portland, Victoria. A charming, seaside community, it's the oldest European settlement in Victoria and has a population of under 10,000. I think this figure used to be higher, sadly. My parents still own a house there, which has been under renovation for about fifteen years. It's a beautiful old place with sprawling gardens and a pond/stream running through it. Great on paper, but a staggering four-and-a-half hour drive from Melbourne. Sometimes the thought of the place gives me a headache and I wonder why my parents never got rid of it. Other times, I think selling it would be akin to dousing all your family photo albums in kerosene and throwing a match on them. We converge there on Christmases and special occasions. This weekend just past is probably be the most special to date.
My brother Josh had planned a surprise birthday party there for his girlfriend Reagan, an event I very nearly ruined. We had flown in to Melbourne on the Friday evening and would be driving that long (but ultimately enjoyable) drive through the night to Portland for the party on Saturday evening. It's always the same five people: Me, James, my sister Rachel, her fiance Dan and my brother Alex. Elphin, my sister and Dan's Chihuahua, also comes along. We listen to music, talk without pause and stop for McDonalds two or three times. We knew that once we arrived, we were not to leave the house at all on Saturday unless we had confirmation that Reggie was at home. It's a small town, so running into each other would be inevitable (and awkward) otherwise. Easy.
I had been keeping the secret of our visit for a whole two weeks until I completely forgot myself (I had had a few glasses of wine to calm my nerves on the flight) and from the very moment our plane landed, started instagramming as if my life depended on it. What an idiot, I know. The first picture I uploaded was of a father and his tiny son walking alongside each other with their suitcases. So cute! Captured and Shared! A seasoned traveler, Reggie would easily have been able to identify that it was outside Melbourne airport. The next image was a picture of a brand new highway petrol station (hey, it looked so artistic and dreamy) that I am almost certain she would have been to, followed by a snap of my sister's dog. What was I thinking? It wasn't until I woke up in the morning to a message from Reggie saying: "Where are you guys?", followed by an angry phone call from Josh, that I realised I could possibly have ruined the whole thing.
Not to worry, though! We set up a semi-scripted conversation that Reggie would be able to overhear from Josh's end, where he asked us what we were doing in "Melbourne" and we said that James had to meet with some clients at short notice and I was simply coming along for the ride. I then started scouring instagram for other people's tourist pics of Melbourne and began an uploading frenzy. The images have now been taken down but they did the trick. Apparently Reggie was a little bummed we had come to Victoria and not told her and Josh - "we could have met up," she had said, likely disappointed that her boyfriend ostensibly had no real plans for her birthday.
^^That's Josh and the beautiful Reagan to the left^^Anyway, she got the surprise of her life when she turned up at my parents house on their way to "dinner" and all of us jumped out of the darkness. Or perhaps it was the runner-up surprise of her life because halfway through the night at speech time, Josh surprised us all by getting down on one knee and asking Reggie to marry him. It was incredible. I have footage but I can't show it here because all you can hear is me excitedly wailing over the top of everything. Have you ever seen a proposal before? I haven't, but it was the best thing ever. Especially because the two of them are absolutely made for each other and I know I am getting the coolest, loveliest sister