"What do you want for your birthday?" I asked Justin one day in early August.
Justin predictably responded with an "I don't know," but told me he'd think about it. A few days later, he sent me a text with a link. "I really like this," it read.
When I clicked on the link, I was slightly surprised to see a description of a remote controlled airplane. He'd mentioned a few times, starting last Christmas, that he wanted one. I never really took him seriously because I just kind of thought it was only a passing fascination, which was somewhat typical for him. He'd see some new gadget or toy and say excitedly, "Oooo, I want that!" but then he'd forget about it the second he saw the next new thing.
The plane he sent me a link to was a quad copter. It looked nothing like a standard helicopter. This flying machine had four circular propellers arranged into a square shape, and in the middle was a little round body to house the battery - think four-leaf clover without a stem.
Even though it was more than what we'd typically spend on each other for a birthday gift, I decided just to go ahead and get it for him. He'd been working so hard with his own law practice since November, and I felt he deserved it. I knew little about these things, though, so instead of taking a chance online, I visited a local store and, after speaking with a knowledgeable salesman, I purchased Justin a flyer similar to what he'd requested online.
I brought it home the day of his birthday but left it in the trunk of my car when I noticed his car in the driveway. I entered the house and started putting groceries away, and in the meantime, he took a phone call in his office. While he was in his office, I snuck outside and retrieved the plane. I didn't even wrap it - I just placed the box on the couch where he always sat and then went back into the kitchen.
He finished his phone call and then came straight into the kitchen to talk to me. We talked for a few minutes, and I kept a poker face the entire time. Finally, he headed back towards the living room. Whatever he was saying at the time, he stopped in mid-sentence and shouted excitedly. When I entered the living room, his face was glowing, and his smile went from ear to ear.
Any other work he'd planned the rest of the afternoon apparently went out the window, because he immediately absorbed himself in his new toy. Flying it was actually a lot more complicated than it looked. There were two little levers on either side of the remote - one controlled up and down and the other controlled side to side. It took him several trial runs to get used to it, and he had fun flying it around the house teasing the animals. One of our cats, Rohan, leapt about five feet into the air when it flew past him. Nya, our dog, was scared of it at first, but after a few days, she started thinking it was a toy for her. She'd chase after it, and getting whacked in her nose by one of the plastic propellers didn't even deter her.
Justin started taking the plane outside to fly since Nya wouldn't leave him alone. He was getting a better hang of it, and I was glad he was having so much fun with his gift.
About six days after his birthday, Justin went outside one evening to fly his plane. I finished dinner and went outside to let him know it was ready. When I walked out the front door, Justin was pacing up and down our driveway, looking up. I followed his eyes and noticed his little chopper stuck up in one of the tree branches hanging over our driveway. Uh oh.
I wanted no part of this, but then Justin said the dreaded words: "Hey, babe, come here."
Slowly, I made my way around to where he was. Our house is set into a hillside, and we have a retaining wall on either side. Our driveway is really just a hill where we dumped some gravel for better traction. And since the yard was sloped and uneven, using a ladder to get his plane down was not an option.
Justin handed me the remote and instructed me to try to fly it out of its predicament while he tried to dislodge it. I watched as he attempted to jump up and shake the branch, but it was much too high - it was at least 20 feet in the air. Shaking neighboring branches proved futile.
Then Justin retrieved a very long branch that had fallen off of one of the trees. He attempted to hold it up like a torch and try to poke the plane down, but the stick had to be about 10 feet long, and once he had it by the end, it became top-heavy and would fall over. He tried this numerous times, and a few times he came close, but it was still a few feet too short.
In the meantime, I was trying to fly it off of the branch every time he came close, but eventually the battery died. I then watched as Justin threw sticks at it. Then he picked up a few of those small monkey balls that had fallen off a few trees and hurled them up at the chopper. None of them came close.
"Um, maybe you want to throw something a little bit bigger?" I suggested. "You're giving yourself an awfully small target."
Justin threw a few more things at it, but then he stopped. He didn't seem too excited yet, and he suggested we just go eat dinner and then try again later.
Justin ate, but I went inside to take a shower. There was a big dollar sign resting up in a tree in our yard. Honestly though, it surprised me that it took Justin this long to get the chopper stuck somewhere. I thought it would be sooner.
When I finished my shower, I was still in the bathroom combing my hair when I heard a saw buzzing loudly outside. I didn't even have to look. I knew Justin had a branch cutting extension for his saw, and I assumed he was now using it on a specific tree in our front yard.
A few minutes later, he came inside with the plane in hand. "Tada!" he said happily. I looked out the window behind him. A large branch was lying across the driveway.
I retreated to the kitchen while Justin brushed some excess dirt off of his toy with a big smile on his face. I do have to hand it to him for getting it down, albeit with a very manly solution.
I just don't want to find out what he'll do if he ever gets the plane stuck on top of our roof.