brucehornsbyticketsI love surprises … I think. I haven’t been the recipient of too many, but I love giving them — planning them, all that’s involved. Over the weekend I revealed a surprise to our younger daughter Jacque that I couldn’t wait to give her.

Actually, I did receive a gift earlier this year that totally surprised me. We all flew to Yuma over spring break this year, something we never do — fly or visit during the spring. It’s too expensive for us all to fly, and the break is too short for us to drive. But we went because my twin sister was getting married, and I was performing the ceremony. (We loved being there in the spring. Usually we go in summer when temperatures are in the hundreds.)

Now, normally when I play at a wedding, or in this case perform the ceremony, I receive an honorarium. I don’t usually set the price — just leave it up to the couple to research what would be fair. It usually works out nice, get a little extra money for trips such as the one we took. Well, I didn’t expect anything from Becky and her new husband Steve. But upon my return to Ohio I received a gift from them. It was a Goldschmidt D-backs jersey. Goldie is Micah’s and my favorite. In fact, when #44 went down with a broken hand ending his season a few months ago, we lost interest in watching the team. Of course, they would go on to lose the most games in the Majors, so they were hardly watchable.

Well, the jersey was totally unexpected and something I never would have bought, which is why Becky and Steve said they got it for me. Something I would never spend the money on. It was the perfect gift.

I’d gotten what I thought was the perfect gift for Jacque. I put a date on the calendar without revealing anything of what she and I would be doing — just said: Date with Daddy. All seemed fine, though she doesn’t like surprises all that much because of the anticipation — almost makes her sick to the stomach. But then almost two weeks ago, after the end of her team’s soccer season, we found out their first game in the post-season single-elimination tournament would be Saturday, October 18 in the evening.

Couldn’t I reschedule? she’d asked. No, I told her. It’s something we’re going to, and I have the tickets and can’t reschedule. But trust me, you’ll love it. She was torn. She really wanted to be there with her team, but she also wanted to go with me. I gave her the choice, though I’m sure she felt like she needed to obey her father. She begrudgingly consented to missing the game.

Early last week I picked her up from practice and talked with her coach, told him I had a surprise for her, told him what the surprise was. Is he still with the Range? he’d asked. He understood and hoped they’d get past the first game, which would be up against a tough team, but he had confidence. Jacque could play in the next game, which would be the following Tuesday. (They ended up losing 1-4.)

I enjoyed watching Jacque last Saturday afternoon getting dolled up for our date. We’d leave about six, I’d told her. Right before we left I presented her with a small gift bag. I said, “I couldn’t get any flowers for you, but here’s a gift, a sort of hint as to what we’ll be doing.” She’d have no idea even after opening the present. I’d counted on it. In the bag was a small notebook with purple paper and a black marker. “Am I going to be taking notes?” she’d asked, perhaps thinking we’d be visiting a museum. (I missed my game for this?)

We first went to dinner at a chic place called Salar in downtown Dayton. It was the best meal she’d ever had, she told me later. And she was stunning, sitting there across from me at our reserved table, my little girl, growing into a beautiful woman like her mother. She’d chosen chicken skewers and I opted for sole filet. We talked and ate and just enjoyed being together. All the while, I’m sure she was antsy.

We then drove a mile or so to the Victoria, where there was no indication outside the theater as to what or who would be seeing. We parked a couple blocks away and got all the way into the lobby before I revealed the surprise. I would’ve waited till we were seated in our fourth-row seats, but we were each entitled to the performer’s latest CD. “Do you want to see the tickets?” I asked her. “I don’t know yet,” she replied. I told her she’d be learning soon enough when we get the CDs. She then agreed and watched with excited eyes, like I remember when she was a young girl on Christmas morning. I can’t adequately describe the moment she saw BRUCE HORNSBY on the tickets.

For some reason, she’s a fan of Bruce Hornsby. Of course, I am, but I couldn’t have imagined Jacque liking his music. But she does. And not just to indulge me. She really does. Even likes his voice, which I don’t.

Well, there we sat for about two hours taking in Hornsby’s amazing piano skills — his spider fingers. Me with salt and pepper in my hair and beard, like most of his male fans (he is somewhere in his 60s, his breakthrough hit “The Way It Is” having won a Grammy in 1987, 13 years before Jacque was born) and my little girl, the second youngest person there. She said she saw a school-aged boy who looked like he’d been dragged there.

Driving home we basked in the glow of having experienced some fantastic music. We stopped off for chocolate glazed donuts at Tim Horton’s, having declined dessert at Salar due to the time. She hugged me before going to bed and said thank you. She was glad to have missed the game and gone with me.

Techically, the tickets read “An Evening with Bruce Hornsby,” but he was just a sideshow. It was an evening with my baby girl, who is growing up far too quickly. How many more such evenings will we be able to share?

Actually, it’s up to me, isn’t it?