Snow Was the Most Difficult by
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(303 Stories)

Prompted By Special Birthdays

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disco dress

I was rushing to pack for Boston, but took the phone call. It was my client at the Farm Bureau Insurance in Indianapolis, calling to say the signed contract was being FedExed to my office. Perfect way to start my birthday weekend. Dan and I had lived apart for almost 8 months by this point, but we saw each other every second or third weekend and every one felt like a holiday. This weekend included my birthday and his company Christmas party. I had to look outstanding, as none of his friends understood why he “let” me take this job and move to Chicago to start my career in sales. I was going to WOW them.

To that end, I had gone shopping. I didn’t have much money, but decided I wanted a “knock-’em dead” dress for the party. This was 1978, the height of disco. A friend referred me to her favorite store in Chicago’s Gold Coast and I’d found a dress I really liked the previous Saturday, but wanted a male opinion, so called J-P on Monday. J-P was a client, but we had become good friends. He lived in a high-rise next to my office, had great taste, never made a move on me, claimed his girlfriend was in primal scream therapy (I never met her) and we had fun together, going out often. He was also a six foot tall black guy with a huge Afro. He had an unusual backstory…too long for this tale.

I called and asked if he could meet me at My Sister’s Circus over lunch. He warned me he was wearing “George”. “What was ‘George'”? His full-length fur coat! There was not doubt the folks at the store thought J-P was my pimp, but we didn’t care. We were having too much fun. He approved of the dress (which had long slits up both sides and was cut low in the sleeve holes). He taught me to sit like a lady in it. He loved the cinched-in electric purple belt. Later in the week, we shopped for an alternative belt and hair barrettes, as I wore my hair longish with a body wave. I was ready. I still have all of it (I stitched the skirt slits part way up for a little more modesty). I wear the barrettes all the time. (The featured photo was taken four years later before the Cultural Ball, once I had moved back to Boston; I got good use from the dress.)

Dan lived with two other guys in an untidy apartment in Brookline. I rather dreaded staying with them, as no one cleaned. And Dan had just bought his first BMW. He emptied our bank account without asking me. I had threatened divorce and seen a lawyer (my brother’s college roommate, but still…I was upset). So this was a delicate point for both of us. He met my flight, took me to his apartment, where I changed and off we went to his company Christmas party. We were staying the night with friends in Norwell, south of Boston, so I didn’t have to deal with the dishes in the sink and the all-male bathroom.

And wow them I did! I danced the night away to Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, and the other Disco Queens of the moment. Everyone marveled at how stunning I looked, and I could brag that I had closed business that morning. A large group of us went to Locke-Ober for dinner after, a historic, excellent restaurant, now unfortunately shuttered, but really high-end at the time, famous for its Lobster Savanah. Then on to our friends overnight. They made a lovely breakfast for us and we lingered and chatted.

To my great surprise, instead of heading to Brookline, our next stop was Boston. We pulled up in front of the Ritz, the elegant old hotel across from the Boston Public Garden on that crisp winter day. It was my birthday. I thought, “How wonderful, Dan is taking me here for dinner”, but he told me to take my suitcase as well. I couldn’t believe it: we were checking in! And not just into any room, but a suite with a working fireplace and a view of the Public Garden!

A butler laid a fire in the fireplace, Dan presented me with a dozen long-stem red roses as well as my birthday and Chanukkah presents. For my birthday he gave me a delicate peignoir set. It didn’t fit (nothing ever does, but he got a lot of points for the thought) and for Chanukkah (a December baby frequently just gets one big present…not fair!), he presented me with a book by Balanchine describing every great ballet. He knew how I loved ballet. I was taking a wonderful class in Chicago at the time. It was so thoughtful and much appreciated.

We dressed and went to the beautiful dining room. He reserved a corner table overlooking the the Public Garden. By now it was dark and all the Christmas lights sparkled in the vista below. It started to snow lightly and we were engulfed in a magical winter wonderland. It was SO romantic. We had a marvelous French meal, topped off by profiteroles, our favorite dessert. The entire evening could not have been more perfect.

I flew back to Chicago the next day, warmed through and through with all his romantic gestures. Years later, when we talked about that glorious weekend, Dan jokingly said that the snow was the most difficult to arrange.

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.


Tags: Ritz, dream birthday, Balanchine book, romance
Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. devin.reston says:

    I love this one Mrs. Pfau! Dan should know in business, you can make it rain…but snow…that takes a miraculous individual. Well done 👍🏼

  2. Suzy says:

    I love the image of you and J-P at the ritzy clothing store. You two must have been quite a pair! Makes me think of the Julia Roberts shopping scene in Pretty Woman. But apparently the clerks at My Sister’s Circus didn’t hassle you.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      We WERE quite a pair (he took me to get my first facial too). We weren’t quite like “Pretty Woman”, since I wasn’t buying lots of clothing, but I see the comparison. And the sales person was very nice and helpful.

  3. John Zussman says:

    A story both funny and moving of an eventful and surprising weekend. I laughed out loud when I read that everyone thought J-P was your pimp! But it was touching to read how Dan treated you on your birthday. It’s always nice to hear about moments in a marriage where both partners are still trying to wow each other.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      J-P and I remain friends, but we were quite the pair. And Dan was so sweet and full of wonderful surprises that weekend. I looked for, and eventually found the Balanchine book as I wrote this story. He put a lovely inscription in the front. Reminds me of very happy days. I even invited him for prolonged visit to Chicago over Christmas and New Year’s. His effort was rewarded.

  4. Patricia says:

    So much to love about this story, that we’re just going to gloss over the fact that he didn’t give you the BMW!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I had my trusty front-wheel drive VW Rabbit in snowy Chicago. I didn’t know how to drive that stick-shift BMW. Eventually, I sort of learned, but always resented that car, unlike the next BMW, a 533i, which was primarily mine (he walked to work by that point, while we lived in Boston, and we both traveled a lot). I drove that thing petal to the metal, shifting smoothly! I was in Washington,DC when the VW was killed. Dan got rear-ended on Memorial Drive, waiting to turn toward Kendall Square and then we lived with one car until we moved to the suburbs.

  5. Betsy, love the romantic birthday story!
    But did Dan ever tell you how he arranged for the snow?

    And love the disco dress!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, Dana. Dan left the mystery of the snowfall to my (and his) imagination! But it couldn’t have been a better evening. Donna Summer was playing on the sound system at dinner the other night (Hot Stuff). I almost got up and danced. She had some great songs.

  6. Marian says:

    Glad to read this story, Betsy, and that weekend sounds delightful after a questionable start. I had to smile at J-P. After my divorce I had a male friend who was super helpful in previewing my outfits before dates and then checking out my dates! He never steered me wrong. What a lovely birthday for you, especially being somewhat deprived of gifts because of the December date.

  7. Dave Ventre says:

    A lovely story. Gina and I lived in Quincy, MA for six years and we loved many (but not all) things about Boston.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, Dave. Boston is a very appealing city in many ways. That Ritz has changed owners and names twice since Dan took me there. It closed for a major renovation just as the pandemic hit and finally reopened a year ago as The Newbury with a hot new restaurant on the roof called the Countessa. I doubt we will ever go back. Not our scene.

  8. Laurie Levy says:

    What a perfect romantic birthday weekend! The snow was indeed the perfect touch. I love the dress, and I remember My Sister’s Circus.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      It was something something! I enjoyed shopping at My Sister’s Circus as my commission checks started rolling in. I came back from Chicago looking quite chic. I was in Chicago almost 4 years ago, visiting my friend (and I wanted very much to see her mother, who is now 96, so I don’t know how many more years she will have). The day I arrived, I had time to wander around by myself for a while. The “Gold Coast” is very different now.

  9. John Shutkin says:

    What a lovely, lovely story, Betsy! Though I hate surprises myself, I am in awe of anyone who can pull one off perfectly (and romantically) And Dan certainly did. And a great line about the snow — though, to be fair, pulling off snow in the winter in Boston isn’t all that unique.

    Also a fun anecdote about your “pimp” J-P — and a drop dead gorgeous dress!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Going shopping (or on other adventures with J-P) was always fun. He had great taste. We stay in touch to this day. He is still with Beth, who is a nurse. She now writes his Christmas cards. It is a good story.

      Dan is great at the big, romantic gesture and pulls them off beautifully. I enjoyed that one so much that I invited him to come out to Chicago for the entire Christmas week (he was due to come just for New Year’s). Of course, I was sitting with Christie and her boyfriend in Booth #1 at the Pump Room, one of Chicago’s swankiest restaurants at the time. We were drinking champagne (to celebrate my birthday) and there was a phone on the table. I called and invited him. He called me later, inquired if I was tipsy at the time of the invitation. I acknowledged that I had been, but told him the invitation was sincere. We had a lovely week together.

  10. Lovely story, Betsy. But back in the day, was it really all that hard to arrange snow in Boston in winter? But Locke-Ober: what a wonderful place. Wasn’t there some rule about women in the dining room? Not allowed except for just two occasions or something?

  11. Suzy says:

    Still a great story five years later! And wow, that purple belt around your teeny-tiny waist! I have no doubt you knocked them dead on the dance floor!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, Suzy. The posted photo was four years after the actual event. I was even teenier when I originally bought and wore the dress. I weighed in at 84 pounds! I was probably up to about 90 pounds by the time of this photo.

  12. What a romantic birthday! Beyond what most of us ever experienced (except my cousin Marlene, who was flown in a private plane on her 10th anniversary for dinner and overnight lodging.)
    The photo reveals the stunning belle of the ball for whom all this romance was clearly required!

  13. Jan Fox says:

    Betsy, your story is so evocative… captivating, really. Spent my 1st wedding night in such a room at that Ritz on the edge of the Common. As it was a June wedding, there was no fire — or butler that I recall. Shudda been.

    Now, let’s talk about your re-entry to Chicago!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, Jan. It sounds like the old Ritz was the place to celebrate romantic evenings (even in June – I was married in Detroit, 48 years ago today).

      As for the Chicago re-entry, I commented on that several comments ago – dinner in Booth #1 at the Pump Room with good friends. That’s where celebrities ate at the time, so there was a phone on the table (no cell phones in 1978), which I used (while slightly inebriated) to call Dan and invite him to come visit for 10 days instead of just the New Years long weekend. He did and we both enjoyed it.

  14. Khati Hendry says:

    Easy to see why that was a memorable birthday! All the stars aligned (hmm, probably no stars if it was snowing, but you get my drift…) to make it perfect, with lots of help from Dan, who knew just what to do.

  15. Susan Bennet says:

    A magical story, Betsy. Why are all these men talking about snow and admitting/not admitting women to restaurants? Romance is the main course here. Your birthday romance swept me up completely — the romance of the “old” Ritz, the dining room view of the Public Garden, the fire laid in your room. What great memories for you (and for me). And don’t get me started on Chicago. Your best present was your new husband.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I agree it was a very romantic evening in so many ways, Susan. And Dan’s attentiveness to detail was the icing on the cake! (We had been married for four and half years at this time, so this was a good turning point.)

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