The One with the Life-Size Canvas

Oh, you guys. Get ready to smile! Today the Husband is telling a story that will be told in our family for ages upon ages about his Christmas gift from a few years ago.

We’re calling it “the one with the life-size canvas.” I’ll let him tell the story…

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When I was very young, my favorite children’s story was anything in the Nate the Great series. Nate the Great is a children’s story about a young boy named Nate, modeled after Sherlock Holmes, who solved crimes with his dog Sludge. The series was created in 1972 written by Marjorie Sharmat and illustrated by Marc Simont; there are 26 separate books in this series, the last one written in 2009. I loved it because, obviously, my name is Nate, and if there was something worth solving or investigating for young Nate the Great he and his pal Sludge were on the case…

It was during Christmas 2009 when I was on my second deployment to Iraq. This is back when Wife was still Wifiancé because while we were technically married (see this post), we (and by “we,” I mean “she”) were still in the process of planning our amazing wedding for the Summer 2010. I took it upon myself to send her a surprise Christmas gift. Separated by thousands of miles, we were on the phone after she had received “the gift” and she was crying.

Why was this woman upset?

I had to figure it out; I had to backtrack and look at the evidence to investigate what was wrong………….Nate the Great was on the case!

It was just after dusk at Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq and I was walking back to the small tin-can style 4 person living quarters (aka the “can”) with a few Marine buddies. The distant smell of smoke was in the air as we left the chow hall after supper. We were in very good spirits, laughing as we walked, as it had been Lobster Night and we loved Lobster Night.

When I arrived back at my can and fired up my laptop, I found an email from a canvas company in my inbox. A couple days prior I had heard about the canvas company online and decided even though Wife and I had agreed not to send Christmas gifts that year (but rather save the celebration for my return), I’d send a nice canvas of one of our engagement photos as a surprise gift.

I figured that since we were separated by an ocean and lots of land, and because she’s a photographer, a canvas of us would make a great gift.

Before I ordered the canvas, I needed to find out which photo of us she liked best, and I had to do that without arousing any suspicion of the upcoming gift. When I asked her, “photo” became “photos” and she sent me several that she liked. She was none-the-wiser, and the plan was still intact. She thought I just wanted some photos and had no idea I was planning a gift of any kind.

As I sat there, in the phone center, backtracking in order to investigate why this woman was upset, I still had no answer. I needed to dig deeper, to keep going.
I had the photo, so phase 1 of Operation Surprise Christmas gift was now complete! On to Phase 2, ordering the canvas and having it shipped.

I sat in the chair staring at the screen, contemplating the different canvas size options. The smallest was 8×10, no good, this is a canvas and canvases are supposed to be bigger than that, and everybody who orders canvases knows that.

Aha! My first clue; how do I know that everybody who orders canvases knows that? I have never ordered a canvas in my life before AND, during the course of my life, I have never even had an actual conversation with another human being about ordering a canvas, or the proper sizes they should come in.

The next sizes were 11×14 (no good), 16×20 (eh), 18×24 (maybe), or 20×24 (possibly). So, how big would a canvas measuring 20 by 24 inches be? I thought for a moment and then realized that my laptop screen was about 17 inches from screen end to screen end. So, I thought (and visualized), if 17 inches is from here to here, and then 20 would be just slightly longer from here to here……then, 24 inches would only be this long. PERFECT!! 20 by 24 wouldn’t be that big since the mental picture I had was just the right size for a nice portrait.

Second Clue!!!! Now we are getting somewhere! I had forgotten that I had joined the Marines, not the field of engineering or construction, but in the field of infantry. More time is spent in the infantry training on how to take apart or destruct rather than how to put together or construct. I also did not have a proper measuring device on hand to help me measure what 20 by 24 would look like.

I placed the order and wrote a message in a special comments section explaining that the only way to get a hold of me for questions on the canvas order was via email and not by phone (since I was in Iraq). I shut off my laptop and closed it with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Now it was time to clean all of the Iraq dust off my rifle before going to the on-base gym.

The next day I opened my email and read the following regarding my canvas order:

“Hi Nathan,

Regarding your recent order, the image that you submitted does not
fit the exact proportions for the size of canvas you have chosen. In
order to assure a good fit, we are going to make your canvas a custom
size of 20×30 instead of 20×24. We will do this at no additional
charge to you. Our goal is for you to be completely satisfied with
the finished product, so we just wanted to keep you informed of this
modification. We will get started immediately. We will do a great
job for you!

Thanks!

The Canvas Consulting Crew”

BOOOOM!!!! I could not contain my excitement! They were going to make it bigger…..FOR FREE!!!! Bigger is better………especially when it’s free! Boy, wife is going to be so happy.

Third clue. Bigger is not always better, ESPECIALLY when it’s free!

Fourth clue. For some strange reason, I had failed to realize that 30 inches is actually two and a half feet. Using the same laptop measuring logic trick in reverse, I should have realized that I am 6 foot 2 inches tall. Now If I stand up and cut that in half I get 3 feet and 1 inch. The canvas height was 2 feet 6 inches. That is a difference of only 7 inches. That is a really tall canvas. What is that like over 4 square feet? Uh-oh!

Right after the split second it took for me to recount the evidence and clues I hear Wife say, “giant canvas heads;” Nate the Great has officially solved the case!

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Remember when Annie Banks in Father of the Bride says “Maybe a new clock or a cool phone or a great art book or something. But a blender? I mean, what is this? 1958? Give the little wife a blender?”

Now, I know that a canvas of ourselves is not the same as a blender, but the moment I opened up the box containing Nate’s surprise canvas, my thoughts went right to Annie Banks’ sentiments.

Nate thought a canvas would be awesome for a photographer like me, but a photographer like me would want HER artwork on canvas! I’d been talking about printing a canvas for ages and had a few great photos to use, but to put a 20 x 30 canvas of our giant heads in our 600 SF apartment made me cringe. LOL!

I missed my hubby! I wanted HIM with me, not a giant canvas head of the two of us. This story is only funny because he’s home now and we can look at that canvas and laugh. Someday we’ll have that canvas hanging somewhere in our home and we’ll think about my little cross continent emotional cry-fest. I did get a few of my own photos printed on canvas later on.

This past anniversary Hubby did MUCH better in the gift department. One step at a time!

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