I recently returned from a trip to my hometown of St. Louis. The occasion was to surprise my mother for her 75th birthday and my stepdad for his 81st.
With my siblings, I surprised Mom twice.
The first surprise was when she walked into my sister’s house for dinner on her actual birthday and my nephew brought me down the stairs as her birthday gift. I fixed dinner for everyone and enjoyed the laughter and stories of my three crazy aunts, my two cousins (including the cousin who is reclusive because of her illness), my brother and everybody.
We spent the rest of the week visiting and my Mom came over my sister’s house on Saturday to say goodbye before I caught the plane back to Boston…or so she thought. – heh..heh…heh!
On Sunday, my stepdad’s birthday, he and Mom thought his daughter was taking them out to dinner. Imagine their surprise when a limo pulled up outside and announced the chauffeur informed them that he was transporting them to their destination. (My mother was so surprised and skeptical that she at first refused to get into the limo! “Ma,” we teased her later, “Did you really think you were being kidnapped? Do you have some $$ tucked away that we don’t know about?”)
The limo whisked them to their surprise birthday party.. they arrived at the Mother-in-Law house/restaurant in historic Old Saint Charles, where a banner announcing “Happy Birthday, Norma Jean & James,” greeted them with a host of more than 50 family and friends. My mother couldn’t believe that I hadn’t, in fact, returned to Boston but was still in St. Louis. “I was wondering why you didn’t call me to tell me you’d made it home safely, like you usually do and instead called your sister!”
Throughout the afternoon and evening she scolded all of us – children, family and friend’s – for keeping the party a secret. We presented each of them with memory books full of stories, tributes and birthday wishes from their loved ones and screened a slide show of photos of their life and times.
They were so surprised and touched. My sister, brother and I were elated that we did something so meaningful for them. (We nearly lost my stepdad last summer when he fell ill with a mysterious ailment and lost 25 pounds on his already reed-thing frame. He was in the hospital twice for more than 2 weeks each time.  Then, when he finally started getting better, despite the fact that no firm diagnosis was ever confirmed, their condo suffered severe water damage from a flood in a neighboring condo and they had to live in a hotel for nearly two months while their condo was repaired. This in addition to various issues, crises, and ailments of close family members. 2008-2009 has been one helluva time in our family.
It was wonderful to have the occasion to fete my Mom and step-dad who are now the matriarch and patriarch of the family.
One of my stepdad’s family members thanked my siblings and me for bringing her family together for a happy occasion. Unlike my family, they rarely get together except for funerals.
It is such a blessing to be my age and have your mother still alive and kicking and still as foxy as ever!
I encourage all who can do so to take time to plan a surprise for someone you love. It can be economically and tastefully done (as our celebration was if I do so say myself) or lavish (if you can afford it). What matters most is gathering people to celebrate those who are the foundation that our families are built upon.
Don’t wait! Celebrate as soon and as frequently you can.
(*Some of you may remember how Gomer Pyle would say “Sur-prise, surprise, surprise” with his thick Southern drawl.)