Birthday Surprises Over the Years
When we hit milestones in our lives, we expect our families to celebrate with us. When I first met my wife, she threw a surprise party for my twenty-seventh birthday. A strange choice, but she pulled it off. Part of the reason it worked, no one had ever thrown me a surprise party before; I never expected it. Plus, who would ever assume a surprise for their twenty-seven birthday (hence, the surprise).
Arlene (future ex-wife) and I moved in together just six-months after meeting each other. As my birthday approached, I had no thoughts of a party. So, when my friend Phil (Blind Dog) came up for a visit, I had no idea there was something in the air. When Phil and I went to get something to eat, his casual comment of, “I know a place just around the corner” did not trigger a flag. I should have thought, “how do you know a place just around the corner, you’ve never been here before?”
Surprise pulled off without a hitch.
The unintended surprise for my thirtieth was that it was the weekend of my wedding and didn’t realize it was my birthday until we went to dinner and the date was written above the buffet at the hotel.
On my fortieth, I got a call from one of Arlene’s friends asking what I was doing that day. The flag was, Arlene’s friends did not have a habit of calling me. After that, I was taken by my friends on a hodgepodge of tasks that kept me busy until I ended up at a hall where I walked in where dozens of people greeted me, all wearing masks. I had to go around the room and guess who was whom before they would remove their masks (nothing like Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, unfortunately).
By the end of that day, I was gifted enough scotch to last ten years. Well, ten years if divorce was not just beyond the horizon. Ten years of scotch plus divorce equals a six months supply.
For my fiftieth, it was a collaboration between Arlene and the woman I was dating at the time, neither of which showed up at the party. Although, the masks had returned to an Applebees in Piscataway, New Jersey.
For my sixtieth, I expected my family, maybe some of Arlene’s family, in the back of a restaurant, with a few Mylar balloons tied to the back a chair with obligatory old-fart jokes written across their faces.
So, I was truly shocked when I walked into a room full of people from all aspects of my life. Friends from my home town, some I haven’t seen in years. Work friends, both old and new, along with mine and Arlene’s family; quite the menagerie.
It’s a gutsy move to throw a surprise party for someone who just weeks before spent four days in the hospital. However, the surprise was complete. Also, nice to know that my kids and family can lie right to my face without batting an eye; I’ll have to rethink all those compliments I’ve received over the years; maybe I don’t look good in that shirt…
The afternoon gathering turned into an all-night party – well, at sixty, I was proud of myself that I lasted until midnight (maybe not midnight, but it was dark outside before I fell asleep).
Throughout the party, everyone said, “This is all Arlene’s doing, she pulled this whole thing together”. I don’t know many ex-wives that would go through all that work to throw such an excellent party for an ex-husband. I thanked her at the party, and I thank her again here.
And, most surprising, I have not seen any bills from the party show up wedged between our shared expenses – although, I did think it strange when Arlene asked for one-thousand-two-hundred-and-forty-two-dollars to cover my portion of our daughter Amanda’s house warming gift. Well, I’m sure she wouldn’t lie to me.
Thanks again to everyone for coming by and celebrating this milestone with me. And, especially, thanks to Arlene (and the kids) for pulling off the surprise without killing me (unless that was her plan all along).