Mike Parker: Kids collude on secret birthday party for Mom
I admit it — I got dragged into the plot as things unfolded.
My wife Sandra’s birthday was May 1. On Feb. 17, I received my first KIK message. Our family first started using KIK when most of us had a limited number of texts on our cell plans — so KIK offered us a way to communicate with unlimited messages.
Our daughter Sara wrote: “I would like to plan something for Mama’s [28th] birthday but need all the help I can get, especially getting invitations out. If you are available to help with submitting names, planning, pictures, etc., please let me know.”
I checked the chat name: “75th.” I have no idea what the significance of that number is, but when that first message hit, I learned two things: First, I had been coerced into collusion. Second, my kids were quick to commit to make this birthday bash happen.
According to instructions I received, I had two main responsibilities. My jobs were to keep the secret and to get her to the party on time.
Frankly, I breathed a sigh of relief — except for the part of keeping the secret.
Do you have any idea how hard keeping that secret was going to be when I have been married to this woman for 47 years? She usually knows what I am thinking before I can even think. Not only that, but she has a pernicious track record for ruining surprises.
The closest I have ever come to actually hiding a surprise gift from her was when I hid an emerald ring — her Christmas present — in the oven. I figured if any place was safe from her prying eyes, the oven would be it. You see, she uses the oven for storage. My ruse would have succeeded had my son-in-law not asked her to bake a chocolate pie for him.
As she cleaned out the oven, she found the small box wrapped in Christmas paper.
“What is this?” she asked.
“I guess it is a present for someone.”
Before the “t” sounded in the word “present,” she stripped the box and put the ring on her finger. So, you see, the task of keeping the party secret was daunting.
Back to the party planning story.
Rachel volunteered her home and her cooking skills. Sara said she would provide banana pudding and assist with compiling the mailing list. Pam and Michael would bake cupcakes and a birthday cake. Lydia stepped up to design, print, and mail the invitations. Even my eldest granddaughter, Courtney, got into the planning — she suggested doing a surprise party.
Michael pointed out that May 1 was a Wednesday, so the group decided to set May 4 as B-Day. Time: 1-4 p.m. Place: Rachel’s large two-car garage. Invitations: Lydia. Slide show of photos with musical background: Pam and Michael. Fare: Hot dogs and hamburgers.
The day before the party, Rachel’s husband Joe decided hot dogs and hamburgers were too mundane, so he said he would do sliders — roast beef au jus, pulled pork and chicken parmesan.
From Feb. 17 to B-Day, we exchanged hundreds of messages to approve the invitation, compile the list of invitees and iron out details. Pam suggested having those who could not attend send a video that she and Michael would incorporate into the slide show.
With two days left, Michael messaged me about music Mom likes — excluding Barry Manilow and Elvis. I wondered why. I discovered he had already included “I Can’t Smile Without” and “The Wonder of You” on the video.
B-Day arrived. Sandra was a little disappointed because her May 1 birthday had received so little attention. We were driving to Rachel’s allegedly to look at the latest improvements to her new home. Sandra did not realize the real reason for the trip until we pulled up to Rachel’s house. When she saw the parked cars, Michael and Pam carrying in food — and Alan and Phyllis Wallace pulling up, she knew something was up.
“Is this a surprise party for me?” she asked, smiling broadly.
I was so close.
Mike Parker is a columnist for The Neuse News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.