This is Part 2 of Around the World in 80 Years – Mom Turns 80 – sharing the story of my mother’s surprise 80th birthday party last year.
As with any event being planned, last minute details and unexpected situations pop up and you deal with them the best way you can! In this case, someone told mom about the surprise party!!! Here is what happened…
The week of the event, we had a lot going on including my youngest daughters birthday on May 31, her performance in The Little Mermaid in Tuscaloosa and a wedding in Auburn. It was on our way back from my daughter’s show (June 1) that my mother dropped a bomb on me and my husband. She told me that a cousin (elderly) had called her to wish her a happy birthday and said “your kids are planning a surprise party for you, but don’t tell them I told you!” I’m thankful I was sitting in the front seat and mom couldn’t see my face!!! I could see my husband’s face and he was just as panicked looking as I was right then! That’s when I went into “spin mode,” aka LYING!!!
Mom was puzzled as to why our cousin would say this to her, of course. I told mom that I had talked to our elderly cousin’s daughter the week before (this is true – I had texted with her when she told me her mother had mild dementia.) and she revealed her mother had mild dementia. I went on to spin that I had run into our cousins a few weeks before and mentioned mom’s birthday was coming up. I actually ran into my elderly cousin and two of her daughters the previous fall. Of course, the reason my cousin knew about the party is because she had received an invitation. I told mom that maybe she got confused with her birthday and something else. Mom then admitted she felt something was different when she spoke to her.
Once we dropped mom off, I went into damage control! I texted my sisters and told them that mom may be “thinking” she was getting a party even after all my “spinning” and I needed their help. My sister Laurie called her the next day to check in with her and mention she and her husband had out of town guests coming that weekend. This was to throw mom off if she suspected my sisters were coming into town for a surprise party. Then, I told mom we would go out to dinner for her birthday on Saturday to give her friend Jenine time to arrive from Colorado so she could join us. I said it would be just family and she seemed happy about it. I’m pretty sure mom didn’t think I had time to plan anything elaborate because I had spent the last 8 weeks helping her clean out her house! So…my sisters and I all crossed our fingers and hoped for the best!
I spent the next few days creating photo collages to display around my house as well as putting finishing touches on the photo slideshow. I found an old hardbound Atlas at a thrift store many years ago and it definitely came in handy for the theme! The last party prop created was a hot air balloon. I mean, I did the best that I could with a tri-fold, brown contact paper, burlap and some burlap bags stuffed with newspaper and some helium balloons. This was to be the photo prop for the party. (Oh…and it rained after everyone arrived at the party so we didn’t get to use the prop until Sunday!)
Meanwhile…the weekend of the party, family began arriving. The last to arrive were my daughter, Anna Marie and my nephew, Adam, both from Colorado. The plan was for me to pick up mom and Jenine at her house and bring them to my house. I told mom that we needed to stop back by the house and pick up Charlie because he was driving in from Wetumpka, AL, so he would be riding with us. I pretended to get a text from Charlie and respond but I was really letting everyone at the house know we were on our way! Of course, when we pulled up there were cars everywhere! Mom said something about all the cars and I told her our neighbor was having a party. I said he let us know earlier that day because cars that were going to be all over the cul de sac. She seemed to accept that. I pulled up right in front of the house and suggested we go inside where it was cooler to wait for Charlie to arrive.
I walked into the house first and stepped out of the way. Mom followed and turned toward the living room where everyone had gathered. As they shouted all “SURPRISE!” it took mom a minute before she realized what was happening. The photos my daughters took say it all and I love that they captured this exact moment! That’s when my sisters all came up to her for hugs. Mom was clearly overwhelmed, especially when she saw everyone who had gathered to celebrate her milestone day! Later we asked about whether she suspected we were throwing her a surprise party and she said she had no idea. I think if she had, she would have said something to her friend Jenine…and Jenine would have called me!
To say we took a lot of photos would be an understatement. As I said in Part 1 of this story, it had been four years since we had all been together and we weren’t going to let the chance get away from us. And while the party was the perfect reason to bring us all together, I loved that my sisters , our husbands, and five of my mother’s eight grandchildren, were able to come back to my house on Sunday and spend the day together. We had plenty of food left over from the party, thanks to Chef Wendy, and even more to catch up on with one another.
So today, on my mother’s 81st birthday, I will take her to lunch and spend the afternoon with her. I know we will talk about the party and look at the photos together. Then on Sunday, I’ll treat her to brunch and a show – Red Mountain Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady.
Happy 81st birthday, mom! I’m glad we were able to surprise you last year!