On Friday, I turned 35.
When I was a kid my mom would throw surprise birthday parties. Every year. The day of the party I would be required to go somewhere. Inevitably, someone would need something from the store, even if we already had the item or never had the item. “Come on Ralph, we gotta get some chocolate licorice and a tube of epoxy!” When I’d get back, the house would be crammed with every family member within eighty miles. The same was done for my brother and sisters. For the first couple years, it was a surprise, after that … maybe a bit less of a surprise.
However, one year it worked. My grandmother (Nanny) and I went for a drive to see my uncle Mark, who lives quite a distance from my mom. I assumed it was the expected trip away from the house. When we got to Mark’s place, my mom and everyone else was there. Apparently he had expressed an interest in having the party for me. It’s a gesture that I’ve never forgotten and it probably meant a lot more to me than he knew.
My last surprise party was for my thirteenth birthday, in 1993. That was the day the Storm of the Century buried our little street, wrapping everything in a thick padding of white like a tremendous fluffy present from Nature. I’m sure my step-dad still has the VHS tape he recorded on his massive camcorder, which he protected from the blizzard with a big black garbage bag. Watching the video later was like watching a silent movie while someone smashed grocery bags into your ears.
While we didn’t have a party this year, we did celebrate. We are now the proud new owners of a self-propelled lawn mower and a weed eater that weighs as much as a horse.
by Stevie Wonder