Tuesday, October 29, 2013


We had a surprise 50th birthday party for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law over the weekend and, let me tell you, some people are VERY hard to surprise.  

Oh, not because they’re crack detectives and weaseled the information out of the weakest link in the family who spilled the beans at the first suspicious glance. 

No, some people are simply hard to surprise.  In this case, it was because we ambitiously decided to hold a joint surprise party since their birthdays are only four days apart. 

Now, if the guests of honor had arrived at the party together, that might have eliminated some of the angst from the person who was expected to escort them down to the party room (namely, me) where everyone was hiding and waiting to jump out and yell, “Surprise!”

Instead, my brother-in-law was coming from work. At a car dealership. Where start and stop times are completely ambiguous.  Thus, we had no earthly idea what time he’d show up.

My sister-in-law, on the other hand, arrived promptly at the agreed-upon time.  The ruse was that she and her husband were coming over for an early birthday dinner with just my husband and me.  And we were going to watch Ohio State annihilate Penn State. (Which they did and which we did, but which is beside the point.)

Most of the guests were already secreted downstairs in the balloon-infested party room where all manner of party food and drink abounded.  Fortunately, the acoustics in our house are such that no party-like sounds drifted upstairs.  But, just to be safe, I cranked the music in the living room as a cover up.

Our plan of attack was to be if she showed up and he was still working, we would be forced to hold two separate surprises.  Not ideal, but short of driving to the car dealership and dragging my brother-in-law out of there, what could we do? 

We had a plant inside his dealership who attempted to get my brother-in-law out of work on time, but try as he might, my brother-in-law simply would not leave until the last customer drove away.  Makes for a great employee, but a lousy guest of honor at his own surprise party.

Nevertheless, our plant sent me a text to let me know that our guest of honor had finally left.  And when his wife showed up at our house, she, too, announced that her husband was on his way.  So I made a quick decision to go for the joint surprise. 

I sent a text to my co-conspirator downstairs to hold steady…and nervously chatted with my sister-in-law in the living room, while staring at my watch and silently begging my brother-in-law to hurry.

And then the doorbell rang.  Was it our other guest of honor?

Nooo.  It was some latecomers – a niece with her five (no, not a typo) small children.

So I walked outside and quickly explained that they’d have to wait until my brother-in-law arrived.  They turned tail just as I spied my sister-in-law walking into the hallway to see what was taking me so long. She evidently saw the backs of the little ones scurrying away and asked, “Neighborhood kids?” And I replied, “Yes, they’re always trying to get me to support one fundraiser or another!”

Pretty good seat-of-the-pants response, eh?  Yeah, I have to admit, I was pretty proud of myself.

Of course, the guests downstairs were confused by the latest doorbell. They were getting restless wondering what was happening upstairs and I was receiving constant texts from them.

Ack!  I was trying to keep it all together, but I’m good at subterfuge for only so long.  So I started sweating and getting nervous – so much so that to explain it away, I blamed a hot flash.  And I’m not so sure that was a lie.

Thankfully, just then my brother-in-law showed up.  But did they immediately head for the lower level? 


First, my brother-in-law – ever the gentleman – insisted that I precede him and follow his wife down the stairs. Well, I knew that I would completely ruin the photos everyone downstairs was poised to take. But, before I could figure out a tactful way to go last, my sister-in-law took a detour to the bathroom.

By this point inside my head I’m screaming, Oh. My. Gawd. You. Guys. Are. Killing. Me!” 

She reminded her husband to get the crockpot from the kitchen to bring downstairs. (Let this be a warning – if you are ever a guest of honor at a party at my house, you’ll be expected to bring food.)

So I stalled him in the kitchen by asking inane questions while she was in the bathroom.

FINALLY, they were both ready to head downstairs and I somehow managed to lag behind.  I even managed to send my niece the prearranged text message to let them know her mom and stepdad were on their way down.  And when I finally heard “SURPRISE!” I all but collapsed in a big puddle on the floor.

In the end, it was truly a surprise. And even if someone had let the cat out of the bag and ruined the surprise, we still would have had a wonderful time. And I think our guests of honor were touched that we would go to such lengths for them.

But next time?  Well, next time I’M going to let the cat out of the bag and ruin the surprise. Hot flashes notwithstanding, I can’t take the heat. 

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