Top secret

My sister was clear. She did not under any circumstances want a 50th birthday party. She emphatically stated that they did not make a big deal when her husband ticked off his milestone last year, so she was not having a birthday party either.

I reasoned it through in a mature way, quickly deciding that she was not the boss of me. I did not say this out loud because I am a grownup. Plus it would tip her off. She has a very suspicious nature probably due, in large part, to the fact that I’ve pulled a fast one on her a time or two prior, mostly paybacks for the fast ones she pulled on me. I began to plan.

Anna was born 4 days before Christmas and planning a surprise birthday party for her during the holiday season was surely going to be problematic. Everyone is busy and weather is always a bit of a gamble. The danger of no-shows was very high. That suspicious nature of hers would lead her to question every activity I planned in that time frame. I was afraid that if she caught wind of what I was up to, she would be the no-show.

Nope. It couldn’t be celebrated during the Christmas/New Year season.

I began to move the party back from December 21st. We have a new generation of kidlets and they have Christmas pageant practice and their parents are trying to get Christmas shopping done. I decided that one excellent sale or a sudden snowstorm would derail the party, not to mention hunting season. Heaven help us if someone got a deer.

Flipping back another page to November, I backed up from the Thanksgiving weekend. We already had plans for another weekend. Taking in to consideration that she works every other weekend, well, that narrowed down the available weekends even more. Of course, once again, there was hunting season. Feeling a little bit foolish, I flipped back yet another page to October.

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Haying was done. Wood was in. Weather wasn’t likely to be an issue. Plus, the biggest thing in my favor was that a supper invitation in October was not going to trigger her birthday radar. I moved backwards from Halloween (did I mention the new generation of kidlets?) and finally settled on the 12th since she was off that weekend.

I contacted mutual friends. The Radmores were my cover. I called Anna up and told her they were coming for supper and invited her and Dave. It wasn’t a lie, not exactly. I just didn’t mention that there would be 30 to 35 others there in addition to Rick and Joyce. Just as I hoped, she enthusiastically RSVPed.

I notified friends, and contacted Lenora, the matriarch of the Wencil clan who began notifying family. I planned the meal, ordered a cake, selected my balloons and waited for the big day to arrive.

Two weeks before the big day, I got an e-mail from my sister, cancelling. Their son, Bill, was headed from Ft Hood to Ft Lee for military training, and he was going to try to come home that weekend. Looked like the surprise was on me. Even worse, she had already apologized to the Radmores who thought the party was canceled. Heck no. I enlisted Bill’s assistance. If he was able to make it home that weekend, he’d make sure to get his parents to our house.

I began contacting people once again to let them know that no matter what they’d been told, the party was still on. I began to get the idea that maybe force marching her from Grand Valley to Warren might be easier than pulling this surprise off. I guess I should have expected her to be difficult. She’s long been a thorn in my backside.

The day of the party arrived. I began ticking things off my list in a very organized way. The house was clean and ready. I picked up the party supplies. I made two pots of soup, scattered a few black balloons around and draped the Bob the Buffalo in black crepe. Two hours prior to the party, I was congratulating myself as I rolled sandwich meat for the meat platter. William walked into the kitchen in a very matter of fact way and announced, “Grandma! I poop!”

He had. The best laid plans of mice and (wo)men were derailed by one small boy in a very messy diaper. By the time that I’d gotten that taken care of, I was feeling a little harried, and rushed. I kept checking the clock. I realized that I’d forgotten two 12 packs of pop in the freezer. My organization devolved quickly. I was still getting stuff together as guests began to arrive.

Blessedly, everyone pitched right in and we finished things up quickly. Soon the house was packed and noisy. Anna called to say she and Dave were running late. I was trying to shush everyone without saying, “Shush everyone!” out loud. I was sure that Anna could hear them, but she just figured that her phone was noisier than usual. Cluelessly, she observed, “You sound a little stressed. Are you stressed?” to which I was supposed to have answered in a slightly higher pitched voice than usual: “A liiiiiiittttllle.”

The Radmores were waiting in the kitchen when she and Dave finally walked in. She looked at the cake and mused, “That’s a big cake for six people,” and I said, “Quick, come here, I have something I want you to see. I opened the kitchen door, we stepped into the foyer and 35 people yelled “Surprise!” and “Happy birthday!”

I was not sure how she would react. I’d told everyone that if she killed me, they should go ahead and enjoy the party. They pointed out that Pastor Ralph did nice funerals. Turned out that there was no need for any of that. Anna stood in the doorway gaping. Her eyes were big, and her face was beet red, and she was speechless. She had been well and truly got. She never suspected a thing.

Now that the party is over, I just want to point out two things. The first: On December 21st, my sister, Anna Wencil will be 50 years old. Feel free to do what you will with that information. The second thing? You’re not the boss of me, Anna!