Planning A Surprise Party Is Harder Than I Thought!


I always try to be near snow in December — and then hightail it back south before the new year starts. I blame my Wisconsin roots.

Unfortunately, I am still here. Up north. Where it’s one degree right now, up from -7 this morning. The reason for this breach of protocol is my daughter Jen’s birthday, which takes place in early January. Of course, it’s my own fault that she has this crummy birthday, nestled in between a pile of exhausting holidays and blissful relief. I don’t stick around for it — no one does. She hasn’t had a birthday party since she was a teenager.

But this year she’s turning 40. Impossible, actually, given my age — well, my mental age at least. I told her I’d stay and celebrate with her. Then I decided to throw her a party — a surprise party — and here I am, a nervous wreck.

I am not cut out for the surprise party thing, it turns out. I like sharing the planning with the intended celebrant, and every time someone RSVPs in the positive, I want to call and tell her, “Guess who’s coming!”

Her husband, Greg, isn’t much help. He showed up to my meeting with the restaurant people with his three-year-old daughter Tess in tow.

“What’s she doing here?” I whispered.

“I thought we’d all have lunch,” he said.

“She’s gonna spill the beans! Plus, you and I never go out to lunch without Jen along.”

“It’ll be fine.”

At 5 p.m. that day, I get a text from my daughter. “Did you and Tess have lunch together today?” she inquired.

Um. “Oh, didn’t Greg tell you? Tess wanted to see me, and I was out, and they were out, so we met up at… McDonald’s.”

“She said the bathroom was ‘like a princess would have.’”

Um. “Yeah, it was a really unusual McDonald’s. And what an imagination! Ha ha.”

Things got worse when I was at their house, uncomfortably continuing the charade when Greg said, “Debbie, may I see you for a moment in the next room?”

Ack! No! You must wait until you catch my eye and then silently crook your finger at me. Oh, have these people never tried to hide anything before?

“What is it, Greg?” I asked, nervously looking over my shoulder.

“I’ve ordered the meat.”

I just stared at him.

“I got it at a really good price.”

Was a medal in order? What? “OK, good. Gotta go.” I ran back to where Jen and I were playing Scrabble.

“Everything OK?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah. Sure. Ducky. Perfect.”


She’s on to us.

Fortunately, she knows how much this means to me and is pretending to know nothing. Behind closed doors, I’m sure she’s grilling Tess for details.

Oh, well, soon it will be over and I can get back to sanity — and sunshine!