Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Surprise?

Hubby had a milestone birthday this month. Daughter called early in the spring and said we should give him a surprise party. “Good luck,” I said, but we pulled it off. Kind of. It took a three-day weekend to manage it.

The sons all show up around that date each year to go fishing, so we knew he would be expecting them, and she added herself and S-I-L (son-in-law) to that list, so he wouldn’t be too suspicious of phone calls and the conspiracy began. I let her do all the surreptitious stuff, and then report back as to success. It took some planning, but she did it and Hubby and Sons were even able to sneak in a morning of fishing at a local lake. They had minor success but lots of fun according to individual reports when they returned. Each had a different version of the trip, but they were all happy.

His sister arrived from Portland, Oregon, in the middle of the first day. He was surprised and laughed because she also surprised him on his birthday about 15 or so years ago. She sneaked in in the middle of the night and we made him get up because “there is someone here who wants to see you.” He was groggy and half asleep, and when he came into the kitchen, (thankfully, he’d pulled on his pants) he mumbled to me, “whoever it is, she looks just like my sister.” Took him a minute to realize it really was his sister.

This time we used the excuse of taking the great-grandson to the beach as a reason to be out and about in time to pick her up at the airport. When we drove into the yard, he didn’t even notice her in the car. Took him a minute to register it wasn’t Daughter getting out. He was surprised and happy to see her, as we don’t get together much. She is several years younger than he and still working, so can’t pick up and travel whenever, but they always have a good time and remember their brief family life together with laughter.

Also present were four of the seven granddaughters, including great-grandson’s mom, so we had four generations running around most of the time. I mean that literally, as generation four kept the other three moving.

We had motor homes and campers parked in the yard and a couple of tents pitched. Thank heaven the weather was good to us and we had sunshine every day. The arrivals began on Thursday evening with Granddaughter No. 6 by plane. By Sunday, with local friends coming in and dropping by our yard was full of people and cars. Reminded me of the “old days” when we used to host friends from out of state who came up to go fishing and sight-seeing. Our yard sometimes looked like an RV park.

S-I-L and No. 1 Son have a friendly competition going on about who is the best cook, so for the entire weekend, THEY did the cooking with the respective spouses and other sibs being the Gofers. One friend commented how good a job they did being hosts. We “old fogies” didn’t have to do anything but sit in a lawn chair and eat. They even cleaned up. (Perfectly, I might add.)

It was a grand weekend, as much for me as for the Birthday Boy. We don’t have our four kids together very often. We do see them all regularly, in various combinations, but all together is a treat for them as well as us — or so they say. There is lots of laughing and joking. Many “remember whens.” Those are the most fun because it is interesting to hear the different versions of the same occurrence, and how they all differ from Mom’s view.

The most exasperating thing, however, it to start a story with “remember about 40 years ago…” and realize you’re talking to Youngest Son and he says “yeah, I remember the time.” Certainly brings home the number of years these birthdays have been happening.

And then it’s time for them to leave. They dribbled out. Two granddaughters had to go back to work, so they left on Sunday evening. The others made their exit in stages, until Daughter and S-I-L left early on Wednesday, heading north to get some pictures of Denali and maybe the Yukon River, depending on time and road conditions. As always, I’m so glad to see everyone arrive, then just as glad to see the last one gone, but the next thought as they drive out of sight is “Darn, I wish they could have stayed a few more days.”

And our bonus is we collected four big garbage bags of aluminum cans so took them over to the recycle place. Just about made gas money — $2.88 — but it was a priceless weekend.

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai. Email her at

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