I have always prided myself on being the smart, savvy sort. The type that no one can “put one over on.” The type to be on top of all the “little things” in my midst.
Imagine my surprise, then, to discover that Mr. Wonderful, with the endless cooperation of a myriad of my family and friends, managed to successfully “surprise!” me at my recent birthday.
This is particularly notable in light of the fact that I had taken part in a similar ruse to surprise my best friend — also my cousin — just six months earlier. She vowed (good natured) revenge and I laughed “as if!” Me fall for the ol’ “surprise party” routine?
Apparently I get more gullible as I age because I absolutely, positively, did.
They plotted and planned for months. They threw me off the trail with alternate celebrations. They pretended to “forget” or to have never known at all. They were “busy” that weekend, too.
My husband spent more time on the telephone with my girlfriends than I do — and I was none the wiser (We’ll revisit the wisdom of that someday, too).
And on a snowy Sunday afternoon I walked, unsuspecting, through a darkened doorway to the sudden and true shock of an assemblage of those dearest to me yelling “surprise!”
So surprised was I that even as they were screaming I was sure the party was for someone else. Accordingly, I dove into a nearby doorway for fear that I’d ruin the surprise, too!
The party was lovely — from what I recall. The thing is when you are the suprisee, the shock doesn’t wear off for a while. I think in some respects a surprise party is a celebration of how naive you are. We spent hours laughing and shaking our heads at how clueless I was.
People came from near and far, they gave up their time and effort and best wishes to share the day with me — and I will be forever grateful (and your thank-you notes really are on the way!)
That said, in the days, weeks, leading up to this “very special birthday” people in the know as to my advancing age were increasingly amazed at how well I seemed to be taking it.
I was turning that age that apparently makes women want to throw themselves off a roof — or into a vat of Botox. Suffice to say that if according to Oprah, 50 is the new 30, then I just turned 20 — and if I’m cagey and lie about my age I’ll just say I’m 19.
That said, the few times I found myself getting too worked up about my advancing age, I considered the alternative to be not growing older and felt a little better about that.
You see, whenever I get too caught up in the perils of aging I’m brought up short by the memories of those I’ve known who didn’t. Age, that is.
Sadly, I think we all know them. Be they family, friends, or just a passing acquaintance. There are too many to count, sadly, but the ones I think most of are the handful of peers who lost their lives far too young when we were still in our teens.
Felled in their prime — before their time. The young who never grew old. High school kids never to graduate. Represented by a rose on a empty chair. Never to move out, move on, find true love, have babies, and yes, turn 30. Or 40. Or 50. Or more.
When I get too worked up over the latest wrinkle or a pesky grey hair I wonder what they — or their families — would give to blow out another candle? Would give to yell “surprise!” Because their “surprise” was a tragic one.
You see that’s the thing about life, if you are lucky the surprises lurking around every dark corner are good ones. They are family and friends and love and warmth and food and fun and everything you need in one place.
But sometimes they’re not. Sometimes the surprise is less fun and more frightening — and who really knows what waits around the next dark corner?
Count myself lucky
If you’re lucky, you grow up, you grow old and you hope that whenever you walk into the unknown — that loved ones are waiting there, too.