Monday, March 19, 2012

A Mother's Birthday

December 23rd is one of the worst possible days to have a birthday. Finishing up last minute things before the start of the Christmas holiday, grocery shopping to ensure that Christmas dinner is fresh, one more godforsaken shopping mall trip because you forgot something for Aunt Mildred.
Year after year, it's always the same. 

Even when I promise myself that next year I will have everything ready so that I can properly celebrate my mother's birth, it always seems rushed and second-hand to the celebration 48 hours later.

She has spent her entire life getting the short end of the birthday stick.

That is, until March 10, 2012.

This year my mother turned 65. And to celebrate in style we surprised her 76 days later.


But surprising her was the biggest challenge of them all. In what was appropriately titled Operation Oklahoma (my mom can shatter glass with her awful yet honest rendition of Oklahoma--which she would sing all the time growing up) we set out to surprise the birthday girl in what we hoped would be a birthday party she'll never forget.

The planning began months ago. Rounding up all her siblings from Arizona, Nevada, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Reaching out to her friends from nursing school, some 42 years ago. Alerting her current workstaff. Announcing to the families. And above all-KEEPING IT A SECRET.

Our alibi was rock solid. My dad recieved a (fake) letter from the President of the Palos Lions Club announcing that he was the Melvin Jones Man of the Year recipient and that he and his family was cordially invited to a recognition dinner at Silver Lake Country Club. She bought it hook-line and sinker.

 Good one, Dad!

It was 6:00, the sun was setting and the room was all set up.

 The candles were lit.

And suddenly the most important people in her life joined the party

and were greeted with a Kathy mask/place card.

We browsed the pictures of her past

as we waited in anticipation.

 Then the text came in.

She arrived with my dad and Eugene caught them in the parking lot
to take pictures of the "Lions Club Man of the Year"

Tee Hee.

I love these pictures because she has no idea what's moments away...what's really behind that door.

And then my dad opened it and everyone screamed


She instantly gasped and stepped back out into the lobby, her back to the door.

Embarassed, I think.

But her and my dad exchanged the most precious of looks and after a deep breath she re-entered her party with the familiar grace that we know so well.

She was beside herself.

These types of moments are so rare and so pure. And I'm SO grateful this moment was hers

Everyone lined up to greet her.

I've never seen my mother smile so much.

It was priceless.

Look, my dad's wearing his Lion's Club badge.

Total committment. 

As the first course came out, so did the speeches.

I love hearing stories of my mother's past. 
But don't all children wonder what they're parents we're really like? 
What roads they walked? What decisions they made? 
How they really did in their 7th grade math class? 

What they were like as a person, not as a parent

That's what's so intriguing to me. 

Stories of her strong sense of character and passion.

Stories of sisterhood and friendship.

We kids decided to do the "Top 10 reasons why a mother's instinct is SOMETIMES right"

And roasted her silly. 

We raised our glasses in her honor.

And were reminded of 
how beautiful our family really is.

And at the end of the evening we surprised my mom with this film. 

Their story.

And while this evening was meant for my mother, I walked away with an even deeper love and appreciation for my family. It was a birthday party WE ALL will remember.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Here's the actual video of her surprise. But please note, the off-key singer is NOT me. I will however, maintain her anonymity, cuz it's bad, real bad :)


  1. Oh my goodness. That is honestly one of the nicest things I have ever read/seen in my entire life. What a wonderful tribute to your mom, your dad and your entire family. You are all so, so blessed! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thanks Wendy, it was such a memorable night!

  3. What a beautiful thing to do for your Mom. I cried the entire reading and even more in the words by her wonderful husband. What an honor to be thought of so special and recognized for it by her family. I am so happy my daughter got to be a part of this beautiful memory. Katherine McCullars

  4. What a wonderful celebration! I think it is so amazing to think about the next generation or two up and what it must be like to look at all you've created--all of your children grown up and happy and successful, wonderful grandchildren. Your family is so happy and vibrant and fun! Another great tribute to your mom.



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