A Big Surprise For The Birthday Girl--And A BIGGER Surprise For The Knucklehead Who Planned It!!
(originally posted July 14, 2003/Fred Sez)

In the words of the immortal Gomer Pyle, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!!"

It happened just about 13 years ago. Dear wife Lynn was about 6 weeks from delivering our wonderful--and one and only--bundle of joy, daughter Julie. Why I decided that this, of all summers, was the proper one in which to throw my sweetie a surprise birthday party, I don't rightly know. Perhaps I was overcome by the emotions of the impending event and wanted to turn the entire season into one long magical interlude. Whatever. What I DIDN'T expect was that I'd be the one who got the REAL surprise...

Ever try throwing a surprise party? C'mon, you've seen 'em on TV--we all have. Of course, there they're over and done with in 30 minutes (minus commercials) When you attempt it in real life, it's a whole lot of work, and of course, much of it is of the furtive variety. This, I must admit, was actually quite fun for me, as I'm not usually called upon to be sneaky, but I surprisingly discovered that, if necessary, I indeed had a bit of a knack for it!?! (Gee, I sure hope that statement isn't used against me in court someday!?!...)

To mount such an event, one needs co-conspirators, and special mention should be given here to the two who helped me the most. One, naturally, was my mother-in-law, Terry. Although not overly enthused at the idea ("Why not just have a regular party?"), she nonetheless helped tremendously with the preparations and much of the cooking, specifically the delicious ceremonial birthday cake. Much of the rest of the menu was prepared by moi during the afternoons whilst Lynn was at work and then hurriedly taken across the street and stored about two blocks away at the garret-like apartment of the world renowned painter Joe Chiodo. Yes, THAT Joe Chiodo, fantasy fans. The amiable and talented brush man landed in my neck of the woods for about a year and a half prior to ultimately abandoning the area due to the (comparatively) harsh winter temperatures and headed back to his native California for warmth, fame, fortune, and his own happy little family. Everyone hereabouts was fond of Joe, and he proved invaluable in sequestering surreptitious salads!! Bet they never had you do THAT at Image Comics, pal!?!...

Anyway, here was the plan: Lynn's birthday fell on a Friday. Just coincidentally, one of those regularly scheduled checkups they give the pregnant ladies fell on that very afternoon. I figured as soon as we took off for the doc, Mom Moss could start letting the guests in, and they could while away the time waiting for our return practicing their jumping-out-and-yelling-surprise moves. The way I had it planned, after the routine check-up, I'd propose we go to a quiet dinner at her favorite local Chinese restaurant, but inasmuch as we were passing our house on the way out to eat, I'd suddenly suggest we stop off at the house due to a call from nature coming in on the priority line. Her being pregnant and all, my final ruse would be to suggest that she take the opportunity to use the facilities as well. As those of you familiar with ladies heavy with child will attest, trips to the potty usually occur systematically, like clockwork. So, we simply walk in the door, and then we're happily ambushed by the 20 or so folks I managed to engage in my little round of subterfuge. Good plan, huh? I thought so, too, but as it turned out, there was one person I didn't run my clever ideas by. That's right--the doctor...

We went into the examination room. Everything had been going just fine with the pregnancy up to this point, so pardon me if I figured this would all just be routine, and my mind was more on what I imagined what was then currently transpiring back at our home than on what the doctor was actually saying. That is, until he started to show some increasing concern about the situation..

"Your blood pressure has gone way up since your last visit, Lynn. I'd strongly advise you to stop going to work as of right now, because for the duration of this pregnancy, you need to rest, to remain calm, and TO AVOID EXCITEMENT!!!"

Well, thanks doc, thanks a LOT. No cake for YOU! Geez, you can imagine what MY reaction was to this diagnosis!?! I had me a house full of people just ready to leap out and--unbeknownst to them--most likely scare Lynn into breaking her water!?! What the heck was I gonna do? Oh sure, I could've told her the truth and prepared her for the onslaught, but that just didn't seem, well, right. All that preparation and all, y'know? I mean, when do you ever get to REALLY pull off a surprise party? It ain't easy, and if you blow it once, well, from that point on, you're ALWAYS under suspicion. No second chances, pal. So no, perhaps a bit selfishly, I didn't say anything. However, I should note that, due to the sawbones's pronouncement, my own anticipatory emotions had veered sharply from the expected glee to an overridingly dull nerve-racking dread..


Yes, she was.

No, nothing bad came of it.

Yes, it was a delightful party.

No, I haven't attempted it since.

And yes, today is again Lynn's birthday--happy birthday, darlin'! And as long as I don't scare the bejeebers outta you, here's wishing you many, many more!!

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