Getting married is easy. Staying married seems much harder. In a time when around half of all couples get divorced, the ability to get married, buy a house, raise kids, start and close a small business and work as an independent salesman (my dad) or work as a career specialist for two high schools (my mom) and still stay married is nothing short of spectacular. As of August 15, 2010, my parents had managed to do it for 40 years.This deserved a celebration and boy, did we give them one. Planning started a few months ago with me emailing Bryan (brother, 29) and Logan (sister, 26) about throwing my parents a surprise party. Seeing as how we didn’t do anything special for their 60th birthdays last year, I figured it was time to do something big. I remembered how excited they were at their 25th wedding anniversary held by my mom’s mom, so I knew we had to do something pretty big. We succeeded.
Seeing as how I’m 1500 miles away most of the time, getting contact information was the toughest part. My brother getting married last year made this a little easier, as I knew my mom most likely had a list of invitations with contact information for most of the guests, and I figured if they were good enough to get invited to my brother’s wedding, they were good enough to get invited to this party. Problem was, Logan didn’t know where to find the addresses and I couldn’t just ask for them without it seeming suspicious, so I told my Mom that I was hoping to enter all our relatives and close friends info into my address book so I’d be able to contact them if needed. Because this yarn was mostly true, my Mom didn’t think anything of handing them over, though I did start to pressure her a bit as June past and July started to turn into August.But she came through, giving my dad a list the day she left for a teaching conference and I took to the phones. I called old friends, I called neighbors (neighbor Linda Jensen helped tremendously spreading the word around the block) and I called family. Some drove from across the state, others walked from next door and in all, about 40 people said they’d be able to come. Those that couldn’t were definitely missed.
Now that I had invitees, I needed a way to get into town on Thursday night and hide from my parents for two days. As luck would have it, Brian Robinett, one of my oldest friends, had room in his place in Kent and was conveniently taking his wife Lesley and three kids camping that weekend, giving me access to a car and a place to stay all weekend. His brother Michael picked me up from the airport on Thursday, took me to their softball game, where I kept score. My brother, who arrived with his wife on Friday, hid at his in-laws house for two days too, though Michael, Bryan, Sarah and I met for golf on Saturday morning.I still needed a way to get my parents out of the house to get set up. Longtime friends Sam and Karen helped with this, as one quick call to them and they promised to take my parents downtown for some quick drinks and appetizers, giving us from 6:30 to 8pm to set up, greet the guests and get the party started as we waited for Sam, Karen and my parents to arrive home. Problem was, there were lots of cars in the driveway. Like 20. This was going to be a problem.
Logan came to the rescue, shrewdly telling my parents that she was going to have some friends leave a few cars at the house and head to Seattle. Next step was decorations and Sarah nailed this one. She had “borrowed” their wedding album a few weeks prior and scanned something like 20 pictures that most of us hadn’t seen in years. The images were then mounted on construction paper, affixed with quotes like “all you need is love,” affixed to a straw on back and held upright and in place by lemons with the rind slightly cut to be flat. They looked great. She also had some signs and ribbon that were draped around the house.Guests started arriving at 7pm, and all brought either a drink to share or some food. Neighbor Linda brought some awesome 7-layer bean dip, Aunt Bev and Uncle Bruce brought mixers and Sarah’s parents brought meatballs simmered in BBQ sauce. Chips, cream cheese dip, Logan’s cake and an assortment of dips and chips rounded out the offerings, along with plenty of alcohol. The next step was to get everyone ready for the big surprise at 8pm, as Karen had promised to call when they were on their way.
8pm came and went. Curious as to where they were, I texted and called Karen, but I would find out later that her phone battery died. At 8:30, Logan called my mom, but she had left her phone in the dining room. My dad was next, but his phone was in the office. Our last ditch effort was to call Sam, but he didn’t have his phone on either. 8:40 rolled around and I’m fairly sure most people didn’t really mind, as the food was good, the drinks were flowing and friends old and new were having a blast. So far, good party.And then the door to the garage opened and my mom poked her head in. She looked around, leaned back and poked her head in again.
(My mom would later tell me that she noticed 25+ cars in the driveway, and her first thought was “Logan is pretty ballsy to have a party while we were gone.” She again thought this the first time she stuck her head in, until she noticed a neighbor couple and thought to herself, “why would Logan invite the neighbors?”)
Then one of my couins saw her. “Surprise!”
Both my parents were in shock. They had no idea my brother and his wife were there, nor did they know I was in town. In fact, I talked to both my parents right after they came in, and neither really registered that all their kids were there. Surprise party was a complete success.
The night got better from there. Cake was cut, stories were told, bonds were made and rekindled. The hard-core partiers stayed up until nearly 1:30am, talking and laughing the night away.
Best trip I’ve made home in about five years.
Huge thanks to Bryan for bringing food and utensils, to Sarah for her fantastic decorations, Logan for her taskmaster attitude and the cake and Nick for taking the garbage out and bringing the coolers in. Also thanks to Linda Jensen for inviting the neighbors – the 7-layer bean dip was greatly appreciated by me – and Sam and Karen for taking my parents out, though Sam DID make them late by ordering steaks.40 years is a long time and I’m proud that my parents have been able to stick it out this long. See you at Logan and Nick’s wedding!