A week ago last Friday, I left Ryan and the kids for a weekend in Massachusetts. One of my sisters -- Teresa -- was turning 40, and I flew out to help her celebrate the occasion.
I originally intended to just show up at her surprise birthday party on Saturday night-- adding still more shock value to that event.
(I hadn't spent a birthday with Teresa in over a decade.)
Ah, but then I came up with a far more cunning plan:
I'd arrive at her house early on Saturday (while she attended her daughters' soccer games), make us two cups of piping hot tea, and be there to greet her when she walked in the front door.
We would spend the afternoon together. I'd tell her we had dinner reservations, and later, I'd say we had to make a side trip to a local tavern (the site of her party)-- enlisting the help of an online friend to get her there without suspicion of what was about to happen...
It was perfect.
(Can you see the hands deviously folding and unfolding?)
Now, Teresa was not the only one in the dark about this visit-- none of my six siblings and their families had a clue that I was in town.
None but Teresa's husband, that is.
I had to tell Bill. After all, he was the mastermind behind the surprise party.
Also, I needed him to leave the door to their house unlocked, and to make sure their almost two-year-old, 90-pound Golden Retriever "puppy" was not in the house when I arrived.
And yes, he's a jumper.
About an hour before Teresa and her family were expected home, a good friend (Sheila) drove me to Teresa's house. We pulled up, and the first thing I noticed was the lack of a very large dog.
"So Sheila, you don't have to run right off now, do you?"
She laughed at my trepidation, cheerily calling "here puppy, puppy" as she walked up to the front door. I trailed slowly behind, afraid that the sound of my small, black, wheeled suitcase rolling across the driveway might prompt a charge.
Walking in the door, my heart was pounding.
(Now, I feel the need to interject here that I am not typically afraid of dogs. It's just that puppies are so unpredictable. And large puppies, scarily so.)
Anyhow, still no sign of the dog.
"What's his name?" Sheila asked.
"Jackson," I whispered, not wanting my response to be mistaken for a summons.
After searching the house, and looking out the back door, I concluded that they must have taken the dog with them.
But then, I opened the back door for a second look, and like a magic trick-- he was there.
"Oh! Oh my God!" I shouted, closing the door on him as he was in mid pounce.
"You really are afraid of dogs," Sheila said, laughing and shaking her head.
"Sandra, he's wagging his tail-- he's not going to hurt you," she went on reassuringly, as she (not-so-reassuringly) headed for the front door.
So now it was just a matter of making tea and waiting.
And listening to the sporadic barks of a dog who really wanted to play.
Half-an-hour later, and I was still alone.
After dumping two cups of very dark tea into the sink, and dropping a second set of bags into those same cups, the tea kettle just nearing still another boil-- a car pulled into the driveway.
My brother-in-law ran into the house, shouting, "HELLO?" I stepped from behind the pantry door to see my 11-year-old niece, Alanna.
She screamed, her face a brilliant red.
"It's okay, Alanna. I'm gonna surprise your mom."
Bill quickly ushered Alanna out of the kitchen, saying: "Teresa's two minutes behind me. She's gonna pull in any second."
I poured hot water into our two cups, spilling at least half a cup all over the counter. Then I grabbed my cell phone and punched in her number.
"Hey, whaddaya doin'?"
"Just driving home from the girls' soccer games. "
I could hear her van pull into the driveway.
"So, what are you gonna do today?"
"Oh, I have to work on that grant proposal, again."
The dog suddenly starts barking. I try to cover the phone, hoping she doesn't hear him.
The front door opens, and she starts talking again:
"So, there's a couple more things I need to do before I can finish the grant."
"Reeally," I say as I round the corner of her kitchen, walk right on up to where she's standing in the doorway, cell phone glued to my ear--
"So, do you need some help with that?"
"What-the-hell-are-you-doing-here?!!" she rapid fires at me-- eyes popping, hands raised and trembling.
"It's your birthday, remember?"
"Oh. My. God. I can't believe you're here," she says smiling, still shaking, as I throw my arms around her.
The remainder of that day was spent keeping Teresa off balance so that she wouldn't suspect that a party was coming.
This was when Phase Two of "Operation Surprise-the-Heck-out-of-Teresa" kicked into gear:
Bill handed the two of us a gift certificate for dinner at an upscale local restaurant.
Then later, as my sister looked on, I read a very expected email from the OC's own Nicole:
Hope your trip up is great...
I'd really like to see you while you're up here and
get you the little gift I have for Joseph - it's not
much, but I think he'll like it.
I thought maybe we could meet up on Saturday night
(tonight, really - it's after midnight) - if it's
convenient for you. I know you'll be busy, but Bob
and I were planning to head out to meet a couple of
friends for a few drinks - right in Franklin at Cole's
Tavern (I can google the directions for you, but maybe
your sister or brother in law knows how to get there -
it's on Washington Street) We're thinking of doing
that around 7:30 or so - maybe you could make it? Let
me know, OK...
My sister, convinced we were there to meet Nicole, never saw the party coming...
Coming soon: Walking the RI JDRF walk, and meeting a real live member of the OC!