Just before husband Art and I were to leave for Topeka last week, I had an e-mail message from brother Dave.
"I completely forgot to call you today. Your family and Mom, of course, are invited for a meal and celebration of Linda's 60th B/D. . ."
That was only two days away and I had already been looking forward to the escape the weekend provides from the myriad obligations that the workweek brings. So my initial reaction was sort of, "Oh no! I don't need an additional activity."
When I told Art, his reaction mirrored mine, but the idea grew on us and by the next day we had both decided it sounded like fun. In their marriage, Linda is usually the one organizing the family happenings. Dave is more than happy with that arrangement, especially since his accounting business requires him to make things come out "just so." But since Dave turned that usual relationship on its ear by helping plan the event and with this birthday being the big 6 - 0 for Linda, what had at first seemed like one more thing in a busy weekend turned into something we were both looking forward to.
The party was at Linda's sister Alana's and brother-in-law Larry's home in Salina. The big event was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Art pulled into the driveway a half hour earlier. After dropping Mom, daughter Katie and me off, he parked the van around the corner so Linda wouldn't see it.
Tables were set in the dining and living rooms and Larry was already hard at work grilling the meat on the barbeque. Larry and Alana's son Ryan and wife Jennifer had already arrived with their two little girls Madison and Mya, who were only momentarily afflicted with shyness. Linda's mom Dolores was also already there.
Dave drove Linda and their granddaughter Sydney to the party in a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, similar to a car we had when Dave was in high school. Their son Paul and wife Rachel had made arrangements for a weekend loan of the car for Dave's Christmas present and Dave thought Linda's birthday weekend was a great time to "cash in" on the gift.
We all thought Linda would have some inkling that something had been planned, so we were all pleased when she seemed genuinely surprised.
"What are you guys doing here?" she asked. Never one to seek the limelight, she smiled and quietly thanked us.
Before long Paul, Rachel and their son Chase showed up, followed by Linda's brother Terry and wife Estelle.
The four youngsters, glad to be together, ran around the back yard. Two had bubble blowers in hand while the other two followed behind attempting to pop the bubbles before the wind drove them out of reach. Art videotaped some of the antics.
While Larry put the finishing touches on the meat, Alana pulled the hash brown potatoes covered with shredded cheese from the oven. The counter was already covered by bowls of salads, a crock pot of beans, corn and a large pan of fresh-from-the-oven rolls. We filled our plates and sat down to the meal. Later, there were presents, cake, ice cream and much talk. In short, the evening was as nice as we had expected.
Still, there was something else too - something I hadn't quite expected. While watching the kids in their continual fun making, I was keenly aware of how my generation has moved to the front ranks of the family. Somehow when I imagine family gatherings, I still think of Mom, Dad and aunts and uncles in the forefront, with my siblings and cousins behind them. At the party, only Mom and Dolores separated us from being the oldest generation.
So while the party was a good one, it was also a bit emotional - not bad emotions, for I find something comforting in seeing this sort of natural order of things playing out. But it wasn't something I had really expected to think about. It turned out the surprise party for Linda had a surprise for me as well.