“Let Your home be wide open,” Yose ben Johana (Avot1:5)
Hospitality: Warmly and cordially receiving guests and strangers in a friendly, generous way, a warm, celebratory way.
There is something amazing about cooking for others, sparkling up the house and opening the door for people – to share friendship, ideas, laughter, life. Mother-of-the-Groom luncheons, baby and wedding showers, casual and the-works dinners, after prom and birthday parties. All kinds of birthday parties: G.I. Joe Parties, Easter Egg Parties, Baseball Parties, Soccer Parties, Costume-Birthday Parties (for a Halloween Birthday) – and Surprise Parties.
I love Surprise Parties. I specialize in Surprise 16 Parties. It is one of the few instances I can lie without worrying about venial and mortal sin (Catholic) or Protestant sin. I know. You are thinking, “Blue Cotton Mom lies?” Oh – there are bunches of them: “I’m making all these pies for Miss Judy. She’s hosting her high school reunion this weekend” . . . “The neighbors are having their family reunion Saturday. Don’t be surprised at all the cars” . . . “There looks to be a poisonous snake on the front-porch column? Can you come home and get rid of it? (which worked amazingly well since it really happened the night before)”. . . . “No Party. I’ll just reschedule later on” (when my son’s BFF let the suprise out of the bag – so I called everyone in front of him and cancelled – but didn’t really – so LOL). All the while planning an evening filled with joy, laughter, good food and friends.
But planning my own surprise party? Karen said she just couldn’t wrap her brain around it – and Lidj was interested in the how-to-ness of it. Oh, let me help you out here. It is awesomely, amazingly easy to do – if you love doing for people.
Yes, I threw my own 40th surprise party. What do you expect a mom of 5 sons to do? Girls are the party planners – not boys!
How was it a Surprise Party? Well, I think it surprised my husband. “You’re really having your own surprise party?” he asked, somewhat puzzled, confused and, yes, surprised – it is a hard concept to wrap your brain around – if you think inside the party box. A birthday party for an adult sounds like a yawning obligatory dinner with a last-minute, exasperated gift. A Costume Party? Too Much Work! A Cocktail Party? To shallow with-out that family-friendly feel. A tea party? Where would I stuff my boys?
I have learned that if you want fireworks in your life, you better plan them. Waiting on others can be like waiting for the school bus that broke down 2 hours ago.
Throwing Your Own Surprise Party Must-Haves:
Hint: It is Not about the Party Girl Receiving! It is all about Giving and Doing for Others!
Celebrating Life Theme: I wanted to celebrate 40 years. Like fingers on a chalk-board is the culture response to age: lie about it, which is totally different from lying about a Surprise Party. My mom and my aunt, who could not come, threatened to send black mourning flowers. I told them I would throw them in the garbage. This was a Celebrating Life Party – a Thank You God for these 40 years, for finally opening my eyes to who God created me to be, to overcoming adversity, to never giving up, to Celebrating Blessings. I am firmly believe in “What you say is What you get.” Why would I want to symbolically compare my life to dying? Throwing your Surprise Party is definitely a No-Cliche Zone.
Guest List: Friends who know the real you and love you just the way you are – you know – those spirit friends God sends you? They get the “Surprise Party” because they know the dictionary of your heart. Friends you share your life with either on the soccer field, the playground, church. Always include people you want to know better. And family! My brother and his wife plus my in-laws came for the celebration.
Menu: Grilled Barbecue Chicken, my chocolate celebration cake, and side-dishes. I bought the chicken, but a friend insisted on smoking the chicken for me. Everyone brought a dish, so that left me with just dessert. I still could not resist making a couple of dishes though.
Decorations: Zinnia bouquets everywhere, inside and outside. Plant your seeds in late spring and you will have a summer supply of fresh-cut flowers all summer. I could laugh and say I decorated my house by just cleaning-to-sparkle – and it would be true. I love it when my home reflects who God created me to be. It symbolizes how comfortable I am in my skin so to speak. A messy house is like me on a bad day or in a challenge. A clean house, when the candles are lit and there are zinnias in my grandmothers’ frosted peach and teal ice tea glasses, – well that is like how I feel when I have a day where it all comes together inside and outside. Sadly, my house is more often messy than sparkly, but I sure love sparkly.
The Day of My Surprise Party was Perfect. Sunny August with cool breezes. My aunt sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers in pinks and whites. She had the delivery lady slip me a wilted blue hydrangea in wrapping paper – but she adhered to my request – no black or purple. My Chocolate Celebration Cake with cupcakes sat in the kitchen. My guests arrived from out of town and slowly the house filled through-out the day. There is nothing like a little incredulous, a lot of humor and “Happy Surprise Party” comments. I was in the kitchen most of the time until my brother came in, took control and told me to go enjoy my party. The funny thing is I enjoyed being in the kitchen for my own party. I enjoyed taking care of my guests. I wanted to give to them just, too.
I think that is the key to pulling off throwing your own Surprise Birthday Party – is giving whole-heartedly to your guests, to love your guests like honored family.
“Give, and it will come back to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over”
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12: 1-12)
My Blue Cotton Celebration cake was not dressed for my typical birthday party: a soccer field, a baseball, or soccer ball, or, sigh, the eleven-hundredth G.I. Joe cake. It was a 3 layer cake, with moms chocolate fudge icing. When I turn 50, I will make the same cake, use the same icing but add a drizzled chocolate ganache and top it with strawberries, blueberries and kiwis. I think I will make it a surprise party then, too!
(Don’t doubt for a moment that there wouldn’t be a dozen Blue Cotton Celebration Cupcakes on the side topped with worms in dirt).