A week ago I was so excited I could hardly sleep. It was the eve of the surprise party that we had been planning for months. I had just flown into Denver and was staying with my friends, Samantha and Richard. Way back in September, Sam was in my town for a conference we hatched this plan to throw a surprise party for Liza‘s 50th. Probably after a month or so, I called her husband to pitch the idea to him. He was game and was going to see what her family thought while they visited over Thanksgiving.

After Christmas is when we started to ramp up our plans. At first it was general plans. As we got closer to the date, it became more specific. Jim sent me recent pictures of Liza for making an invitation. I got addresses for people from her work, golf league, relatives and friends. Jim took care of all of the food. He can do that in his sleep. He used to manage the food and beverage stuff for huge sports stadiums, so a party for 40 people is nothing. Laura, Liza’s sister, took care of the decorations. Her brother, Jimmy, ordered the cake. We all had our parts and miraculously, we all were able to contribute what we do best. The hardest part was keeping Liza in the dark.

I talk to Liza several times per week. She usually calls me on her way home from work. So for months, I had been talking with Sam, Jim and Laura and had to act like I had no contact. I’m a terrible liar. Laura and I had a conversation about avoiding Liza during the week prior to the party. Jim and Sam weren’t so lucky. I don’t know how they did it. But they totally pulled it off.  All I had to do was make sure I didn’t slip up and say something that I wasn’t supposed to know. A few times I had to act like I was telling Jim something new when I had just spoken with him earlier in the day.

The day of the party, Sam dropped me off at the golf course (the party location). I know a lot of the people there and soon Jimmy and Laura arrived. Liza’s parents and Laura’s daughter also arrived with her. We had a fun afternoon getting ready and decorating for the party. We all thought we did a good job at keeping the secret but we couldn’t be sure until the party actually happened.

Since Jim had to work, the plan was for Sam and Liza to go to dinner. Jim called at the last-minute and asked Liza to drop the camera off at the course before they went to the restaurant. When they finally arrived at the course with the camera, Liza came in and saw that there was a party going on. Jim said that she should come out to the patio because she knew the person. She came through the door, we all yelled “Surprise!” and the rest was a priceless reaction.

She absolutely had no clue what we had been planning. It took her a little while to process that she was seeing people that she thought were in other locations. She thought that Laura would have been at her son’s baseball game (state tournament). Her parents would have been there too. I was a little further back in the crowd. It was totally worth all of the planning to see her reaction to realize that I was there too.

As it turned out, we had invited everyone whom she would have wanted to be there. She thought she was going to have a ho-hum 50th birthday that turned into a fabulous weekend surrounded by friends and family. I jokingly say that I’m the 4th child in her family. But I honestly feel like I’ve achieved that status. I’m a “mija” now. If you know anything about Mexican families, the term mija is used as a term of affection and I could totally feel my new mija status. Mi hija = my daughter, shortened to mija in Spanish.

What made this so much fun was being able to do something for someone else. All of us had a goal of making Liza feel special for her birthday. Making the effort to plan, fly in and have a party was something that we all enjoyed and had a blast carrying out. Wherever you hear the phrase “tis better to give that to receive” I’d have a tendency to agree. Whenever you put forth that much effort (or even just a little) to make someone feel special, it’s worth it.


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