Sandra on Oahu’s North Shore
Today is the birthday of my life’s companion, Sandra Kelley. It brings to mind the most memorable surprise party I can recall – Sandra’s 50th, in 1996. As it happened, November 5 fell on Election Day that year, which presented a great party theme.
The trick, for me, as Conspirator-in-Chief, was to carry off a surprise. As those who know me well are aware, I’m a poker face failure. Just by looking at my unnaturally straight mug, Sandra knows instantly whenever I try to pull her leg or mislead her. And for this party, I had a few things to hide. The biggest surprise I had in store for her was the presence at the party of our daughter, Melissa, whom I had secretly flown in from California. Melissa and I arranged for her to spend the afternoon following her arrival in Honolulu with a friend who would later drop her off at the restaurant (Roy’s in Hawaii Kai) where the surprise was to be sprung.
I had also invited four of our closest friends, two couples, whom I asked to arrive early and be seated – along with Melissa – at the table I’d reserved. I’d also created some election-themed paraphernalia for all the guests and delivered it to them in advance. I’d taken some Clinton-Gore election buttons and pasted several different messages over them. When Sandra and I arrived, Melissa and our friends – plus the waiter and bus help – were all wearing red, white and blue election buttons emblazoned with a selection of four or five “vote for Sandra” slogans. Unfortunately, the only slogans I can remember now, over two decades later, were Sandy Is Dandy, 50 Years of Experience and Choose the Flooze.
Sandy, still mighty dandy 21 years later, here in Wine Country
The final test of my ability to pull off a surprise was getting Sandra to the restaurant without arousing her suspicion. That was actually pretty easy. I told her about the dinner date with our friends, but said it would take place not on her actual birthday but Friday – a generally much more convenient time for an evening out – and not at Roy’s, but at another favorite restaurant. So on Tuesday, I told her I didn’t want her to spend her birthday evening at home, watching boring election returns on TV. Instead, I said I’d like to take her out – just the two of us for a private celebration – to Roy’s. When we got there, I did the opposite of what I’d normally do (i.e., have her walk ahead of me), so I walked in front of her, obscuring her view of the reserved table at which our co-conspirator guests were already seated. I stepped aside only when we were a few feet away. The surprise was complete – and champagne was poured!
Happy birthday, Sweetheart! Posting this on my blog for your birthday is probably the closest I’ll ever come to repeating my little surprise. (Well, your 75th is coming up in a few years, so you never know!)