The other night I attended a surprise party. My friend had been making plans for months to surprise his wife for her milestone birthday, texting and emailing the details to their friends, and ultimately, the party went off without a hitch. This was the second surprise party I attended in the last few months, and both were successful in their purpose: Each time the unknowing recipient was completely in the dark until the ruse was revealed (and was also obviously taken aback and somewhat unnerved).
Every time I attend a surprise party I think of Gomer Pyle saying, “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!” in his exaggerated Southern drawl. He got it right: once is not enough, three times is about right. Adding the surprise to a birthday party gives it a little zest. A party is just a party, but make it into a surprise party, and you’ve topped it off with an exclamation point. And you’ve created a memory.
As we get older the years begin to slip by and birthdays begin to melt together. They may mean less to us, but sometimes we need to add that exclamation point to remind us that all of them are important. They still mean something.
The other night, hours after we shouted “Surprise!” and after the husband read his wife a poem he had written, after the food and the drink and dessert , the party came to a close. We started to say goodbye to our friends, and as we hugged each other, I saw the birthday girl wipe away a tear. Exclamation point.