26. Surprise, Surprise

26. Surprise, Surprise

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters

Surprise, Surprise

If I were invited to a dinner party with my characters, I wouldn’t show up.

~Dr. Seuss

My father is a rabbi, and of course he often officiates at weddings. One time he was asked to officiate at a surprise fiftieth anniversary party that would include a renewal of vows. The couple’s daughter, Marilyn, was so excited. She had invited all of her parents’ lifelong friends—her mom’s mahjong group, her dad’s golfing buddies, all seven of their grandchildren—and she had booked a dinner for all of them at a fancy hotel. Marilyn said that she wanted nothing but the best for her parents.

The event had begun as an elegant, fancy surprise party, but eventually grew to include a ten-piece band and a six-course expensive dinner. A photographer was even hired to make souvenir badges for each guest.

As the days went by, and the cost seemed to exponentially expand, Marilyn’s husband began to question the growing expenses of the party: “I’m not so sure your parents truly need two flamingos in a rented fountain.” However, Marilyn would not budge. She met again with her party planner, and the arrangements became even more and more elaborate.

The big day finally arrived and Marilyn could not have asked for a more beautiful evening as she and her husband drove up to the hotel. They hastened inside. The aroma from the kitchen was delightful. The musicians were tuning their instruments and the hall looked beautiful. As the guests began to arrive Marilyn was more excited than she thought possible.

By 8:00 p.m., all the guests had arrived for the surprise party. Marilyn had planned for her parents to get to their surprise party at 8:15 by telling them that the celebration was actually a party for their parents’ good friends, Mr. and Mrs. Samuels. However, 8:15 came and went with no sign of the anniversary couple. Then 8:30 came—and also went. At 8:50, Mary was becoming extremely anxious and nervous.

“Where are my parents?” she nervously asked herself. “What if something happened to them? What would we do?”

Just then, Marilyn’s cell phone rang. She grabbed it.

“Hello, hello!” she shouted.

“Marilyn, this is Mom. Please send our apologies to the Samuels, but last night we looked on the Internet for an inexpensive, last-minute cruise, and we found it. It left Galveston at 5:00 this afternoon, and we’re now on our way to Key West. We’ll be back next Saturday morning. You know, it’s our fiftieth anniversary this Tuesday, and we wanted to celebrate it in a meaningful way. Tell everyone that we are sorry we cannot be there together with them tonight.”

Marilyn was in shock. She did not even notice her cell phone dropping into the fountain with the flamingos. Her husband, however, overheard his mother-in-law’s comments on the phone. He sarcastically, but calmly, stated to his wife, “Now, can we shout ‘SURPRISE’?”

~Michael Jordan Segal, MSW

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