From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

My Day Off

Thank goodness, today is Saturday, my day to rest, I thought as I snuggled under the blanket to enjoy the early morning silence. As a divorced mother of two girls, I looked forward to lazy Saturdays with nothing to do. Monday through Friday I had to be at work at 8:00 AM, and we were up early on Sundays for church. But Saturdays were my days—my days to sleep late.

Suddenly the silence was shattered by voices. “Wake up, Mommy, it’s morning. Time to get up!” My daughters, Stephanie, age seven, and four-year-old Shelby, ran into the bedroom, jumped on the bed, and started pushing me up, laughing excitedly.

“Girls, this is Saturday.” I complained. “I don’t have to get up early.”

“Yes, you do, Mommy,” said Shelby. “You have to—” She stopped abruptly as her sister’s hand clamped over her mouth.

“She means we’re hungry, Mom. You have to fix our breakfast.”

With a girl tugging at each hand, I allowed them to pull me out of bed. “Okay, do you want pancakes?” I said as I stumbled toward the kitchen.

“Yes, Mommy, pancakes,” Shelby said. “I’m really hungry.”

Throughout the morning, I noticed whispered conferences and giggling glances as the girls encouraged me to get dressed. They even offered to help me straighten up the house and do the breakfast dishes.

“What are you two up to?” I asked repeatedly.

“Nothing,” they replied in unison, with eyes shining and mouths grinning from ear to ear.

Later that morning, the doorbell rang. Usually the girls raced toward the front door, but this time they hung back and waited for me. I pulled the handle and swung open the door.

“Surprise!” shouted the group of relatives congregated on the porch. My daughters jumped up and down, then began singing with the newcomers joining in: “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. . . .”

“But my birthday is not until next week,” I stuttered, “and I’m still in my pajamas.”

“Well, let us in and get dressed,” my sister said. “The ice cream is melting.” We all laughed as they filed in.

“I’ll just be a minute,” I said as I retreated to my bedroom.

“Please, Mom, open your gifts first,” exclaimed Stephanie. She danced around me with excitement.

“No, this is a party, and I want to look nice. Why don’t you show Grandma where to put the cake, and I’ll be right back.”

When I returned to the living room, Shelby led me to the couch and placed a pile of presents in front of me.

“I’ll help you open them,” she said, tearing the paper from a small box. Between the two of us we opened the gifts, several of which had been purchased by their grandmother for the girls to give to me.

After the last one was opened, Stephanie announced, “Wait, we have one more for you, Mom.”

Stephanie and Shelby disappeared into the bedroom and came out carrying a grocery sack tied with a ribbon.

“This one is really from us,” said Shelby. “We didn’t have anyone help us with it.”

I opened the sack. Inside was a dress that I hadn’t worn in at least a year. As a matter of fact, the last time I’d seen it, it was in a stack of clothes destined for Goodwill.

“I guess you forgot about that dress,” said Stephanie, “but we found it and knew you would be so happy to wear it again.”

“Oh, I am,” I said, hugging them close. “This is the best gift of all.”

After we devoured the ice cream and cake, I told my mother that I was amazed that the girls had kept the party a secret.

“Not only did they keep it a secret,” she replied smiling, “they planned the surprise party all by themselves. Stephanie called last week and gave us instructions on who to invite and what to bring. It was all their idea.”

I shook my head in amazement as Mom continued.

“Stephanie and Shelby decided that you work too hard and you needed some fun in your life. What’s more fun than a surprise birthday party?”

That night after I listened to prayers and tucked the girls into bed, Shelby asked, “Were you surprised, Mom?”

“Oh, yes,” I replied. “I can’t believe that you planned the party all by yourselves.”

“Well,” added Stephanie with a yawn, “it was hard, but it was worth it.”

Yes, Lord, I thought as I looked at my daughters’ sweet faces, it’s very hard, but it’s worth it.

Judy Spence

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