My father’s surprise birthday party was going to be starting in twenty minutes. My cell phone rang, and my dad was on the line complaining that my mother was trying to get him to go out, when he wanted to stay in and watch football.
Wednesday barked at Pugsley.
Dad asked why the dogs were with me, and I told him we were on our way to a friend’s house. I explained to him, again, the wonders of TiVO and sensing that he was not going to get any sympathy from me, he unenthusiastically agreed to record the game and go to lunch with Mom.
As soon as I stepped out of the car at my brother’s place, Jack spotted me. He ran up, threw his arms around me, and asked if it was a boy or girl. I told him we would find out next week. Then I told him to keep it quiet.
“Quiet-er. It’s part of dad’s birthday present. I’m giving him baby booties.”
“Why? They aren’t gonna fit him.”
“They’re not for him to wear, smarty.”
“He’s gonna do cartwheels!”
“Then we better tell the waitress to clear out some tables. And somebody go get me a video camera. America’s Funniest Home Videos won’t be able to pass this one up!”
“Oh, ha-ha. He’ll be at the restaurant in twenty minutes.”
“Thirty. I just got off the phone with him. He’s complaining that mom want’s to go to lunch, so I walked him through recording the Seahawks game.”
“Gotta love TivO.”
“Best Christmas present we ever gave Mom!”
We unloaded the dogs and said our hellos to my niece and nephew. Taylor was almost three and Patrick was 11 months old. Taylor and I had invented a game where we squished each other’s noses, so most of our time was spent squishing and making squishing noises. Patrick wanted in on the fun, so we included him in the game too.
Chris came out from the bedroom, and said, “You’ll have to do better than that if you don’t want anybody to know.”
I threw a furious glare at Jack, but he shook his head. “If you want to keep this quiet, Loony, you better show up after dinner! That sweater doesn’t hide anything!”
Jack and Chris played with Wednesday for a few minutes, then I introduced our latest four-legged family member, Pugsley. Jack rolled his eyes and made me promise that I would only do this to the pets, not the kids.
“You named your son after our great aunt. You have no room to speak.”
“Patrick. Not Patricia.”
“Yeah, okay. He’s still gonna be called Pat. Just like her.”
“Not if Auntie Lynn wants to live.”
“Alright, you two,” Chris interjected. “Don’t make me turn this car around!”
“Speaking of cars,” Doug said, checking his watch, “we have five minutes to get to the restaurant if we wanted to get there ahead of your parents.” We locked up the dogs, piled in our respective cars and Doug followed Jack through town to Frankie Doodles.
Our great aunt Pat had decorated one whole wall of the restaurant, with the brightest, flashiest decorations she could find. A mylar banner sprawled across the wall above our bright fuschia table, boldly announcing my father’s age to the world in fluorescent orange. “Happy 60th Birthday!” Brightly colored hats and noise makers littered the table, and bouquets of balloons flanked the seating area. Floyd was pleading with his wife to stop spraying confetti everywhere. Pat told him to mind his own beeswax. He just shook his head and shrugged as he picked his seat.
“Holy shitake mushrooms!” Jack stopped dead in front of the table and declared it to be the gaudiest thing he ever saw in his life. Doug, Chris and I nodded in agreement. It was perfect!
Dad and Mom arrived ten minutes later, and he pretended to be dismayed by all the fuss, but we all knew better. Everyone kissed their hellos, and we found our places at the table and started eating.
Chris handed Patrick to me and said I should start practicing. My mother looked at me funny, but I busied myself with opening a jar of strained carrots for my nephew. He sat in his high-chair with his mouth open like a baby bird. Soon enough his face was covered with strained carrots and bits of chicken sticks. Chris just shook her head.
When dinner was barely finished, Jack announced that it was time to open gifts, and shoved my gift into dad’s hand.
“Kinda wide, don’t ya think? Did you pack each one in its own box?” Jack spoke in that low voice he gets when he wants to talk quietly. Naturally, everyone at the table heard him.
Dad pulled two little white baby booties from the box and the whole table erupted with congratulations and squeals of joy. Doug announced that we were due in March or April, and that we’d find out next month if we were having boys or girls. At this, Dad looked back into the package, and pulled a second pair of booties from the wrapping.
Gasps of “Twins!” ran around the table, and my mother started snapping pictures. She does that when she get’s emotional and there’s a camera around. I rather deftly diverted attention back to my father and said, “Next present!”
Our audience swerved their heads back to my dad, who gleefully opened the large, flat package from my brother; a custom built dashboard for his 1953 International TravelAll. “Brushed aluminum!” We girls rolled our eyes at each other, while the boys ogled the car parts. For several years now, my father has been restoring old International private passenger trucks and Scouts, but he was having a hard time finding just the right dash board for his own truck. His perfectionism had given him a good reputation and his restored trucks were keeping him busy. When Jack told me what he was getting for Dad, I had no idea what he was talking about, but seeing it in person, I had to admit, it really was beautiful.
After the presents were opened, my mom gave me a big hug and told me she was so happy for me and Doug. “But,” she said, “I’m really happy for your Dad and me. We’re going to be grandparents again!”
She asked if we had picked names, and with a straight face, I told her that if we had boys, we’d name them “Gomez” and “Fester.”