What still had to be done was mostly in the area of misdirecting Paula's attention so she wouldn't even think about the possibility of big party and to get her to the church that day. First thing was to set up a fake family birthday dinner.
It is our tradition to celebrate a family member's birthday by going out to dinner at the restaurant of their choice. So far this year Michael made the Cheesecake Factory in Nashville his choice and Cheddar's in Bowling Green was the location for my daughter in law, Brandi's celebration.
It was only fitting that Paula would have her birthday dinner the weekend of her birthday. The most likely day for that to happen would have been Saturday the 2nd. But I knew if we did go out for dinner on Saturday the boys would have to give Paula her birthday gifts from them at that time. This would mean that they wouldn't have anything to give her at her surprise party.
So I had to coordinate a fabricated story to tell her. I came up with the story that neither of the boys could make it to dinner before Sunday afternoon at 5PM. This would solve one problem.
The next issue would be how to getting her to the church. I could only think of one way that wouldn't arouse her suspicions. I recruited our church treasurer and Paula's friend, Gail as an accomplice in this conspiracy. Because Paula works as an account, from time to time, she helps Gail with the church financial records.
Under the guise of helping her update records for the upcoming monthly church business meeting, Gail would ask Paula to go to the church with her that Sunday afternoon.
The two issues (the birthday dinner and Paula going to the church to help Gail) caused a bit of a conflict. Paula was a bit reluctant to go with her until she found out that her "birthday dinner" with the family was at 5PM. It took several phone calls, several covert conversations with Gail to help her convince Paula to go with her. Finally my wife reluctantly agreed.
The day of the party I was very anxious. The church service that morning was not any longer than usual but to me it seemed to take forever. I felt like a kid the day before Christmas.
Once we got home from church I ate lunch. Under the guise of arriving early at an afternoon Hot Rods baseball game I left the house about 12:20. There was no game of course. I had convinced Paula that there was a game and that it was a make up game for which I already had a ticket. I wanted to go because they were giving away free t-shirts.
In reality I went to the church to prepare for the party. The kids and my sister-in-law were there to help. We set up and decorated the tables. Here is a picture of what they looked like:
After the tables were ready we set out the food. Of course the one thing that served as the connection between the decorations and the food was the cake. I had picked it up after I got off of work on Saturday and dropped it off at Michael & Heather's house. They brought it to the church. The Walmart decorator did a very nice job. It fit right in with the rest of the decor.
With everything ready the guests started arriving. They were dressed in their "going to the beach" attire.
Soon it was time for Paula to arrive. I went into the stairwell and sat where I could here when they came in the front door. There were a couple of "false alarms" as a few guests arrived just a minute or two before the guest of honor.
Finally I heard Gail and Paula come in. They were talking as they walked through the foyer of the church. I rushed down the stairs and alerted the guests, who were hidden so that Paula wouldn't see them until she had a full view of the room.
It seemed to take forever for them to come through the basement door. But finally I heard my wife telling Gail a story about something that happened to her during the week.
When she got came into view everyone yelled "Surprise!" She was so taken that she forgot herself and let out a PG-13 rated interjection. I won't tell you exactly what was but let me just say "it happens". The fact that she came out with that word in the middle of the church fellowship hall was proof enough that she was totally surprised.
With the help of family and friends I had done it. I had surprised my wife with a birthday party.
After a few minutes of walking around greeting all the guests I introduced her to the "Paula's spot". I told her it was her little piece of the beach especially for her to sit and enjoy. She was a little reluctant to put her feet in the sand because she didn't want to track it through the church. She attempted to put her feet in the water but I had made it way too cold. Nevertheless she did sit down in her new beach chair long enough to get her picture taken.
I lit the 50 candles on the cake and everyone sang "Happy Birthday". Once again friends and family chipped in and helped serve ice cream, cakes and beverages. I got to play host a bit by mingling with our guests.
After everyone finished eating cake and ice cream Paula opened her gifts. She got a certificate for a free massage, gift cards for several area restaurants and movie theaters, a nice tote bag, and some cash. That's not all she got but those are the things I remember.
About an hour later guests gave their final wishes and began leaving. When it came time to clean up everyone still there helped. The guests were invited to take home any of the table decorations (the beach balls, water guns, and Frisbees) they wished to take. The sand and other components of the center pieces were thrown away. I kept some things to take to the Goodwill store. The leftover food and snacks was left in the kitchen for a church social later that night.
It was about 4 o'clock when we were finally finished. We loaded everything I needed to take home into the back of my Vue. I thanked all my family members for their help once more. We even talked about going out to dinner for real. Only Paula and I would do that though.
My wife questioned how I had done all of the stuff for the party. I told her that all the decorations and things were at one time stored in the house out of sight. I explained that I had used the previous Monday to prepare. She told me I was too good at keeping secrets. I promised her that I would only ever keep good secrets.
We finished out the evening with a trip into town to have dinner at Longhorn restaurant. As part of the conversation intended to keep off the trail of her surprise I had promised to buy Paula one of her favorite steaks for dinner. After we were finished we put a ribbon on a very memorable day by going to see Cars 2 in 3D.
So there you have the story of the day I threw a surprise party for my wife. I know she was surprised and I hope it made this milestone birthday one she'll remember for a long time. All the preparation and planning, while a bit stressful at times, was all worth it. She is the Love Of My Life. and nothing I could do or say could ever show her how much she means to me.
Happy Birthday Paula