Sunday, July 31, 2011

Surprise Party

By Patsy

My husband and I have always had a secret passion for throwing fun birthday parties. Our goal is to make ‘em big and make ‘em cheap….um, I mean cost effective. From the first Scooby Doo party way back when my oldest son turned 5 and my husband hid in a bedroom closet in a homemade caveman suit until all the children solved the mystery and captured him. (Who knew 10 five year olds could inflict that much damage on a full grown man?) Through the In diana Jones party where everyone had to excavate the smoking and spewing volcano shaped cake in order to find the treasures (silver dollars) buried deep inside its bowels. And finally, on to our Star Wars adventure where the mission was to save R2D2 (the cake) from carbon freeze (the refrigerator) which culminated in a light saber duel with Darth Vader in which his hand was cut off. We’ve had a lot of fun coming up with these over the years, maybe even more fun than our kids.

However, since we are on the move and living in a RV this past year, we had had to cut back a bit on the elaborate parties for our boys. Lately, birthdays have been celebrated a bit more traditionally with a cake, presents and a loving family in Howard, our RV. The one thing that I have been able to continue has been making a fun cake for each of the boys. But, on this birthday…things weren’t going well at all.

Our son Tanner was turning 12 and I was busy working on his birthday cake. Unfortunately, the weather was making it a little more difficult than normal. The heat and the humidity were causing the cake to crumble more and more each time I added frosting. This wasn’t good since the cake was chocolate and the frosting was white. Not only were there large crumbs of chocolate cake sticking out of the frosting every few inches, but the entire cake was beginning to crack and the frosting was being sucked down into the center resembling a mud slide in the middle of a snowy avalanche. In short, it was ugly.

As I contemplated the mess in front of me and tried to staunch the flow of tears from my eyes, my husband suggested that we just run out to a bakery and pick up a ready-made cake for Tanner. I was heartbroken. Not only were we not going to give him a fun party, but now I couldn’t even made the poor guy a homemade cake. As the night wore on, I got more and more depressed. Finally, as I got ready for bed, an idea came to me. Why not cut the whole cake up into chunks, drizzle frosting over the chunks and then top it with more drizzles of chocolate sauce? It might not be a master piece, but at least it would be something that I made for my son with my own hands. Slightly consoled, I went to sleep wishing that Tanner’s birthday could somehow be a little more exciting for him. I needn’t have worried.

The campground we were staying in was having a Christmas in July party on the same day as Tanner’s birthday. We knew this, and we had planned on attending the pot luck dinner they were holding. What we didn’t know was that the dinner was the least of their plans. They had inflated a bounce house down by the pool area and were rounding kids up to go on a hayride. But this was to be no ordinary hayride. This time the riders on the wagon were to be armed and dangerous.

As we climbed aboard, we were each given a super soaker squirt gun and pointed in the direction of the massive barrel of water that was placed in the middle of the wagon for handy re-loading. My sons were thrilled, my husband was thrilled, and I was going to have to watch my back. Finally, as we all prepared for battle, the loud speakers attached to the wagon started to blare out the music for the Ride of the Valkyries and we began our journey through the campground. Riders were instructed to load their weapons and prepare to defend the wagon. Campers on the ground had already been given strategic vantage points throughout the camp where they could sneak out and pelt the riders with their own water guns, buckets of water and even hoses. It was every man for himself. By the time we were finished we had all screamed and laughed ourselves hoarse and there wasn’t one square inch of ”dry” to be found anywhere.

As we stepped down from the wagon and wandered over to the bounce house and pool, I peeked over at my son Tanner. He was wearing a wide, happy grin on his wet face. My heart sang! I was so afraid that he would be disappointed in his birthday. His cake wasn’t what I had wanted to make, but he thought it was so cool! His party wasn’t going to be anything more than the simple ones we could plan on the road, but he was having the time of his life. He was happy, but more than that. It occurred to me that out of our entire family, Tanner would have been the one to be happy with the simple birthday. He sees more love in a messed up cake than most people see in one that took hours of tedious preparation. This may have just been the campground’s idea of a Christmas in July celebration, but in Tanner’s eyes, this was a wonderful surprise party that he never expected.

Deep in my heart, I know that God set this whole thing up for Tanner. We weren’t even supposed to be in this particular campground on this day, but I think since He knew Tanner didn’t expect much, He wanted to give him a little extra surprise.

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