Here's the Scoop: November 9, 2011

Guess who’s coming to your birthday?
When folks reach “milestone” birthdays, it’s customary to throw them a party. Often, the parties are the “surprise” version. At least, they are supposed to be surprises.

Ironically, the older someone gets, the harder it becomes to pull off a super duper secret birthday bash. This is especially true when surprise parties have become common. In fact, many people would probably be surprised (and likely disappointed) if they didn’t have a party thrown on their behalf.

Which leads to a recent surprise event in which I took part. My sister-in-law was reaching the half-century mark. I’m not sure why this particular age is such a big deal for many people, but it’s a fact that 50th birthdays are often celebrated in a big way.

And, so it was, the planning for this event began many months ago. I wasn’t really in on the logistics of the surprise party — nodding in the affirmative was my key role. I did it very well, I might add.
A surprise party is difficult to pull off anyhow, but when the guest of honor will be nearly 700 miles away on the special day, the details become a bit harder to fit together. I readily agreed with whatever was presented to me. So far, this was easy.

Just around the corner
Most of the other guests had “only” a few hundred miles to travel. Everyone arrived a day early in the tourist town where my sister-in-law was planning a low-key celebration with a few friends. We’d soon put an end to that nonsense.

The guests spent Birthday Eve cautiously avoiding public places where the Guest of Honor might show up. We also exchanged a number of tales that included the words, “I almost posted something about this trip on Facebook...” I’ve heard of Facebook and I know it’s some sort of evil time-sucking device. Apparently, the surprise recipient would have discovered any such “postings” and, well, the element of surprise would have been lost.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. So, we lurked in shadows like Navy Seals until the designated hour and then made our move. The Guest of Honor was lured outside her beachside vacation home and was truly surprised by the appearance of a large number of family members outside her door. Pleasantly, I might add. Then, the party began.

Time spent looking back
The really good news was that the conversation was spirited and positive. Nary a word was uttered about creaky joints and 2 a.m. trips to the bathroom. In fact, most of the chatter involved fond remembrances of birthdays at far younger ages. And recollections of childhood family traditions.
Apparently, the game “Spoons” was something that my wife’s family engaged in on a regular basis. I’m not sure, but I think because of the large number of children involved, they even donned uniforms for such competition.

I had never really heard of this contest, but I was about to gain some firsthand experience. Even without a uniform. I must say, though, helmets and some padding would have been useful.
Without going into the 100-plus-page rulebook, let’s just say that “Spoons” involves playing cards and a mad grab for a limited number of spoons on the table. I’m prevented by a Family Pact from offering too many details about the action, but I can reveal that one player suffered three broken fingernails during our competition. Ouch.

The good news is that these were the only injuries reported from the party. After all, we’re all old and mature now. Although I did hear reports from the Birthday Girl that, the following day, she “felt as if a Wild Turkey had flown smack into the side of her head.” Given her amount of celebration, she shouldn’t have been surprised by that outcome.
— Brian Sweeney