What is it about surprise parties that make them so difficult to keep under wraps? At one such recent “surprise” party to mark a significant milestone of a friend, the organizers’ elaborate and carefully orchestrated charade unraveled and failed to get off the ground.
A number of tell-tale slips conspired to blunt the edge of the surprise.
With friendships dating back to their Hong Kong days, these balikbayan friends annually mark their birthdays together with a joint party. This time, the regular arrangement was scrapped to make way for a special surprise for one of the group who, by some senior moment slip, was not informed of the change of plans.
Invitations, meanwhile, had gone out to close friends and relatives, including to the United States, where some of “surprisee’s” grade school and college chums lived, and to Hong Kong, where other friends reside.
The first breach in the until-then successful cover-up occurred when the reason for the surprise party telephoned a Hong Kong-based friend, only to be told that the friend had flown to Manila for her (the caller’s) birthday party. Oops!
The final glitch occurred when the honoree, arriving at the venue for what was billed as a “private family dinner,” spotted some lady friends in the lobby who stood waiting for their husbands to park their cars.
Oops and double oops!
Of course there are surprise parties and surprise parties. What made this “surprise” birthday bash really special and uniquely memorable—and still a surprise despite the slip-up—were the gifts. With the invitations came word to look for and bring old photographs of the times and occasions shared with the honoree, and to select gifts reflective of who/what she is/was to the giver, automatically shifting the focus of the gift from the price tag to the meaningful, and serving as ice-breaker for nostalgic walks down memory lane for both the giver and the recipient of the gift.
The gift was to be presented through the course of the evening, with a brief explanation about its significance.
Thus did the birthday girl receive masses of borloloy (trinkets), including even a jewelry box in which to keep the latest additions to her hoard, two handbags from a sister-in-law, and—of all things!—an envelope. “Guess where she keeps her cash,” explained the giver.
The friend from Hong Kong not only flew to Manila for the occasion; she also did all the flower arrangements for the venue and the attractively packaged “take home” gifts that all lady guests received.
Another erstwhile Hong Kong resident presented the honoree with a gift of two angels: one for her because “She is my guardian angel,” and another for her husband, because “He is her guardian angel.”
Another guest traced his personal career path’s earliest beginnings to the honoree who, he explained, gave him his first break by hiring him for a Hong Kong-based bank. No doubt, the rest of his illustrious Filipino banker colleagues, who sat at the same table, were likewise remembering “when.”
Indeed, in each of our pilgrim lives comes a season of autumn. With luck, with love (from family and friends) and with God’s blessings, it is also a healed and mellowed time to look back and remember and give thanks that, in retrospect, the line has fallen for us in pleasant places.
For those of us who have walked a stretch of road, or shared happy moments and memories with anyone, a surprise party marking a milestone is significant, not just for what was shared in the past, but for what is still to come—senior moments included.