To celebrate my 60th birthday my daughter said to me, "Mom, we want to take you on a cruise for your birthday. The whole family can go." In my head a little voice said: that sounds like fun but it means fancy clothes. My wardrobe hadn't seen dressy since I got married. Then there's seasickness. I'm prone to it. I know the new ships are stable but if it was choppy, I might be miserable. And all that tempting food! It's 10 meals a day with snacks and deserts. I couldn't resist all that super food.
"No, I think I'd rather do something else," I replied and politely declined her offer.
After a pause, I said, "I'd rather have a surprise party."
"How can you have a surprise party?" she exclaims. "You already know we want to plan something for you."
"I want to plan my own surprise party," I responded.
My daughter rolls her eyes. She knows me too well. When I get an idea, I run with it.
So I plan a "Day in Danville" for all my friends.
The invitations went out and read:
You are cordially invited to a "surprise" 60th birthday
party to celebrate with me on April 30th.
Wear casual clothing and comfortable shoes.
No gifts. A homemade card would be nice.
Meet at 8:15 in Danville (location & directions to follow)
P. S. The surprise is for you!
A few days before the party each guest was notified to meet in the parking lot of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley at Railroad and Prospect in Danville.
On a warm, sunny April morning fifteen women assembled. None knew where they were going or what they would be doing. They had cleared their calendars and come. I led the group down Prospect Street to Father Nature's, a charming restaurant nearby. I had reserved their private room for our "mix-and-mingle" breakfast. When everyone was seated at the long table, I began introducing everyone and describing how I met each one. Soon there was a room full of women connecting to each other as they ate crepes, pancakes and omelets. No one but the waitress intruded, letting us revel in the space, the food, and the company. It was a wonderful beginning.
When we were done, we walked outside where Don and Joan Kurts, docents from the Museum, were waiting for us. They led us down Front Street with Don telling stories and Joan holding up a big black book full of photos. Stopping at the Vecki House, Old Town Hall, and the Village Theater, Don and Joan gave us new perspectives on places that most of knew but had never really "seen". We walked up and down streets hearing wonderful stories about Danville's past. We had wonderful weather, a great group, outstanding guides and a charming town to explore. It was turning into a magical morning.
Our walk ended at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley. While my guests saw the exhibit I loaded coolers of food and drinks into the back of the bus which was waiting for us from Tao House. This is the former home of Eugene O'Neill, one of our most famous citizens, and now a state park. Everyone climbed aboard for the short drive.
Surprisingly, none of my group had been to Tao House and were amazed to find this treasure in their midst. We stood outside under the trees as the ranger gave us some introductory details. Then we went through the house. When we were done we picnicked on the deck overlooking the valley. My Diablo was in the distance and looked spectacular. I could imagine Eugene and his wife, Carlotta, eating here long ago. It was so peaceful and so beautiful. Tao House was a place that I had come to know and love and I was now sharing it with my friends.
Back at the parking lot, we climbed into our cars and drove to a friend's house nearby to have cake and ice cream and a sing-along. Another friend brought her guitar at my request and accompanied us. The yard baked to a creek which made for a lovely spot for a gathering. When the party breaks up, the consensus is that I should plan another "surprise party" next year. See what happens when you start a "tradition".
More on some of my "surprise" parties in my next article