At 7:15 Saturday evening, my friend Kelly called.
I'm sorry but we're running a little late. Stef isn't ready yet so I'm going to pick you up and we'll come back here and get her.
I worried if we'd make it to The Lion King on time because that is what I thought the surprise was. Kelly and Stef has asked me months ago to reserve Saturday the 21st for them for my birthday but they would not tell me what we were going to be doing. The day after their request, I opened the newspaper to a full page ad for The Lion King coming to Houston in July, and knew, just knew, that was what was up their sleeve.
I was wrong.
As we were driving, Kelly told me about the changes Stef had recently made to the house. She told me how much Stef had been doing lately, the new painting and new curtains, the DIY curtain rods from copper piping, some furniture rearranging. I wanted to take a look but didn't dare ask, because, you know, tick tock tick tock, THE LION KING! Kelly seemed to tap into my curiousity though not my tapping we are going to be late for opening curtain feet. She called Stef to ask her if it was okay that I come in and see. Stef said it was fine, but to come in the front door because the kitchen was a mess.
The kitchen? Not a mess.
Kelly and I walked up the sidewalk, just chatting away. She opened the front door for me and when I walked inside, I saw her Aunt Dorris sitting on the couch and her lovely mother sitting on a chair beside her. For a fleeting second, I thought Dorris and Lyndy are going to The Lion King with us! Then I saw the wall of friends standing in the dining room yelling, SURPRISE!
I looked at Stef, now standing lovely and smiles in front of me, and I looked back at Kelly who was in full face Cheshire Cat grin. I put my hand over my mouth. No way. NO WAY! In that room and into the kitchen and down the hallway were the faces of many friends and loved ones I have known for years, friends like family, all smiling and happy and there because they had been invited by Kelly and Stef to celebrate my birthday. I was definitely surprised, shocked even, and soon in the joyful embrace of so many hugs, so much love. I couldn't believe that several friends drove in from Austin, I was so touched, so delighted and so pleased to see them. The tears were pouring from my eyes at this point when I turned my head to see the one who by far travelled the farthest distance. I saw him standing in the kitchen while I was hugging my friend, Beth. I noticed him but it took a moment for my brain to register what my eyes were seeing. My Personal Hurricane was standing there in the kitchen, all smiles and happy, having flown in from London the night before.
There were balloons of gold and white and black, and streamers throughout the house. There was an awesome spread of food in the dining room that could feed a kingdom, and there was a bar set up in the back yard on a table draped with a white tablecloth. There was even a bartender. She kept the champagne chilled and well poured. There were candles hanging from the umbrella over the picnic table and bright flowers in small jars hung with wire from the covered pergola. White beach balls floated lazily in the pool, illuminated by the pool light, looking like a handful of full moons in the water. All of it beautiful, just beautiful, and no doubt the result of a lot of planning and work.
What a fantastic and generous suprise it was, I am still floating from the high and love and generosity. The evening was filled with conversation, smiles, champagne, laughter, and me answering over and over again the question, Were you surprised?
I didn't open a single gift until the next morning when I hauled them upstairs and opened them in bed with a cup of coffee. One of those gifts, fittingly and amusingly, was a pair of tickets to The Lion King.