My extended family is not known for being able to keep a secret. They don’t mean to reveal secrets; it’s just that they tend to leak secret information before they are even conscious that what they are talking about is a secret. But this year was different.
Last August when I was with my aunts, we decided that we should plan a surprise for August 2007 to commemorate my mom’s ??th birthday. The official planning started in January after we learned that my sister would be coming to Texas for a week in June. We all decided that Mom’s birthday celebration would be carried out then instead of August, thus increasing the chance to surprise her.
As we started planning, additional relatives asked to be part of the surprise. We soon assembled a group of twelve that would be coming to Texas for four days to visit San Antonio, Fredericksburg, and Boerne.
Meanwhile, my sister and I had a lot of storytelling to do. We easily convinced Mom to take the week off from work. The harder part would be getting her to pack for four days without spilling the beans. However, about three weeks prior to the trip, my sister told her that we (which Mom assumed was the three of us) would be taking a “girls’ trip” to San Antonio and Fredericksburg for a couple of days. Mom peppered my sister with questions, but my sister answered them all without slipping. And because my aunts were afraid that they would accidentally tell Mom that they were coming to Texas (i.e., the big secret), they stopped communicating with my mother so that they would not have an opportunity to divulge the secret.
On the big day, all four of my mom’s sisters, some of their daughters and granddaughters, and one of my mom’s aunts arrived in San Antonio by plane, train, and automobile. As we passed the evening awaiting my mother’s arrival, everyone kept asking me, “Do you think your mother suspects anything?” and “What do you think her reaction will be?”
The answer came around 11:15 p.m. when my sister convinced my mother that they were meeting a friend in The Menger Hotel lobby. My mom was urgently searching around the lobby when she spotted me. (She thought that she would be picking me up from the train station later that evening.) She slowly started to notice the people around me and recognized their familiar faces. She was in shock and started crying. She kept asking, “Why?” But she could not process my sister’s answers of “because it’s your birthday” and “because we love you.”
Mom stayed awake most of that night trying to sort through what had occurred. Thankfully, she was able to put the shock of the evening behind her and enjoy the next three days with her extended family. As for my sister and I, we took early retirement from the vacation planning business and now use our time to confess the many fibs that we devised to get Mom to go along with our plan.