I did not know, but have been telling lies. Lisa and Lenny did not come to Oregon to attend an Oregon Duck football game. The game was only part of an elaborate camouflaged secret plot to gather our friends and family to celebrate our 60th Birthdays in 2015!
Yes, the kids did treat us to an incredible day at the Santa Anita Racetrack for Dave’s 60th in April, and they are taking us to see Jimmy Buffett at the Hollywood BowlOctober 22 for my birthday, so a surprise party for the both of us in September was indeed a surprise. Talk about planning ahead – they sent save-the-date cards to our family and family in June.
Dave and I thought: Lenny and Lisa were going to take us to dinner Sunday night and my sister, Renee, and her daughter, Carla (who lives in San Diego and just happened to be visiting Portland this weekend), would babysit. Lenny said he would take care of the restaurant reservations and had hired a towncar for the night. Okay. I was fine with this, but was wondering why Lenny wouldn’t tell us exactly where we were going. He said it was going to be a surprise. Dave and I thought the kids would be taking us to one of our favorite Italian restaurants, or possibly to the restaurant we went to on Lenny’s first visit to Portland with Lisa? Either way, practically every time the kids come up for a visit, Renee/Carla babysit one night, while we hire a towncar to take us to/from dinner. Dave and I were completely clueless to the plot. All systems were set to “normal” in our little world.
There were a few snags in their plan.
1. Since the kids were coming up for the weekend, Dave and I had sent invitations for an “Open House” on Sunday so all our friends/family could come over. I had no idea our friends were already planning to attend a surprise party in our honor on this date and was completely stumped that every single one of our friends said they already had plans/could not attend. (Now that I think of it, several fibbing friends people even provided excuses as to why they could not come over on Sunday evening.) No matter, we switched it to a Friday afternoon open house and many people came. I had no idea we would be seeing them all again on Sunday. What a bunch of sneaky friends we have… or they knew Leo and Lucy would not be at the party and wanted a little snuggle-time?
2. Our little plumbing fail Saturday morning, as we were heading down to Eugene for the football game, sent Lisa into a spiral (of which Dave and I had no idea). Lisa practically insisted I stay to take care of this problem. Little did I know that the other option – everyone moving to a hotel for the rest of the weekend because we could not shower or flush here – could have made her secretive plan possibly crumble.
3. Unbeknownst to us, our gathering Friday, and being at the football game all day Saturday – was torture for our friends – so worried they would accidentally slip up.
4. The football game went so late Saturday night – Dave, Lisa, Lenny and Leo did not get home until nearly 2 o’clock in the morning Sunday. There was also a little slide-room-refusing-to-retract issue. The 20-minutes it took DT to figure out a solution in the Autzen Stadium parking lot must have seemed like ten hours to a secretly-stressed Lisa. On Sunday, Dave was so tired, he suggested we all just stay-in Sunday night. Poor Lisa and Lenny! Luckily, Dave went down for a two-hour afternoon nap and rallied.
This whole time – with months of planning and countless email and phone calls between Lisa and our pals – not one of our siblings or friends gave us even one hint of the surprise. (Lisa sent-out an all-points bulletin stating “if you slip up and tell my parents about the party, you have to pay the bar tab”, and that threat seemed to keep everyone zip-lipped.) Just in case I happened to see a message pop up on her cell phone, Lisa actually changed the names of several people in her contact list. My sister-in-law, Kris, became “Kris Paris”. Leo’s godmother, Angela, (and several other people) flew into Portland for the weekend, so had gone to the trouble to block me on Instagram and “unfriend” me on Facebook, so I could not see their Portland posts – potentially blowing the surprise. Lisa’s godmother, Nancy, cancelled lunch with me last week, terrified she would accidentally slip up. Dave and I let all these things completely go over our heads. We were clueless Lisa and Lenny were planning the party of the year decade.
The planets aligned. Calm fell over the realm. Renee and Carla showed up (saying they were all dolled-up because they had just come from a luncheon with friends), Leo and Lucy were fed and were getting ready for bed. The towncar arrived to fetch the adults and we headed out into Oregon wine country for what Dave and I thought would be a wonderful meal with our daughter and her husband.
After our towncar left the driveway, a professional sitter arrived to relieve my sister and Carla for the evening, and 36 of our siblings and friends were pulling into the parking lot at the gorgeous hill-top Ponzi Winery. Corks were popped as they enjoyed a glass of wine, awaiting the arrival of the 60-year-olds.
So, then this happened:
Video by “Kris Paris”
When the doors opened, I saw the face of my brother, Steve. Then I saw his wife, Kris. They live in Denver. My first reaction was complete confusion. Everyone was yelling SURPRISE, but what was the surprise? Then Lisa and Lenny said Happy Birthday and we started looking around the room filled with our nearests and dearests and I started crying. Dave and I were in a state of disbelief.
Ponzi Vineyards presented a beautiful spread of delicious foods – cheeses, meats, lamb meatballs, lox and creme fraische on house-made potato chips, fruit, marinated vegetables, arancini, olives, nuts – and poured their amazing wines. Lisa asked Rosycakes (Rosie happened to marry Dave’s college roommate) to prepare a birthday cake and array of sweets. Lenny arranged for a Super Blood Moon and lunar eclipse to appear in the cloudless sky over the vineyard. Somewhere to the west, someone was probably having a Quinceañera or wedding, as the heavens exploded in fireworks. The night was magical.
After everyone had settled-in, Lisa and Lenny each gave a short speech, but I can’t be sure they were talking about us.
We are nice people, and have obviously raised a lovely daughter, who has chosen her perfect partner, but that is all we ever wanted in life. The speeches were too kind.
Lenny and Lisa
Lisa said our overly-organized lives and busy travel schedules were so complicated, planning this party was very difficult. They both said we are kind and generous, and that they loved that so many momentous occasions in the lives of everyone in the room were so intertwined with us. Their speeches were funny, smart and filled with so much love, I nearly burst. Okay. I did. We both did.
Listening to the speeches
Mary, Kathy, Steve, Brother Steve, Carla and Renee listen to Lenny & Lisa
Friends and family not able to attend sent video clips. Lisa arranged them all into a short film so we could see people from around the world tell us Happy Birthday! This was just so much fun and I was crying again.
It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To.
Lenny, with Family of Friends: Chris, Steve and Laura
Rosie (of RosyCakes) and Terry (DT’s college roommate) and old friends, Marci & Jim (they also winter in Palm Springs)
DT, happy with friends Nellie and Matt
All photos today (except, obviously, this one) were taken by this handsome fella.
Quinny worked with Dave in The Philippines in the 80’s.
A great evening at Ponzi Vineyard
Nellie, Tamra & Jim
The weather was so warm and many people were outside watching the eclipse and fireworks, laughing, telling old stories and having a fun time. Later, a birthday cake was presented – with 60 candles (!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!) – and everyone sang and then the dessert portion of the evening commenced.
Everything was just perfect. Any hiccup the kids were worried about did not happen… or if it did, we did not know!
Cousins: Lisa and Carla
Sadly, the evening had to end. Our friends went home, but family remained. There may have been an after-party back at our house. Not saying… but Leo said he had a dream that his godmother, Angela, came into his bedroom and kissed him during the night.
Dave and I can’t thank the Lovely Lisa and Lenny enough for this huge surprise! Now that we realize the massive effort it took (from Los Angeles!) for them to host this party and are hearing all the funny (intricate) back-stories, it only makes us love and appreciate them more. Our kids are the best! I know we I will be writing a lot of thank you cards next week, but especially want to thank those who sent videos and to everyone who traveled so far to share in this happy occasion. Dave and I are blessed with a great group of loving people who have been close with us for years and years… and years and years. Apparently, 60 years! Overwhelmed with joy and happiness.
Until my next update, I remain, your surprised correspondent.