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I found it in the garbage on Friday morning.
Anybody with half a brain knows that’s prime time to throw something away if you don’t want it to be found. Slip it in on your way out the door between the empty water bottle that should be recycled but isn’t, and the empty container of Kraft Easy Mac that’s oozing a little bit of leftover cheese sauce. Hopefully within an hour it’ll be out on the curb waiting on the garbage truck. I usually throw away the empty boxes from my secret cookie stash.
But the piece of blue card-stock caught my eye as I was dumping the crumbs from my cereal bowl into the trash on my own way out the door, and so pinching it between two fingertips I wiped the cheese sauce onto the side of the trash can and flipped it over. And nearly cried.
And then did cry a little.
However let me clarify—these were tears of joy.
Saturday April 8 at 7:00 pm, you’re invited to a surprise party for Liz! Shhh! Arrive promptly. No gifts please! Actually maybe one little tiny tear was for the no gifts bit, because it’s always secretly nice to get presents. But I swear the rest of me wasn’t being selfish and was just crying tears of joy.
I shove the little card back under the Easy Mac. My number one goal in life has always been to have a surprise party. I wish for it every single day at 11:11. I have planned about a dozen of these fabulous parties for others in the hopes that someone would reciprocate, but to no avail.
I float through the day with a great big goofy grin, and barely hear anything my teachers and friends say over the hallelujah chorus in my head. I rush home the second school ends and head straight for my room where I plop down in front of the mirror.
I open my mouth in a giant O and throw my left hand in the air. Hmmm. Nope. I look like I’m going to yell “olé” and break into some fort of awkward dance. I think I need some eyebrow action to achieve the proper surprise expression.
Ready… Set…. Go!
I freeze in my new position and evaluate myself in the mirror: One hand has flown to my heart. The O-mouth again, with eyebrows now in appropriate shocked position at the top of my forehead. Good, good, very surprised. Nice work Liz! Oh but wait. My gaze has arrived at the top of my head to where my other hand is on my forehead in the “oh my word I shall faint” gesture ladies in nice dresses did in movies a long time ago. Yikes. In a flash of brilliance I pull my hand down and slap it over the O-mouth. Yes. Basically a work of art.
Now I just have to wait. Thirteen days. Which is easier said than done. And trust me, it’s not even easy for me to say, so obviously it’s impossible to do. The word “surprise” has accidentally integrated itself into my daily vocabulary in places it doesn’t fit. Such as,
“Good morning, how’s your cereal Liz?”
“Yum I love Surprise Loops. Er, Fruit Loops!” I clap my hand over my mouth but luckily my parents aren’t awake enough before ten a.m. for me to really be on their radar.
Operation Check-Guest-List commencing at oh-twenty-hundred hours. I don’t actually know what time that is, but they use that stuff all the time on TV. I feel so official. My parents are at a fancy shmancy dinner party for the evening so I have a few hours to snoop around. I start in the den where there are stacks of paper everywhere. But first I squint around at the ceiling and peer into the pillows on the chair. I know it sounds creepy but I’m not entirely convinced my parents don’t have those nanny cam things so they can spy on me. Because I have a history of pulling things like this. That’s why 14 months ago I put all of my teddy bears into storage for good. You can never be too safe. I successfully knock over a few stacks of paper and make a lovely mess, but don’t find any guest lists for the party. I would hate for anybody important to be left out. Or what if it’s like in Freaky Friday where Jamie Lee Curtis always chats up that one girl who used to be friends with Lindsay Lohan and who is now basically her enemy. She would have definitely invited her to a surprise party for Lindsay’s character. Not that I have any enemies, but once again, you can never be too safe.
Giving up on the den, I treat myself to an ice cream break for all of my very hard work. I’m thinking about Half Baked with a smile on my face as I yank open the door and stick my whole head into the freezer, savoring the cool dry air. It is then that I spot the corner of a green folder peering out from under some frozen peas and potatoes. Jackpot.
Oh my word, I am a super sleuth. I wasn’t even trying; the folder basically came to me. I have a gift! I almost forget to grab my ice cream as I pull the folder out of the freezer, but stick my head back in and grab my Half Baked. The guest list checks out and I eat my ice cream blissfully, spinning back and forth on a swively stool.
Go time. In the past two weeks I had covered everything from finding the perfect surprised outfit, to dropping gift hints around people just in case they wanted to defy the rules and get me anything. I slipped up once when Andrea asked me to hang out and I started to say I couldn’t that night before I realized this was all part of the plan. And then I started laughing because the excitement was just too much for me, so then I pretended I had the hiccups and then accidentally-on-purpose fell out of my chair to create a diversion from the awkward situation, aka me.
So now Andrea and I are sitting around at her house and my foot won’t stop tapping because I feel like I might explode if something doesn’t happen soon. It’s 7:01. And then I hear the five most beautiful words:
“Wanna go get ice cream?”.
I’d love some “ice cream”.
Let’s go party.