The kids and I decided to do something big for my wife’s milestone birthday this year. We began our plotting at Christmas when we elected to pool our resources and buy her an expensive mixer. That was the easy part. My son and daughter each purchased an gift certificate and sent me the redemption codes. All I had to do was place the order and pay the difference. My daughter sent a text in the style of “Mission: Impossible” telling me to wrap the gift. She followed it up with a text that read: “dundun dun dun DUN DUN dundun dun dun dun dun dundun… bleedoodoo… bleedoodoo… bleedooodoooooooo… doodoo.”

The real fun came when the kids decided to travel to Knoxville as a surprise. My son bought an airline ticket to Washington while my daughter purchased two Megabus tickets to Knoxville. I made dinner reservations at Chesapeake’s for three reasons: my wife could get a birthday lobster, it was one of the restaurants for which I had a gift card, and it is walking distance from the Megabus stop.

The bus was scheduled to arrive at 6:50 p.m. I made the reservations for 7:30 to allow a little cushion. They were still on I-66, barely an hour into their trip, when the bus got a flat tire and had to pull over at the nearest rest stop. It took about two hours for a replacement bus to arrive. The driver said, “to avoid any animosity between passengers, please just take the same seats.”

Meanwhile back in Knoxville, I was trying to keep my wife distracted with other birthday festivities. I dropped by her office unannounced with a cupcake and a birthday card. Then I went home to nap before dinner, hoping that the Megabus would make up some time by shortening the planned rest stop in Wytheville. My daughter sent some texts that would look innocent if my wife saw them but contained hidden phrases I would recognize as estimates of their time of arrival.

The staff at the restaurant knew about the surprise. They were expecting to seat my son and daughter first and then lead my wife and me to the same table. I called and pushed our reservations back to 8:00 p.m. As it became obvious that the plan would have to be changed, my daughter called Chesapeake’s and told them to remove two place settings and to seat her parents first. My wife and I took our seats and started studying the menu. We noticed that they had printed “Happy Birthday Jere” on the top of the daily specials menu.

I realized that I had inadvertently left a $5 coupon from the school coupon book in my car. I ran out to the parking lot to get it and used the opportunity to call my daughter. She was still speaking in code in case my wife was listening. I told her she could speak freely and she told me that they were getting off the bus and would be there in about ten minutes.

Once I got back to my seat, I told my wife I wanted to take her picture. She innocently touched up her lipstick while I nervously fumbled with the camera. The kids sneaked up behind her and said “happy birthday.” My wife was completely shocked. I felt good that I was able to fool her with a stunt similar to one I pulled several years ago. I’ll tell you that story in an upcoming post.

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