Fr. Michael Woods thought that celebrating my wife’s birthday at Friday’s Lenten Supper was a great idea. When I first asked him about it, I mentioned that our fellow parishioners at All Saints are like family to my wife and me. My wife sings in the choir and is on the liturgy committee. Fr. Michael also liked that my kids and I wanted to surprise her again.
It was important to me that the birthday party would complement the Lenten Supper, not overshadow it. I also wanted to make sure that everyone felt welcome whether they knew my wife or not. Fr. Michael and Deacon Tim Elliott told me to inform the Hispanic Community that there might be a few extra people at the supper. Fr. Miguel Vélez assured me that there would be plenty of food for the guests. Chris Kite, who makes cakes for many parish functions, offered to make a sheet cake big enough to feed over 100 people.
My daughter created a private event listing on Facebook. She and I invited as many of my wife’s friends as we could. I am definitely not impressed with Facebook as a tool to plan parties. 73% of the invitees never responded. I think most of them never even looked at the event listing. Nevertheless, we had a decent turnout, including some non-Catholic friends and some friends from other parishes.
A few weeks ago, my daughter asked me to send her some pictures of my wife. I emailed pictures that I had saved from different vacations and family events. In addition, my daughter found some old snapshots at my mother-in-law’s house and scanned the images. She had a coupon for some free prints at CVS but instead of having the prints made where she lives in Virginia, she arranged for them to be printed at a CVS in Knoxville. All I had to do was pick them up. She also twisted some wire to make a spiral on one end and a ribbon shape on the other. The spirals would serve as picture holders and the other end would go into a bud vase with some flowers.
On Thursday night, my son and daughter surprised my wife by arriving just as we were about to order dinner at Chesapeake’s. On Friday, they planned to decorate the tables in the parish hall while my wife was still at work. We had to rush things along when my wife announced that she got permission to come home a little early so she could spend more time with the kids. I made arrangements to carpool to a speaking engagement at St. Mary’s in Oak Ridge so the kids could use my car.
When I got home from Oak Ridge, my wife and kids were using her new mixer to make bread, cookies and banana muffins. They asked if I wanted to go to Stations and the Lenten Supper. I said I would see how I felt after my nap. I set an alarm for 90 minutes later, which gave me enough time to get ready and even stop for coffee on the way to church.
Each week, a different group at All Saints takes responsibility for the Stations of the Cross and the Lenten Supper. On Friday night, it was the Hispanic Ministry’s turn, which meant that the prayer service was bilingual. The odd-numbered stations were done in Spanish while the even-numbered stations were in English. The Men’s Ministry will lead the prayers and provide a fish dinner on March 23. The Singles Group will lead the prayers and provide an Italian dinner on March 30.
After the Stations, I knew to delay my wife a few minutes so Fr. Michael and Fr. Miguel would have time to make bilingual announcements about the upcoming surprise. The crowd walked from the church to the parish hall ahead of us. When my family and I walked in, Fr. Michael used a wireless microphone to lead everyone in singing “Happy Birthday.”
In addition to the initial shock, my wife was surprised to see the tables decorated with her favorite flowers and an assortment of photos from her life. She was surprised again each time she saw an unexpected face and when she saw her birthday cake.The first cake was finished quickly. There was a little bit of a second cake left over. We put it in the freezer at home with the intention of using it as my birthday cake in June.