The Surprise Party


_mike-in-birthday-hatI was not meant for a life of espionage.

By Cherri Ellis

I married a romantic man. He has always been so, since the day we met on a blind date 30 years ago. I have gotten off airplanes, toddler girl in tow, and had him standing at the gate with a giant teddy bear for her and flowers for me because we were gone for the weekend.

Last week, we planned an anniversary picnic to Mount Cheaha. When we were done eating, he sat me in a new beach chair facing the view and put a glass of wine in my hand. Then he opened a backpack and pulled out two four-inch-thick photo albums of pictures from all the way back from before we were married and led me through them. My sisters, should you ever encounter a man with these skills, marry him. Stay by his side no matter what you encounter as a couple. Be appreciative. Do not, however, ever throw him a surprise party.

From the moment you are seduced by the image of his face lighting up as he steps into a room full of his friends, your life becomes a tangled, mangled lie. My daughter suggested the party, saying in a reverent tone, “Sixty-five is a big one.” Yikes. She was right. This was large, what with all his cancer dodging and such. He has been supposed to die three times in 24 years, and so far he just won’t. He lives on nitrates, margaritas, and lack of exercise, yet he looks great and appears far younger than his age. Nobody gets it. So the guy deserves a party. We came up with a loose idea of a guest list, and then Chelsea went back to law school. From what I can tell, her role was now finished.

Needing help, I called our caterer, Natalie. We call her “our caterer” because she did one party for us one time and we now talk about her like she meets with us weekly in the rose garden to discuss press events, but whatever. Natalie Pilato Andrews is the senior event coordinator for Kathy G & Company, and she is crazy good at what she does. When she asked what type of event I wanted, I established my sophistication level right off the bat and answered, “I don’t want anyone to have to use a fork.”

The day I was to meet Natalie (my caterer) for a site check, I struggled to get Birthday Boy out of the house. To quote my friend Alison, “It was like pulling a buffalo backward out of a ravine.” I suggested multiple outings, and he wouldn’t budge. Thank heavens his mother’s back went out! Isn’t she the best? I bought some casseroles from Ashley Mac’s and announced that he had to take them to her. An hour before the appointment, I got a fevered call from her saying he had already come and gone and was headed back home. I called his cell phone and blurted, “What are you doing? WHAT KIND OF MONSTER DOESN’T STAY AND VISIT WITH HIS MOTHER LONGER THAN THAT?” Realizing I sounded suspicious, I hung up. The moment he walked in the door I hit him with “I need you to go to Walmart right now! I need four cases of bottled waters for a shoot before noon. My job is hard and you said you would help and—!”

He left, happy to be rid of the sound of me. Unfortunately, I was too convincing about the urgency of his mission, because he walked in right back in to find me sitting in the kitchen with Natalie, who had just come from a B-Metro “Power of Women” photo shoot and was still resplendent in rhinestones and cocktail attire. Without missing a beat, she began acting like we were planning a commercial shoot to be shot at the house, packing up while calmly speaking in double entendre: “That all sounds very workable. I have the date on my calendar and we will confirm the details.”

The cases of water are still in my car. I keep forgetting to take them into the office and I have to tell a fresh lie about them every day. He didn’t buy all four, which made me mad because what if I hadn’t been lying? He now keeps asking when the shoot will be, because he is trying to keep the house clean for it.

Fully aware that he has a birthday approaching, he keeps making suggestions for celebrations, which I keep agreeing to, because how do you not? I have lost the legal pad and am trying to track the details in my head. I need to create and mail us the invitation for the next door neighbors’ fake party that same night to explain the cars, but my neighbor Steph is almost a professional party planner and I have performance anxiety about designing her fake invitation.  The pressure of leading a double life is about to break me.

If you find this column to be poorly written, know that as I type this, I am having to simultaneously write a second column so that I can switch screens when he happens by to considerately check on my progress. This is as hard as it sounds.

I was not meant for a life of espionage.

One Response to “The Surprise Party”

  1. allison lacey burns says:

    Cherri Ellis , you are WAY too funny for a human being !! are you REAL ?

    ps : proud to be quoted by you, girl :D

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