For my birthday this year, Thomas had taken to planning some family activities to celebrate. I had no idea and actually, for the first time in a long time was pretty mellow about my birthday, just happy to lay low and spend it at home. Ah, the irony.
Add in a red herring by my sister, and Thomas managed to pull off a celebratory day full of surprises.
I was told the day would begin with Maeve’s contribution. We’d be doing something “she picked” to do with mommy. As Thomas drove us to the mysterious destination, he even kept the mapped directions on his left side in the car, making me look out my window when he needed to reference them.
I was thrilled when we pulled up to the Imagine That! Museum. I couldn’t believe he’d planned something like this; it’s much more my style to find a new locale and get us all out for a new adventure.
It was a great afternoon. Among the “exhibits” in this hands-on museum area music room with myriad instruments all within kids’ reach; ballet room complete with tu-tus, mirror and bar; victorian house complete with picket fence, mailbox, pretend garden and gardening gloves; grocery store with kid-sized shopping carts, food containers and a real cash register; post office, NASA shuttle and in-flight video; vintage Volkswagen Beetle sans doors for easy access; fire truck with kid-sized gear and hats; an actual prop plane with a boarding staircase that Maeve must have climbed 34 times; giant sand room; big wooden pirate ship with a slide and hatch; and art studio with paper lining the walls, water, paint and brushes.
One of my favorites was the art studio, and Maeve donned a smock and painted several pieces in true keeping, of course, with her varied moods and talents: her blue period, her purple!purple!purple! period and her ask-her-what-color-something-is-and-it’s-definitely-without-doubt-yelloooooo-even-when-it’s-actually-green period. Thomas even painted a birthday sign for me while Maeve and I painted pictures together, surrounded by brushes, colors and craft supplies. There’s a little clothesline to hang your paintings to dry.
At one point during the afternoon, there was when an announcement made that the art studio was closing for the afternoon and anyone interested in keeping their paintings should retrieve them at that time and leave them near the exit. So Thomas went off to collect our masterpieces while Maeve and I continued checking out the exhibits.
When it was time to go, one of the women running the gift shop gave me a balloon — word had spread there was a birthday girl on the premises, thanks to Tom — I just don’t think they expected it to be the mama not the toddlah!
As we made our way to the car, I noticed a significant lack of artwork in the husband’s hand. Turns out, he only collected his happy birthday sign, and left all of Maeve’s creative efforts behind.
Hello? Am I missing something?
To put it nicely, I sorta flipped, and between my astonishment, annoyance and subdued laughter, I murmured semi-threateningly about making a blog post outta this one! The daddy who let the daughter’s paintings hit the trash while he saves his goofy birthday sign. I’d had thoughts of saving one or two of her paintings to commemorate the special day together.
The best part of it all was the look on his face when I asked where her pictures were — it clearly never dawned on him to collect anyone’s work other than his own. Rrrright.
But who can stay annoyed too long at the guy who plans the entire day, makes a stop for chocolate and peanut butter milkshakes (my favorite!) and is hurrying to get us home for Phase Two of Project Gretchen’s Birthday?
As we headed home, Thomas explained that my sister was babysitting Maeve that evening and we’d need a quick turnaround time at the house to head back out for more celebrating.
OK. So let me paint this picture for you (brushes and colors not necessary): It’s a wicked hot summer day, we’ve been running around a kids’ museum all afternoon, and the last thing I was worried about on the way home was how I looked. By now any makeup had long worn away, and the sweltering sun had taken its toll on my hair. I was happy to dig up one of Maeve’s hair barrettes in the car and I used it to sweep my bangs straight up off my forehead. And, I’m slurping my heavenly milkshake. Got the image? Good.
We park the car and round the bend into the backyard, where we are greeted by 40 or so of my friends and family.
So clearly I don’t have my finger on the pulse of everything going on in my house. Seems there have been rented tables and chairs in my garage for days, a caterer was hired and a menu chosen, a gazillion limes purchased for Karen’s Trinidadian Rum Punch, linens and balloons in place, and people invited.
And sweaty, pink-and-purple-barretted me?
I’m shocked. I’m not fond of being the center of attention (I try to wriggle my way out of the little work celebration of my birthday each year). I’m wondering if my house is clean enough for all these guests. And I’m trying to sneak away to put on some makeup and run a brush through my hair.
But most of all — after the panic and shock wears off — I’m not just impressed by my husband and all the planning and effort it took on his part, I’m loving him more than ever for caring so much.
(Oh — and the Rum Punch? Well, it never was made, he tells me, due to logistics and time. But lemme tell you, those limes are a chillin’ in my fridge’s crisper drawer, the liquor’s purchased and in the pantry, a 10 pound bag of sugar mocks me and her rhyming recipe is on the ready.)