The Trip to Tucson that Wasn’t (Or How My Husband and Family Pulled Off the Surprise of the Half-Century

When we left off last, I had been wined and dined by 17 or 18 friends at a surprise birthday lunch…on Friday, April 4th, the plan (or so I thought) was to head down to Tucson for a weekend at a nice hotel and explore the area (I’ve not really been down there when there wasn’t a bead show or two or seven!). We (me, my husband and 14 year-old-daughter) left the house at 1:30 Friday afternoon bound for Tucson (Joe was quite the clockwatcher which is not usually his job and Emma was annoyed about being rushed). I had worked like a maniac to have the weekend free and packed for casual days with a sweater for “an outside dinner experience” one evening

I tried to summarize but I’m no good at “cutting to the chase”…

As we got near the I-10 exit to head toward Tucson, Joe said “well, we aren’t going to Tucson…we’re going to the airport and we need to rush a bit now.” My first thought was “Did I pack the right clothes?” So off we race to the airport, grab a quick bite of food…”Don’t eat too much!” was the only clue. We get to the gate and he says “Our first flight will take us to Denver.” So I really have no clue at all where we are going…my parents and sister, Lori, are in Colo. Springs and we never fly to Denver to get there…but I’ve decided to relinquish control. And I wonder where the next flight is headed…

We board and I have been upgraded to 1st Class (and Joe is left to deal with an irate Emma in coach….she was not privy to any of the details of the trip for obvious reasons). So I had a couple glasses of wine during the flight and chatted with a guy who thought this was a perfect birthday (however it ended).

We arrived in Denver about 5:45pm and Joe makes a call…hands me the phone and says “Here, talk to the chauffeur,” who ends up being my dad. Emma and I make another mad dash to the restroom to change into something a little dressier (I didn’t really pack “dressy”!) and we link up with my dad outside the DIA terminal at 6:45. We drive to the Springs (about 80 miles) and all I’m told is that we are going to a new seafood restaurant. At some point I did ask if my sister, Kelly, was there (from VA) as she had called me on the way to the airport with a story about my nephew’s baseball game and how he had just hit a triple (it could happen but it was a trumped up story I would later discover. I never got an answer.

We get to the restaurant where I’m expecting my mom and my sister, Lori…and find my niece is also there and my nephew (who has gotten a coveted pass from the Air Force Academy for the evening) and my BIL, Jim. The restaurant is crowded but we have this Polynesian hut covered table/booth with tall chairs…I see flowers and cards and gifts. The rest of us get drinks and proceed to discuss how clueless I am that I missed out on any signs of the plans for this trip. All of a sudden, hands go around my eyes from behind and “Guess who?” is whispered in my ear. It IS my sister, Kelly!!! So I’m struck speechless for the second time in two days. She tells me Al (my other BIL) wished he could be there but was with the boys (about the only true thing I was told for the next 24 hours it will seem.)

Well, that was just the beginning…

We had an amazing dinner and some incredible desserts that we shared. I got gift cards to the Broadmoor and Chico’s, several funny/rude cards, and a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne etched with a “Happy 50th Birthday Lisa” message.

I was told the plan was a birthday brunch at Mom’s in the morning and then Kelly had to leave to get back to VA for one of the boy’s mandatory confirmation meetings (which made sense in my still confused state). Then the plan was for Lori, Joe, mom and dad and I would head up to the Broadmoor Hotel for some shopping, a drink and a look around the grounds (It had been at least 20 years since I’d been there) and then we’d have grilled cheeseburgers at Lori’s house. Made total sense to me as I’d just had my birthday celebration a day early because of Kelly’s schedule.

April 5th comes around and we get ready for the brunch: my mom’s breakfast casserole, cream cheese pastries, fresh fruit salad, and a frittata made by Lori. We opened the Dom and had a toast. They share with me that my cousin and his wife from Wisconsin were supposed to come but something prevented that so they had sent a flower arrangement in a huge martini glass…it looked like a giant blooming Cosmo. Lori’s phone kept ringing (I’d already heard how a new computer system was making her crazy at work) and as we are discussing the plans for the Broadmoor, we have a slight change.

 

Lori needs to run by the office for an hour and will join us as soon as she is done. I suggest that Emma might like to go with Lori and then if she doesn’t want to go to the Broadmoor later, my niece, Carley can pick her up….played right into their hands…I have a tearful goodbye with Kelly who has to head up to Denver for her flight (it is now after 1pm)…and 4 of us head up to the southwest end of town where the Broadmoor Hotel is located.

We walk around outside (it is a gorgeous day…barely breezy and high 60s…since it is a mountain resort type hotel I don’t look totally ridiculous in sandals and no sweater or so I hope)…

I field a call from my friend, Misha, and fill her in on the deception, we circle the lake around the hotel and then head to the shops to see if I can blow my gift card. No chance in the first decor shop where the knickknacks are $300 and above! Check out a bookstore and somehow books were not on my mind….then we see a cosmetic shop and mom and I head in. They are doing mini makeovers and when they hear it is my birthday, I’m a candidate to be “freshened up”. The guys headed to the bar and I settled in to find out that I’ve been wearing my eye shadow all wrong (well not really, but she showed me a different way to “open up my eyes”…it involves tapping wet liner on the inner edges of my eyelashes…which I am barely able to see without my glasses!) It was very nice and I got a few new tips and she wasn’t pushing products on me (which also means I wanted them more it seemed). So mission accomplished: Gift card spent and then some. Mom gets freshened up a bit as well and we head to the bar.

Have a lovely glass of an Angeline Pinot Noir that I need to try and find around here. Oh and I’ve fielded a call from my niece saying that her mom is still stuck at work and Emma is going to their house with her instead of meeting up with us at the hotel. Have also fielded another call from Lori earlier where she is griping about work and will meet us while shopping later with my Chico’s gift card at a shopping center by her house. I never question either call (I guess because I TRUST these people!)

We left the Broadmoor and went back to Mom and Dad’s for about 30 minutes to regroup and let Ladybug (my parents’ “new” rescue mini longhaired dachshund) out of her crate…did I mention that on Friday she had two little seizures where she couldn’t move for about 2 minutes…and then snapped out of it and took off running…freaked everyone out and added a trip to the vet into the Friday mix for my mom.

About 5pm we headed to an outside shopping place by my sisters (still no sign of her and I am just sorry that she has work…though I “get” that part of weekends being messed up with work stuff)…we hit Chico’s and I try on numerous things though at this point I am tired and really not into shopping any more…discard many things and settle on a couple of tops…find a shop with thank you notes so pick up a couple of boxes for the birthday luncheon crowd….check out Brighton watches and decide they are not worth $110 to me….meanwhile, Lori and Mom are calling to coordinate (secretly)…she’s “on her way” and we should go have a glass of wine at one of the places there…since I know that Lori has the makings of Cosmos at her place I am not thinking I want another glass of wine without food! We walk a bit more and determine that the one restaurant is too crowded to stop in. More phone calls and I did mention “If Lori is too busy, couldn’t Joe or Dad or Jim come get us?” That struck fear in my mom I guess as I was to be kept busy a bit longer…

About 7ish (I think…time stood still for a bit) my dad shows up to bring us to Lori’s…I am trailing heading into the house and the first thing I see is a table loaded with appetizers, my sister KELLY! (remember she left for the airport…NOT), several other friends (and a few strangers) and my response is a rather loud “WHAT THE HELL?” Apparently the look on my face was priceless as well.

SURPRISE! PARTY…what a clueless person I am…not even a smidgeon of an idea….Seriously!

Kelly had “left” my mom’s that morning to go up to Lori’s and start working…Lori was there all day working on food and preparation…Emma was there all day helping…

They had drink markers with the most hideous picture of me from 6th grade…shudder…and my parent’s digital frame with about 60 pics from birth to the last Christmas in Colorado…it was truly a showcase of bad hairstyles and clothing!

Endless Cosmos and finally a birthday cake too! The invitation my sister made was a work of art and she had one framed for me as well. I was in and out of tears all night. The food was to die for. Emma wrote me a birthday letter that melted my heart (at least for the evening) and as she and I are talking the doorbell rings…she says “Oh that’s probably your old boyfriend” WTH? And it was…I forgot that Dave and Teresa moved back to CO and live not far from my sister. It was great seeing him. Lori was unmerciful to him later with how she had his senior yearbook (kept for 32 years for some reason)….his wife was a good sport as she had to listen to how he dumped me before every major dance all through HS, then I dumped him for good while he was a freshman at the AFA…plus all the girls in between.

I got more cards and a CD of Bon Jovi tunes, some flowers and the cake was amazing….All these secrets being kept and nearly blown so many times apparently. All orchestrated by my dear husband, Joe, with assistance by my sisters and parents. I felt very loved. It would have been beyond perfect if Kelly’s husband, Al, had been there but he stayed with the boys though I did get to talk to him. Still need to call my cousin.

And there you have Lisa’s Excellent Birthday 50th Birthday Adventure.

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