It wasn't easy getting hold of Mum's address list for the party invitations without her knowledge. I didn't have a key to her apartment so I tried to figure out an excuse to get her to loan it to me. She was going out one afternoon and dropped Miracle off at our house. I mentioned a cassette tape she had which I wanted to hear.
She rummaged through her purse. "Here, I brought it for you."
I tried again. "That book you're reading that you say is so good--can I borrow it while you're gone?" I assumed it was in her apartment.
"Sure, it's in the car. I'll go out and get it."
Nothing was working. I was stumped.
That evening she was going out again. I called her just before I knew she was planning to leave. "I'd like to come get that new book on the life of Christ. Can you just leave the key for me under your mat?"
"I have to come up your way to get on the freeway," she offered. "I'll drop the book off on my way."
She was making it really, really hard to do anything for her.
But I finally managed to get into her apartment and locate a Rolodex among a pile of papers near her desk. I stole it, I addressed the invitations, I was even able to break in again and put the Rolodex back where I found it The invitations went out, the responses came back and the party is tomorrow.
I sleep restlessly. I am mentally rehearsing tomorrow over and
over. I know there will be plenty of food. I ordered enough for 50 extra
people just two days ago when the telephone calls from two pastors sent
me scurrying. The caterers are due at ten, I remind myself, and they
will be bringing the cakes from the bakery. The full sheet cake will
read, "Happy Birthday to Barbara, an instrument of His peace." The
half-sheet will say, "We think the world of you!" If ever anyone united
east and west, it is Mum.
The balloon bouquet will be at the
clubhouse by one. I mustn't forget the bottle opener for the sparkling
cider. Name tags. Scotch tape. Pushpins. A bowl of water for
Miracle--she will even have her own helium balloon reading "I am
Barbara's dog." My niece has offered to tie it to Miracle's collar when
But, I think suddenly, there's one variable I
can't control. As the night deepens I realize all my attention to detail
may be for nothing. The party may never materialize. What if Mum doesn't show up?
I think back to the excuse I gave her. "I know your church is having
its monthly business meeting, but they don't usually run past three, do
they? Come on over to my sister-in-law's after it's over," I had said.
In trying to throw her off the scent, had I made the invitation so
casual she wouldn't take it seriously? Suppose the meeting runs an hour
late? Or two hours?
Or, more likely, suppose on the way she
meets a person (or an animal) in distress and stops to do her Samaritan
thing. I think of Abraham Lincoln halting his carriage on the way to a
formal function to help a pig out of a ditch. That would be Mum. And
there are many potential pigs in the ditches between her church and the
party she doesn't know she is starring in.
I needn't have worried. In the morning, she calls apologetically. "My
battery's dead. Do you think Rick could pick me up at the church?"
Hallelujah! For once I am thrilled that her car has broken down and
we have to come get her. My husband can see to it that she's there on