Birthdays are pretty big at our house. When it's getting close to our birthday, we usually put up a wish list, with suggestions (sometimes it's specific commands, at least from the younger kids) for presents to get them. As we get older, we aren't quite as worried about what we'll get, and we tend to tone down our celebrations. And for both my parents, who don't like to keep track of their age, we don't have a huge party.
But, as is tradition, we always have a German Chocolate Cake for my dad's birthday. It's a tradition that his father passed on to him; his dad still has one every year on his birthday. If you've never tried the cake, go to the store right now and buy a box of german chocolate. The recipe for the cake and the frosting is on the box. Papa's birthday is the only time in the whole year that we have a german chocolate cake, and it is looked forward to by all.
For the past few years, my mom has tried her best to keep papa's birthday celebration a bit of a surprise. When my mom realized that my dad's parents as well as his youngest brother, Uncle Bill, would be visiting this week, she decided to do it Thursday night. We were in the middle of making the cakes when he came home from work, so the surprise was found out a tad bit early, but he was sufficiently surprised to make the secret-keeping up till that point quite worth it. Papa is a delight to surprise, because of how much he enjoys the surprise. When he walked in the door and everybody yelled 'Happy Birthday', the smile on his face and the 'What??' were priceless.
Supper was delicious: ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, broccoli, corn, and peas, with pomegranate juice for everyone, and wine for the older ones. Sadly, Isaiah could not be with us to celebrate, but we were all happy to have Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle Bill with us for the party.
This year, my dad said he didn't want much -- some new work gloves would be nice, and socks and some jeans from Goodwill (that's my practical father for you). He joked about getting a projector, but of course that was out of the question.
Well, we decided to get him what he wanted, and threw in with the jeans, socks and gloves, some microwave popcorn (to eat while he works his second job at Snyder Packaging) two bags of mixed nuts, and from yours truly, the film 'The Blind Side'. Underneath all those presents (wrapped in baby bags and flower wrapping paper, because we're too thrifty to spend money on appropriate paper and bags) was a large box covered with a blanket. After the other presents had been opened, with much happiness and gratefulness by the dad, Josiah gave the box to papa. Josiah, laughing, wondered (thinking papa surely knew) "Do you have any idea what it is?" Papa laughed, because he didn't have a clue. As he opened the box, he started shaking his head and laughing, because now he did have a clue. "No way. You're kidding me, right?" The excitement and surprise on papa's face when he realized what it was, was worth a million dollars. I wish I had gotten pictures, but even though I did not, I will never forget that look. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a memory is worth a million pictures.
Can you guess what it was? Mhmm. Yup. That's right. A projector. Purchased under the advice of Uncle Bill, by Uncle Bill, Josiah, Zachariah and Isaiah.
My father is a hard person not to respect, admire and love. As is tradition (we Englishes have more than a few super awesome traditions, in case you hadn't gathered that by now) during supper we wrote in our place cards what we like about papa, or some wise (serious, in some cases, not so serious in other cases) advice for the new year ahead of him. After the presents had been opened and admired, the place cards were read aloud. Everyone had something nice to say; some of us cool people, like Grandpa and myself, wrote a poem. (You can read my poem at my personal blog here: http://princessdaughterofthekingofkings.blogspot.com/2011/01/for-my-father.html)
Of course, to end the evening, we ate the magnificent cake. It was pitch-perfect *emphasizes with fingers, like the french people do* as always. But it wasn't quite the end of the evening.
Did you actually think my dad could go to bed without trying out his presents?? Of course not. So we set the projector up, using a white sheet as a screen, and after the younger set had hit their pillows, we watched 'The Blind Side'. Most of us had seen it once when it came out in the cinema, but we wanted to see it again. Grandpa and Grandma were watching it for the first time, and they enjoyed it very much. If you haven't seen it, go rent it (or buy it) now and watch it tonight. It's an excellent movie. And it's even better on our awesome new projector.
The joy we felt together as a family last night is a joy that I realize is not common in every house. Not every family has an amazing father like ours. Not every father works two jobs uncomplainingly because he loves his family so much. Not every father works from before the sun rises till the afternoon, then stays up late with us because he truly wants to spend time with us. Not every dad is quite as amazing as ours is. I realize that, though I too often take him for granted.
Thank you, God, for giving us an amazing father, and being an amazing Father, who cares enough to give us incredible joy in things as seemingly unimportant as birthday parties. It was a beautiful night.