Monday, February 05, 2007


When Linda was planning Jane’s surprise birthday party, she saw one major hurdle.  How would she get Jane to come to the party?


"That’s simple,” I said without a pause.  "I will ask Jane to drive me to some fictitious event at the place where the party is being held."  And it was that simple.  I asked Jane to drive me to a speaking engagement.  She said she would. 


Knowing we are both alone this afternoon, Jane has arrived at my house twenty minutes early.  She has brought us a Tim Horton’s English Toffee coffee to drink while we wait.  She has brought two blouses that will fit me well.  She hardly wears them any more.  Jane and I talk as we kill time in my kitchen.  Over the years we have developed a shared love for lilies in the yard and geraniums nurtured in sunny pots while we wait for spring to come.  She has stood in front of my kitchen sink on hundreds of Sundays, rinsing off greasy pots and scraping away the residue of scalloped potatoes.  When the last pan was scoured she would go quietly outside and smoke with my boys.  I never wanted my boys to smoke, and she would not have wanted that either.  But I was happy that they could smoke with Aunty Jane.  It gave them a chance to have quiet time with her, to be buddies away from the big crowd.  Only good could come from that. 


Jane and I both joined the Edey family as young adults.  I was inducted when I married David.  She came in as an informally adopted daughter because she was Linda’s roommate and best friend.  She is one with us, and with her family of origin as well.  She is the eldest among seven siblings in a family that also fostered others while she was growing up.  And later, when the mom in the other half of their duplex died, leaving a husband and baby, Jane and Linda gave their hearts and their resources so that little Nicole could grow up in two attached loving homes with three active parents. 


It takes many kinds of people to make the world special.  Some make great discoveries.  Some win Nobel prizes.  Some take on the role of president, or chairman.  Many others live quiet lives, going to work every day, doing more than their share without expecting praise or special recognition.  Jane is one of the quiet ones. 


I tell her it is time to leave for my speaking engagement.  She helps me gather my things together.  She locks the door with my key because my arm is sore.  “The parking lot is pretty full,” she says as we approach the hall where her birthday party is being held.   I will let you out at the door and take you in then I will park the car.”  But there is no need for this.  To her surprise, there is a vacant spot right at the door. 


I take a deep breath.  We have made it this far.  It seems impossible that she would not know.  A thousand lies have been woven together while Linda summoned Jane’s family from across the country, her workmates, her pool pals.  At least a dozen lies were told so that she might arrive, all dressed up on a Saturday afternoon in this unlikely place at this precise moment.  But Jane is a gracious woman.  If she thought you had a surprise going, she would not ruin it. 


We pause in the foyer to hang our coats on the rack.  Behind the closed door, balloons are floating.  People have gathered at circular tables.  Seventy voices are waiting to sing the Happy Birthday song.  Later Jane will say, "When the door opened I was looking toward the back for the place where I could drop out of sight as soon as I got Wendy settled.  Then I saw my brother."  And who could have said it better?  It is a statement of vintage Jane, through and through. 


There is a mountain of delicious food, a short tribute given by her brother and a slide show.  There is no speech from Jane.  She just walks around the room, talking to dozens of people who love her.  Finally, she permits others to whisk her away, leaving the clean-up chores for somebody else.  This is a special day, after all. 

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