Tag Archives: surprise party

A Part of the Family

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This afternoon, I had the privilege of being the photographer at the surprise party of my very good friend’s father.  It was his 70th birthday.  My friend, who is also named Claire, teaches music at our school.  She and I have become very good friends and have spent a lot of time together.  I know a lot about her family, as she does mine, but other than her husband and children, I had never met any of them before today.  A month or so ago, her mother was looking for a photographer for this day, and Claire recommended me.  I was touched and honored to do it.

Claire grew up in England and much of her extended family is still living there. She has three sisters and all of them have families of their own.  Today, all of them, along with their uncles, aunts, cousins and close friends got together to celebrate this special day.  I was welcomed warmly from the moment I arrived at her parent’s home in Princeton.  Throughout the day, I was able to meet everyone and put faces to the names of all of those she has told me about.  Everyone there was lovely.  They treated me as if I was a guest at the party, not just the photographer.  I learned that they hadn’t all been together at once in more than twelve years, yet the love and warmth for each other was evident throughout the entire afternoon.  If I hadn’t known better, I would have assumed they were together all of the time because everyone was so close and loving towards one another.   The nine grandchildren, ranging in age from 2-18, played together as if they were old friends.

Claire and some of the guests kept jokingly apologizing for their “crazy family,” which only made me laugh because it was as if I was with my own family.  Other than their English accents giving it away, it really could have been one of our family get togethers.  I stayed for hours getting hundreds of photos for them.  Big family shots, group photos, candids… I can’t wait for them to see them all.  My favorite part of taking photos for others any time is when I can warm up enough to those whose photos I am taking to get them to act naturally for the camera.  There was no problem getting this to happen today.  There is so much laughter and love portrayed in all of the photos.  Even some of the youngest family members who started out camera shy, were posing for photos by the end of the afternoon.

When I got home, I told Dave about their family and how I felt like a part of it while I was there today.  Minutes later, I received a text from Claire telling me that everyone there said that I seemed like a member of their family.  Those are always the best photo shoots.  Blending into the crowd and just kind of fitting in. 



Earlier this week, my best friend Kelly sent me a text message, inviting Dave and myself to dinner on Friday night to celebrate my birthday.  The four of us rarely go out on Friday nights.  Mostly because of work and family commitments.  So at first, I was surprised, but when she told me we had to wait till 8:00, to give Andrew time to get home from work, and their babysitter time to get there, I didn’t think about it again.  I was looking forward to it all week.

Dave and I are known for being early to everything.  I despise being late and would rather sit outside and wait till the right time than show up late for something.  Kelly sent me a text and said they were actually running early…and that they’d be there closer to 7:45. “ Better for us”, I thought.

We got to the restaurant, a great little place that Dave had never been to, and walked in.  It was quite crowded and I told that hostess that we were meeting another couple, and would be four for dinner.   Then I heard, “SURPRISE”, looked over and a table, filled with friends was there, waiting for me.  Dave smiled sheepishly and giggled.  I was completely surprised.  Surprised to the point of tears.  Truly, overcome with emotion.  It wasn’t my 40th, or 45th, birthday, not a “big one” to celebrate but they all told me, that after the months I have been through recently, it was a good reason to celebrate.

Kelly had thought of friends from all different phases of my life.  My best friends from childhood, JoyLynn and Tricia who have been through their own emotional few months, (with their mom suffering a severe heart attack and going through extensive rehabilitation) were there.  Tracy and Nicole, wives of Dave’s friends since childhood, who are now some of my closest friends, were too.  My former next door neighbor Lisa, who I love and wish I saw more often, my cousins Jody and Lisa who I am so incredibly close with and Maureen and Lynn, teacher friends, neighborhood friends and simply just two of my closest friends were there as well.  My sister, who I know was a big part of this, could not be there, as she was still out of state attending the funeral of her father-in-law.

I don’t think I have ever been as completely surprised as I was last night.  Even at my bridal and baby showers, there was an inkling of something that was going to happen.  Some people might wonder if surprises are overrated.  Not me!! Walking into the restaurant and seeing all of these friends was just amazing.  I was speechless at the incredible outpouring of love from these women that I love so much, many who I see all of the time, who went to the trouble to plan and keep this secret from me, just to offer me a night that was finally just about me.  A night where I could focus on nothing else, but the love that they all have for me!  It was truly a night I will not forget and I thank them all with all of my heart.