Joe came back from college to help get the streamers up. It was spring break for him, but he’da come anyway, because it was the big day. He’d had one just like it 3 years earlier, and had gone off to Iowa City soon after, “To be a writer.” He’d certainly had plenty of time to read before his 18th, and had written some pretty good stories himself (if Mabel and Jim did say so themselves) in between home-school studies and toning up to workout tapes, and, later, Wii games.
Jim made sure that he and Mabel both had the whole weekend off; he was the head doctor at the local hospital, after all, and she was the senior nurse, so they ran the schedules. They wanted to make this the most special birthday party ever, even though it was just gonna be the 4 of them. They made Joanie’s favorite meal, lasagna, and her favorite cake, “better-than-sex” cake, of course. They had balloons and confetti and would play pin the tail on the donkey, like they’d done to observe every birthday for every family member, even though they all laughed each time at how corny it was. Mabel had made up a video tape of highlights of Joanie’s life (so far), including all of the other 17 birthday parties, even the one where the sump pump kicked in right when they got to “Dear Joa-oh-nie” in the birthday song; they laughed so hard the candles all burned down to the cake before Jim and Mabel could put ‘em out.
The time had finally come; Mabel got on the intercom to tell Joanie to be waiting at the top of the stairs. Jim, Mabel, and Joe got their party hats on; Jim had the camera ready. At a signal from Mabel, Joe threw the basement door open and Joanie came up into the kitchen for the first time since her dad had delivered her 18 years before. At a count of 1,2,3, they yelled “Happy Birthday, Sugar!”
Yes, this is for my Trifecta buddies: the word we must use, under penalty of death, is “observe”. The idea comes from the line (punch line from a joke? movie quote?–I have no idea of the origin) “Ohmigod, I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she turns 18 and gets to come up out of the basement for the first time.” I’m damn sure that I didn’t make up the line; I think it’s just a “stand-alone” thing that people say to get a laugh from people, when bragging about their kids or whatever. Or maybe the punch line to a joke that I’ve never heard the rest of, kind of like the single word “Suprise!”, which actually is spoken as “Supplies!” in a bad fake Japanese accent. People at a previous job would belt out “Supplies!” to each other and laugh uproariously, and I’d smile with them and move along, not wanting to admit that I had no frickin’ idea what they were talking about, not wanting to ruin the moment, and just getting caught up in the general merriment. Laughter is, after all, contagious.