A handcrafted birthday surprise

I’m not very easy to surprise.

A few days ago, John asked me in passing whether we had any plans for Saturday. I told him no, that we could do whatever he wanted. The conversation fizzled out, as conversations about weekend plans often do.

I didn’t think about it again until Saturday morning when he mentioned that we had to be home at 11:30. That sounded very specific. I started wondering what was happening—but I didn’t ask because I didn’t want to spoil any surprises.

I figured some sort of delivery was planned. I couldn’t imagine what it could be. A little past 11—while John was diligently planting my new crape myrtle in the backyard and apparently not thinking about what was happening at 11:30—it occurred to me that maybe a friend or family member was stopping by for a visit. I glanced around at our house, which was a wreck.

Our boys are home with a sitter every day this summer, and the house feels very…well…lived in. And it was Saturday morning. The living room was actually under construction with pillows and blankets everywhere as the children created a fort. At one point our 11-year-old did go find the vacuum because he wanted the fort to be clean inside. But, miraculous as that moment was, that was the most cleaning that happened all morning.

At 11:30 I heard someone at the door, and it was our friend Deanna!

The last time I saw Deanna was when she was visiting for our Chinese New Year party. At the time, she noticed that we had spread on the back of our couch an afghan she had made for our older son when we were waiting to adopt him. Deanna and her husband were incredibly supportive during both of our adoption journeys, and they have been attending our annual Chinese New Year parties from the beginning.

At the party this past winter, I mentioned how much we love Leo’s afghan. I joked that the blanket’s owner had threatened to charge us rent for using it on the couch.

Deanna mentally took note of the colors of our living room and realized that they matched the colors of a blanket she was already crocheting. She decided to complete the afghan in time for my birthday and give it to me. She had her husband reach out to John to make sure we would be home, so she could come and surprise me.

And she did! I am still astonished that this beautifully handcrafted afghan that matches our living room is mine.

When John saw how wonderful the afghan looked on the back of the couch, he took the time that afternoon to hang the curtains we had selected a couple months ago. Now the room feels so homey and complete.

It’s funny. This year I thought I probably wouldn’t be surprised much this birthday because I went shopping with my mother and my husband separately to pick out my gifts. But it ended up being a birthday of beautiful surprises, nonetheless.

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner is a wife, working mother and author of the Catholic Review's Open Window blog. She and her husband adopted their two sons from China, and Rita often writes about topics concerning adoption, family and faith.

Rita also writes The Domestic Church, a featured column in the Catholic Review. Her writing has been honored by the Catholic Press Association, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Associated Church Press.