On January 27th, my parents celebrated their 25th anniversary. In mid December, we children started talking about what to do for their anniversary and we all agreed on a surprise party.
We have done a few surprises for them in the past … for their 14th anniversary we invited our friends the Coons over for the evening and when they were a few minutes away we sent Abba and Ima to their room while we “got stuff ready for their anniversary”. Jason and Vicki and their children came in and hid behind our kitchen island, on which was set a cake and some gifts, and Tommy went to call Abba and Ima to come out. Unbeknownst to us, our parents had heard a vehicle crunching on our driveway so Abba asked (through the closed bedroom door), “Tommy, did you move the van?”
Tommy’s response was a mumbled no.
Abba asked him again and Tommy mumbled another response, finishing it up with, “We’re ready for you guys to come out now!”
They came out of their room, obviously suspicious, and walked slowly toward the kitchen. That’s when the Coons popped up from behind the island and Ima just about fell over laughing!
This picture was from that occasion. As we started to take it, Jason said, “No, get your wedding picture – not someone else’s!” They don’t look that different, do they?!
We were in Israel during their 16th anniversary and we children decided to invite practically everyone we knew in the country (about 20-30 people or so) to a surprise party for them. Some Israeli friends had taken them out for a drive and when they came back to the guesthouse where we were living and opened the door … they were surprised!
Have to share one more picture from their 16th … a friend made this cake for them … look at how little Samuel and Lydia are!
For their 20th anniversary, we made plans to meet the Coons at a Mexican restaurant. We told Abba and Ima that we children wanted to take them out to eat and we headed to our favorite Mexican restaurant. As we entered, we children saw a family sitting at a table with their coats covering all their heads … Abba didn’t notice them at all … Ima later said she saw them but wondered what those weird people were doing! It was a wonderful surprise!
So when we started planning the party for their 25th, we had some previous experience but this was much bigger than anything we had done before! We rented an assembly hall at a state park, planned a menu, organized with friends to help bring food, figured out decorations, sent out lots of invitations … and tried to keep everything under wraps! Planning a party for 100 people is a lot of work!
It was hard.
Being a very close-knit family, we talk about everything and it was difficult to remember to not let things slip. I also found it challenging because Sarah did a lot of the planning and organization (which I had always done in the past) and while that was a big help, it also made things more complicated at times! Sarah practically lived and breathed party from mid December to late January. She thought of EVERYTHING … usually about the same time I was thinking of it! But I had so many other things going on in my head that at times Sarah would be ready to talk and I didn’t want to think about it! At all! Learning to work together in understanding was a bit of a challenge at times but we pulled through!
Sunday the 25th was the big day. Justin, Andrea and their family had visited us over the weekend and told Abba and Ima they needed to leave early Sunday morning. What Abba and Ima didn’t know was that they were actually heading to Cedars of Lebanon state park with a van full of supplies, rather than back up to their home in Indiana! We had already told Abba and Ima that we planned to take them out to a fancy restaurant on Sunday afternoon to celebrate their anniversary and after the Eatons left, we informed them that they actually had to go early with Tommy and Lydia to pick up someone who was coming in for their anniversary and then the rest of us would meet them at the restaurant.
The “someone” was my grandmother who had flown into Nashville the day before, spent the night with friends, and would be waiting at the Opryland hotel. You see, we needed some reason to get them out of the house so that the rest of us could pack up everything we needed and head to the park, and this was the best thing we could come up with!
As soon as they left for Nashville, the rest of us flew around like crazy! We had to pack up the stereo system and musical instruments, the TV screen and laptops, kitchen pots and bowls and utensils and so on. I had hoped to get out within 15 minutes or so since we had an hour drive to the park – and Tommy had an hour drive to pick up our grandmother. Then he would have about a 30 minute drive to the park … and we needed some time to get things set up, make a salad, etc. As it turned out, it took us about 30 minutes to pack up but he drove slowly, parked far away, walked to meet Ma, went back to pick up the vehicle, etc. So we had enough time to get there and get everything ready.
I later found out that Abba and Ima were sitting on the suburban bench typing to each other on Abba’s phone … communicating about what they thought was happening. Their first guess was that they were going to the airport to pick up Ma but then they checked the flights and realized that there was only one flight a day and it wouldn’t be in until after 2pm … and they had been told they had reservations for 1:00! So they couldn’t quite figure it out!
They were surprised to find Ma sitting on a bench at the Opryland and when they asked her what she was doing, how long she had been there, when she had come … she told them “ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no tales!” Then they got back in the vehicle and headed east. All this time they had believed that we were going to a fancy restaurant but once Tommy started driving that direction, Abba realized there were no reservation-required-restaurants in the area!
When they approached the exit for Lebanon, Tommy and Lydia tried to blindfold them. Abba took his but Ima said she would just keep her eyes closed because the blindfold would make her carsick! Even with the blindfold Abba knew that they were at Cedars of Lebanon – and we knew that he would – we just didn’t want them to see all the vehicles of everyone they knew as they approached the building.
Everyone gathered in a semicircle around the front door and fell silent as they approached.
They were SO surprised!!
Abba said one of the hardest things was trying to figure out who to hug first!
Letting Justin and Andrea have it! As they were leaving our place earlier that morning, everyone was in the van and Justin was getting in, and Abba said “So will you take I-65 up?” Justin paused long enough for us to wonder if he was going to slip and then he said, “Yep, that’s how we get home!”
Watching the slideshow that our friend Jay compiled. This can be seen here – if you want to watch 18+ minutes of Washburn pictures!
I don’t remember what he was saying here … probably “you scalawag!” … which is usually a term of endearment! I do recall that I asked how much he had known and he said he was surprised! And that was surprise for me because he always figures everything out! I felt certain he had some idea, or would have at least wondered if it was a surprise party, but he said it never crossed his mind!
The tables were so pretty – lots of people pitched in to help get them set!
The cake was a gift from some friends who have a bakery.
Clearing the way for them to cut the cake!
After eating we had a time of sharing memories and blessings where many people spoke – Tommy was the MC!
Some people shared stories …
… some shared songs …
… these friends had a list of memories close to 10 feet long!
The Gainers presented them with a beautiful banner on which were renewal wedding vows.
We presented this gift from our friend Samantha who was unable to be there – it is a quilt of pictures from the past 25 years.
Abba, his mother, and his brother Dave.
The Washburn ladies, with Ma and two of our cousins!
There are so many more pictures but I can’t include them all here! It was a beautiful time. Our goal in planning this celebration was twofold … both to bless our parents and celebrate their 25 years of marriage, and to encourage, bless and inspire all those who came to celebrate with us.
Sunday the 25th was an amazing day but there was one thing that stood out to me, probably more than anything else: it is humbling to realize that, despite our mistakes and errors, YHWH has used our family to reach out and bless others. There is something powerful about a family working together in unity. We can’t take any credit for it – we know well enough how many times we aren’t in unity. All the glory goes to the Heavenly Father. But to experience the sweet rewards of working alongside Him is something to treasure forever. And it is something that every family should experience!
Hope to see you all at their surprise 50th!