I’m standing in my kitchen pouring salsa into a small bowl. I’ve already got the tortilla chips arranged on the chip platter….and I’ve got some mixed nuts out too. I make a mental note to check on the kabobs marinating in the refrigerator (which, thankfully is humming along perfectly after it’s repair). I check my watch. Sis and family won’t be arriving for our little cookout for another forty-five minutes or so. I’ve got time to sip on a white wine spritzer while reading my latest pick-up on Kindle, Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani.
Before I reach for my wine, I remember the beautiful hot cherry peppers I had picked up at Wegman’s specifically for my brother-in-law. I didn’t want to forget including them with the other items we were planning to grill. I pull them out from the fridge and rinse them. As I stood at the counter drying them off the doorbell rings.
“Ciao CC,” says my sister as she tentatively pops her head in the doorway.
Hmm. They’re early! Often, they run late….
My nephew runs in and promptly gives me a bear hug as his mother sets a large Whole Foods bag on the island counter. She has all the fixings for a lovely Caprese salad including a generous bunch of fresh basil she’d brought in from her yard. Her basil is still growing ever-so-vigorously in a large barrel planter; everything in it is still thriving in a sunny location in front of her house.
“You’re early! I say as we air kiss each other’s cheeks. I give her a run-down on what we’re having for dinner later as I continue drying off the peppers. Rocket-man has also stepped into kitchen with beers in hand for himself and his bro-in-law. He sets them on the counter.
“Where is your husband?” I ask sis.
“Oh, he’s out walking the dog.”
And then it begins….
The Poodle, who is out on the screened-in porch, begins to bark like crazy. Though irritating, I think nothing of it as there surely is a squirrel taunting him from a tree. Then the tenor of his bark changes to that familiar oh-my-Yippee-ki-yay excitement that overtakes when he sees his bestie Nica, my sister’s dog.
The patio kitchen door opens and in bolts Nica followed by my brother-in-law. He’s got his martini glass Hawaiian shirt on. Now we are all around the kitchen island. The guys have their beers and sis and son are oddly at rapt attention as I show them the peppers that I had picked up for grilling.
Hmm. Faintly, my senses tingle….
The dogs start their two minute uber-exuberant zoomie ritual that always results in rugs askew. This time however, the excitement between the two is strangely magnified times ten. The barking and excited whining has not stopped as quickly as usual. In fact, the barking was getting annoying enough that I was ready to banish the two to the basement.
It would be just a nano-second after that thought that the reason for their excitement would be revealed.
“…And I’m so disappointed that Wegman’s didn’t have any of their gourmet burgers available yesterday…” I say as I feel a light tap on my left shoulder. I turn my head, but just barely, thinking it’s just my nephew wanting to know if he can get a treat from his designated space in my pantry.
She had come through the back yard and stealthily up the back deck steps. She had opened the door whisper-quiet and because my back was to the door it would be simple enough to take me…
COMPLETELY BY SURPRISE!
It’s my “baby” girl. She had flown in from Chicago. Weeks in the making, the family had cooked up this surprise which left me speechless and in a puddle of happy tears. Needless to say, this was the best birthday present ever.
Sixty-one is starting out wonderfully blissful.