Surprise party

Birthday girl with confetti

happy birthday child girl with confetti on colored yellow background

I’ve got one of those momentous birthdays this week so my partner said I needed to keep the weekend free. There have been whisperings in corners for months. I’ve tried to crack each and every one of my children, bad mother. They have been uncrackable. Even only son, although apparently he didn’t know anything anyway. I was just told that I was going for a roast dinner at my mum’s. I did overhear some mention of my sister-in-law being around while I was hiding behind a bush with only son and daughters two and three last week, as you do, waiting to surprise my partner and my mum.

On Saturday I had to take only son to a party in the morning. When I got back I was ushered into the car and told we were going “somewhere”. My partner mentioned that it was a bit windy. I had a horrible vision of being forced into a hot air balloon. I am not a fan of heights. We headed down the motorway. “We’re not going to City airport for you to push me out of a plane, are we?” I said suspiciously. My partner smiled. We turned off. “Are we going to IKEA?” I asked. No response. Minutes later we were pulling into the street where my mum lives. Ah, it was going to be a roast dinner after all. I opened the door of my mum’s house and caught a glimpse of my auntie.

As I walked in every room was packed full of people, many of whom I have not seen for months or even years. A friend from secondary school, another from my journalism course [who I actually saw on Monday, but who gave not a clue that she was going to be seeing me again so soon], an old colleague from the Enfield Gazette, another old colleague from long hours spent commuting to Sutton, cousins, uncles, aunties, my dad, my sister, my sister and brother-in-law from Barcelona, friends who I haven’t worked with, lots of children…Sometimes when you have your head down working and just getting through the weeks, you sort of forget that there were other versions of you in the past. I am not sure if it is because I am now officially getting on that the past seems to keep erupting back into the present recently, although usually in a good way as on Saturday.

The party had been organised by my partner and my mum. Apparently only the other day they were swapping food from one car to the other while I was on the way back from work, oblivious. The only problem was that there wasn’t enough time to talk to everyone properly mainly because a rather over-excited only son was rushing in with birthday cards every five minutes, shouting “open this, mum”. Unfortunately, several of the cards had been attached to presents so I had to go round asking who had given them to me.

The other children all played together upstairs. Every teenager I came across was talking about politics – is that a sign of the times? I went into the living room where most of the journalists seemed to be hanging out. “You can have Wham! or Abba as your background music,” said my mum, popping her head in. I went for Wham! [but not Club Tropicana]. She whisked me in a tuna pizza and a Diet Coke, the height of luxury.

I went into the garden. My 13-year-old niece was having a heated conversation about feminism. A line of small people ran past. My friend from secondary school told me to stop working so hard. “You’re not listening to me, are you?” she said as only son decided he was going to start a rock collection with the stones in my mum’s garden. Daughter one loomed and accused me afterwards of “filtering”, even though I am usually listening intently even though my eyes appear to be focused on a distant point on the horizon.

Daughters one and two started watching some dance routine about Shia LeBouef and were rolling around the floor laughing. Only son wanted to do a jigsaw, but got overly engrossed and forgot to go to the toilet in time. Daughter three had a sore tummy. Eventually we headed home after making plans to meet up with as many people as possible in the near-ish future. It was a long and wonderful day. All the smaller people fell asleep on the way home and had to be carried to bed in time-honoured fashion.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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