“Will you be at your sister’s party on Friday night?” Cindy asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be there,” shrugged TJ, as he flipped through a magazine off the rack. “It’s kinda weird, though. I mean, throwing a birthday party for yourself?”
“What do you mean?” Cindy asked with a puzzled look.
“I just never heard of anybody throwing a party for themselves, is all,” said TJ. “Seems kinda self-centered?”
“Hmmm…” Cindy frowned. She grabbed her bags and headed for the sliding glass doors. “Well…” she said awkwardly, “See you there, TJ.”
Judging by her reaction, TJ figured Cindy didn’t agree with him. As he drove home, however, he continued to solidify his opinion that his sister was, in fact, being self-centered. She was his TWIN sister, after all. And, they were turning FORTY.
For years on their birthday, TJ would join his sister and her family for a barbecue. They’d grill burgers; exchange a few presents; eat some cake. You know, keep it simple. This year, however, she had taken it upon herself to throw all that out the window and do her own thing. Whatever.
TJ arrived home and tapped ‘Play’ on the answering machine.
“Hi, honey! It’s Ma. Can’t wait ‘til Friday, Sweetie. Call me!”
"Ugh. Guess I better get this over with." TJ picked up the phone and started dialing.
“Hey Ma, how ya doin’?” he asked.
“I’m good, honey. Will I see you Friday night?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll be there…hey, can I ask you a question?”
“You just did, sweetie! Hee-hee-hee!” She never tired of that one.
“Don’t you think Sis is goin’ a little overboard?”
“Oh no, baby!” she objected. “Your sister’s gonna cook some wonderful dishes, probably decorate the place up nice…you know how she loves all that crafty stuff.”
“That’s what I’m sayin’, Ma. It’s like she’s showin’ off or somethin’. She’s makin’ herself look like she’s 'all that' or whatever. Don’t you think?”
“I think you’re losin’ your marbles, sweetie. That’s what I think.” She said that a lot. “You take care, baby, and I’ll see you on Friday.”
“See ya, Ma.”
TJ slapped the phone back on its cradle. He scratched his head. He didn’t want to be mad at his sister, but he was. Not only did he think she was being self-centered, but now she was a show-off, too.
On Friday afternoon, TJ’s cell phone rang. It was his brother-in-law.
“Hey Teej. Can you help me pick somethin’ up at Home Depot?” he asked.
“You know, Rob, the party’s in just a little bit,” TJ complained. “I don’t wanna be late. Can I help you tomorrow?”
“Boy, Teej, it sure would help if we could pick it up now. It’s a ladder, one of those big ones, and I need it for tomorrow morning. Cleanin’ the gutters, you know?” Rob pleaded.
“Yeah, ok. But you gotta pick me up ‘cause I’m jumpin’ in the shower.”
“Great! I’ll be there in fifteen.”
In the car, TJ buckled the seatbelt and immediately began drumming heavily with his hands on his knees.
“You nervous ‘bout somethin’?” Rob asked. “You seem all kindsa jittery and stuff.”
“No, man.” TJ replied. He turned toward his brother-in-law. “Can I ask you somethin’?”
“You just did!” Rob replied. “Heh-heh-heh.”
Oh, for the love of Pete. Doesn’t anybody have any new material?
“It’s my sister. Why’s she doin’ all this stuff?”
“What stuff?” asked Rob.
“You know, this whole party thing,” TJ responded. “Why’s she goin’ to such great lengths to throw this whole shin-dig. It’s like she’s goin’ outta her way to make herself look good. Doesn’t she care about anybody else?”
“Oh, I don’t know, Teej. She’s got such a sweet spirit and she loves doin’ things for other people. It’s like Jesus said, "love each other as I loved you." She blesses others because God blessed her. I think that’s a good thing…a very good thing.”
No one spoke the rest of the way home.
When they pulled into the neighborhood, cars were lined up and down both sides of the street. TJ’s anger burned in his heart. It started as small as a match, but grew with each step closer to the door until finally, a bonfire raged within him.
He turned the screen door handle slowly, slowly and reluctantly pulled it open. Like a fire hose extinguishing the tiniest of sparks, the words “Surprise” blew him right out the door. The party was for him and he had no idea. Boy was he embarrassed.
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