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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Family Reunion (06/05/08)

TITLE: Surprise Party
By Johnna Stein


Wafts of sweet magnolia blossom greeted me as I strolled along the shiny cobbled path toward the imposing entrance gates. An inexplicable joy overwhelmed me. I felt so light I could fly.

Who chose this lovely venue? I hedged my bets on Great Aunt Sophia. Her immaculate taste in clothes and décor never ceased to amaze me.

Wanting to savour the heady aroma bursting from the blooms, I stopped in my tracks, closed my eyes and breathed in deeply. In an instant, I remembered swinging from Grandma’s old magnolia tree, stretching my bare toes, straining toward Heaven, only able to brush the top leaves of the tree. I felt certain that wooden swing could launch me into God’s domain where I could play hopscotch with angels on the fluffy clouds.

“Angela, come on in!” Grandma’s familiar voice called me out of my reverie.

There in front of me, with her crooked smile and open arms, stood Grandma, offering me one of her cushy hugs. Nothing compared to Grandma’s hugs. Mom harassed her endlessly about her weight, but without her lovely chubbiness, where would I go for comfort?

“Hi Grandma.” Light as a feather I skipped toward her, hardly feeling the cool, smooth stones under my bare feet.

“Aunt Gladys is here, too. You probably haven’t seen her since Cousin Ruby organized the Carter Family reunion twenty years ago.”

“Aunt Gladys?” My voice cracked, revealing my disbelief.

Figuring the math, I’d guess Aunt Gladys at about ninety-five. Was she still alive? What an eccentric lady! Every time we visited, she offered us kids a dollar if we could wiggle our ears. My brother Joe could magically shift both ears back and forth. I’d struggle until my face turned crimson, not able to move either ear a whisper. Joe received his dollar and I made do with a quarter for effort.

“Sweet Angela. Welcome.” Aunt Gladys seemed to appear out of nowhere.

Oh, please tell me she wasn’t going to ask me to wiggle my ears!

“Give me a good ole wiggle,” Aunt Gladys let out a giggle.

I didn’t find it funny. But, to accommodate her and move on to the party, I sighed and tucked my curly hair behind my ears. I scrunched my eyes together, and moved whatever facial muscles I could locate. I wondered if she’d still give me the token quarter for my heroic efforts.

Much to my amazement, I thought I detected some movement around my ears. At my second attempt, Grandma and Aunt Gladys broke out in spontaneous clapping. I never thought wiggling my ears could make me feel so accomplished and at peace. I felt I could do anything!

The clapping seemed to multiply and before I knew it, crowds of men, women and children gathered with me at the entrance and broke out into glorious song. All familiar faces, yet they sang with the voices of angels.

Was this some sort of surprise party? It served me right. I must have thrown at least ten surprise parties for friends and family in the past thirty years. I loved witnessing the look of awe on their faces when everyone yelled, “Surprise!”

As I surveyed the crowd, I recognized friends and family from Africa, Europe and America. Who conjured up this guest list? Probably my faithful husband. I had truly been outdone this time.

Overwhelmed with joy, I wanted to cry, but found I could only rejoice and sing along. Who organized the music for this event? My family boasted quite a few accomplished musicians, but this sounded like real professionals. They played all my favorite songs and hymns.

I joined the choruses, singing my heart out. My usual pitchy voice actually sounded in tune for the first time ever. I loved to sing, but my spiritual gifts always seemed lacking in that area. With confidence, I belted out each familiar word. Anything seemed possible.

I felt the gentle brush of angel feathers caress my cheek. Then, my son Jared, who I hadn’t seen in nineteen years, slipped his tiny hand in mine. As the trumpets sounded I rejoiced in song with the angels, knowing Who planned this party and why,

“When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

Song: How Great Thou Art
Written by Carl Boberg
Translated by Stuart K. Hine

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Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 06/14/08
I loved how my heart felt as I slowly came to the realization of what kind of family reunion this was. This was absolutely beautifully done. Just stunning.
Karen Wilber06/14/08
I love your descriptions of the cushy grandma and Aunt Gladys. I also liked that heavenly reunion as a surprise party. Warm and wonderful; a real, feel-good story.
Colin Swann06/21/08
Thanks you masters for your expertise and encouragement that we writers experience from you, right from starting out as beginners.