In the middle of the week, the wife suddenly said to me, "I want to eat at Fish & Co".
Why, I said.
"You haven't taken me out on a dinner date for a long time."
Can't argue with that, I suppose.
As the weekend approached, the wife asked again, "Are you free on Saturday?"
I told her I couldn't make it because I was out on a shoot till late. She had a worried look on her face when I told her that.
"Sunday, then. We have dinner on Sunday."
"How about the kids?" I asked. We usually go to my mother-in-law's on Sundays.
"Oh, my brother will pick them up on Sunday and take them to my mom's. We can go on our date then."
So Sunday came and it was a flurry of activity. I had a few hours of sleep the night before due to the Saturday shoot, and we were on duty in church on Sunday itself, so we had wake up at 6.30am. By the time we were done at church, it was 2pm.
We grabbed a quick lunch and I crashed for the afternoon, completely zonked out.
At 5pm, the wife woke me up. Time to go, says she.
Another 5 minutes of sleep please, I asked, thinking of how I could convince her to postpone our dinner date so I could sleep some more.
But it did not look like I was going to get out of this one. The wife even put on a fancy outfit, a brown dress.
I said goodbye to the kids and told them to enjoy their visit to grandma's. I wondered why the kids look particularly dressed up for their Sunday grandma visit but thought, maybe I was just imagining it.
As we drove to Novena, I told the wife I wanted to buy a Polly Pocket for Joy because I already bought a Bumblebee Transformer for Isaac and it would be World War 3 in the house if I just gave a present to one kid. She was totally fine with us going to Toys R Us.
"Why do you wanna go to Novena anyway?" I said. It was not a mall we usually go to. "Isn't there a Fish & Co somewhere nearer our place?"
"I heard the Fish & Co there is nicer," she replied, "And besides, I want to shop at the Espirit there."
I drove into the awful carpark at Novena Square, famous for its narrow Ramps of Destruction (you can see the many scratches on the pillars, remnants of vehicles that did not survive the ramp unscathed), and started looking for a parking lot. As I was about to reverse into a lot I found, my wife declared, "Hey, how about parking over there!"
I looked at the lot she pointed at and said, "Aiyah I already have this lot, why shift?" and proceeded to park.
When we got out of the car, my wife stopped me again, and said, "I need a pen! Help me find one in the glove compartment, ok?"
Muttering to myself, I dug a pen out for her, wondering why she would need a pen at a mall.
We made our way to Toys R Us and I picked up a Polly Pocket for Joy and the wife patiently listened to me while I extolled the virtues of the Transformers Animated series toys compared to the less-than-superior Transformers movie toys.
Then I followed her to Espirit and told her to shop for her thing first while I checked out the gaming shop in the basement.
She looked a little concerned and agreed reluctantly.
A few minutes later, as I took the escalator down, she called me and said, "I'm done."
"What? So fast?"
"Ya, they had no new season stuff, so I will come back another day," she explained.
That was a fast shopping trip for her. I shrugged my shoulders and we went to Fish & Co for our dinner date.
As we approached the restaurant, I spotted a close friend inside, and my sleep-deprived brain went, "What a coincidence, they are having dinner at the same place as my wife and me!"
Then I spotted another friend and another, and then I saw my kids, the maid, and a long table of people I know...
Then a cupcake with a candle on it was whipped out, and the whole lot of them starting singing, "Happy birthday to you..."
I was in shock for quite a few seconds. It still hadn't sunk in that I've been had.
And to top it off, the lot of them came something brown. Even my kids were in brown. I just did not notice it enough.
Apparently, they had been planning this for a week, plotting with my wife. Even my maid was in on it, because she knew the kids were going to the restaurant and not my mom-in-law's.
My friend Dave also got a mini-muffin cake because this was his birthday month too. He blew the candle with Isaac.
The plan was not without its share of hiccups. They had to do it a week early because they did not want to clash with any potential family celebrations planned.
They had planned to do it on Saturday until I told the wife I could not make it due to work. That meant a mad scramble to shift it to Sunday.
Then the wife had to distract me because one of the guys drove up to the same car park level as we did, hence her suggestion to change lots and the pen request.
Then the wife had to keep me occupied until everyone had arrived at the restaurant which explained her sudden change of mind at Espirit.
The only other time this many people showed up wearing brown was the City Hall Flash Mob incident when people gathered to protest the suspension of my newspaper column.
I jokingly told my friends, you all better be careful, wait kena plainclothes police take down your names.
In the 40 birthdays I've had, this is my first surprise party. And I was utterly and completely taken by surprise.
I should have suspected my wife was up to something when she let me browse in a toy store for so long. And even listened to my views on toys.
A man is blessed to have friends and family who care enough to go through all this trouble to celebrate his 40th birthday.
Thank you for this. You guys put the Care in the Care Cell.
I need to wipe this tear off my eye now.