Friday, April 24, 2015

Patience's 30th Scavenger Hunt

“I do not want a party.”

Patience looked at me with her head tilted forward and eyebrows raised.

“But it’s your thirtieth birthday. We have to…” I tried to speak, but she interjected.

“No… party…” 

I have been married long enough to know that when it comes to birthdays, anniversaries, important milestones, and even some seemingly unimportant events, never believe your wife when she says she doesn’t care or doesn’t want anything. Only once in our eleven years of marriage did I fall victim to this evil trickery. Patience had told me not to worry about getting her anything for her birthday, because our anniversary is the day after, and we had plans to go do something. Being the kind-hearted (ignorant) husband that I was, I took her for her word. I got her nothing… literally, not a thing. She informed me the next day that I could have at least bought her a card. I informed her that buying her a card would not fall under the category of “nothing.” I have since adjusted the meaning of the word. 

I knew Patience was sincere with her request. I could sense she had no desire to have a big to-do for her thirtieth. So I began to brainstorm ways I could make her milestone a memorable one. This process started about six months ago, shortly after we had arrived home from Korea with our son, Wesley. She had told me that she would much rather do something fun with some of her close friends instead of blowing money on decorations and an elaborate cake. This was right up my alley. The only thing I love more than planning a trip, is making a memory.

Instead of having a bunch of people come to Patience for a party… what if she went to a bunch of people one at a time?

This was my original thought. 

I began to make lists of all the people in Patience’s life. I quickly realized my wife has a lot of friends… more than a person could visit in a day! I know this is a testament to Patience’s magnetic and loveable personality. As hard as it was to do, I had to narrow the list.

Why not thirty?

Yes! Thirty people for her thirtieth birthday! That would be perfect. I whittled the list down to the top thirty contenders. (If you did not make the cut, I apologize. Just know it was not an easy decision.) Once the list was in place, I had to track down all thirty friends and family, and I had to do it without Patience finding out. I decided to create an email address for the event: I began reaching out to each person to see if they could be involve. This proved to be quite a task, but every single person on the list committed to being a part of it! I had four months left to figure out how I was going to make this all work.

Words mean a lot to Patience; more than any gift you could buy her. I knew I needed to incorporate encouraging words into what I had dubbed “Patience’s 30th Scavenger Hunt.” I landed on a simple idea. Every person she encountered that day would have a decorated sign that read, “30 years of…” and an adjective describing Patience. Even better, the thought occurred to me that she could get her picture with all thirty people. 

Thirty people… thirty pictures... thirty encouraging words… for her thirtieth birthday.

I began by placing the people on the list in order by the area of town they were in, starting with our longtime friend Gina, who is also our son’s kindergarten teacher. Even with only allotting five minutes per person, fitting all thirty people into the day was beginning to seem impossible. Realizing it would be easier to group some people together, I began to think of ways to cut down the time to squeeze everybody in. After the schedule was completed, I sent out a final timeline to all the friends and family involved.

I also need to mention that we had several friends and family out of town that were involved as well. For this to work, they would have to mail or bring us their signs and gifts. All of the out-of-town gifts were then matched with the corresponding clue and preplaced into the car Patience would being riding in, which meant I needed somebody to give her each gift at the very moment she FaceTimed or Skype with the person out of town.

As you can see, this was beginning to get complicated. As I worked out the mechanics and timing of the scavenger hunt I was also beginning to create twenty five clues to lead her all over town. These clues started out difficult, but after realizing I was not trying to outsmart my wife, I decided to make them simple and fun. I secretly confiscated a box of pictures from the attic; all of them of Patience, spanning all the way from her birth to this year. I scanned the pictures into the computer, placed the text of the clue over each one, and printed them like photos. I placed each in a colorful envelope, put that envelope in a mailing envelope, and sent them off to all the participants.

Her first clue of the day

I continued to email everybody involved fairly consistently. I was paranoid that something was going to fall through. But each time I would get all the responses I needed. I was beginning to think that this might actually work.

One last detail… during those four months of planning I was also quietly slipping money out of each paycheck. The grand finale of Patience Scavenger Hunt was going to be a trip… to Disney World! Thankfully everything worked out perfectly for Patience’s three best friends to be able to go with her. At the end of the hunt she would receive the news that she and her girlfriends were heading to Disney two days later. I think the hardest part of this whole plan was keeping the Disney trip a secret from everybody for such a long time. But none of us cracked, and Patience had begun to believe I was going to take her up on her offer to not throw a party. In fact, she believed I had forgotten her birthday completely.

It wasn’t until this past Sunday that I dropped her a clue. I told her I had a little something planned for the following day, and that she needed to get herself something new to wear. I also inform her that she had to be ready early the next morning. She was completely surprised and very intrigued. The following morning I woke her up with breakfast at 5:45. Her eyes were burning as I walked her down to the kitchen table and began to explain what was in store.

“I took off work because you have a very special day ahead of you,” I said, trying to contain my excitement.

Patience looked back at me blankly with bloodshot eyes and a mouth full of pancakes. 

“I have planned a scavenger hunt for your thirtieth birthday, and today you will be visiting thirty people all over the city,”

“Thirty?” she asked.

“Yep, thirty people, and you have to get your picture made with each of them.”


“Yes, seriously!”

I wasn’t convinced my idea was going to go very well by her response, but I handed her the first clue anyways. 

Shortly thereafter the hunt was on. I drove her and the kids to school. She followed the children inside to find the first person on her list. A few minutes later she came walking back out of the school with a big sign, a balloon, a gift, and a smile that made her glow.

The first stop of the day... the Potter girls.

The next clue was a Skype conversation with my cousin Amber in Columbus, Georgia. I pulled Amber’s gift and sign out from the back of the car as they talked. Everything was working perfectly. After hanging up with Amber, we made our way to our friends’ house, where Patience’s three best friends were all waiting. They would be joining her for the duration of the day. I parted ways with Patience just after she had taken pictures with each friend and their signs. 

For the remainder of my day off I ran around town with Wesley, picking up a few party supplies for the small dinner we were having at the end of the scavenger hunt. I would call occasionally to see how they were doing on time, and, to my surprise, they were always on schedule. The idea was a success, and Patience was having the time of her life riding around the city with her best friends, no kids, and no responsibilities.

When they pulled into our driveway at about 5:00 PM Patience was looking pretty fatigued. It’s not easy seeing thirty people in one day! The kids were dancing at the end of our driveway, and holding up the final sign of the day. She exited the car with a tired smile, and one by one, gave us all hugs and kisses.

The final surprise was the Disney trip. We had made a card that we told Patience to read out loud.

“An adventure has been planned in honor of your thirtieth birthday. All the details are already worked out. Open the box to find out where you are going and with whom.”

“What?!” Patience squealed.

She opened the small box to reveal four Disney bracelets with names under each. I am going to use the word “scream” but it really doesn’t do it justice. Suffice it to say, Patience was jumping and screeching like a nine year old at Christmas. (I hope to post the video soon!) She was in utter shock, and beside herself with excitement. 

The grand finale!

Later that night, before we were going to bed, Patience wrapped her arms around me.

“Thank you,” she said through tears, “I do not think I have ever felt more loved than I felt today.”

“That’s what I was going for,” I said with a smile.

“You know, you could’ve just done the scavenger hunt and that would’ve been more than enough.”

“I wish I would have known that. I could have really saved us some money!” I teased.

I went to bed that night with my heart happier than it has been in a long time. 

My wife spends day in and day out living her life for everybody but herself. She gives constantly, through her time and her talents, to anyone and everyone. She is a fiercely loyal friend, an incredibly wonderful mother, and an amazingly awesome wife. She is the most loving, giving, kindhearted, compassionate person I have ever met. So, it was nice to turn the tables for a day and celebrate her. 

So… I guess I need to go ahead and start planning for her fortieth birthday… because I am not sure how I am going to top this one!

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