9:00 PM, Saturday night. With five friends in a dark parking lot. Our cars were parked in a row, in a dark corner of a parking lot, at the bottom of a hill. We hoped we’d be difficult to see. We ducked behind the fronts of our cars, peering out over the hoods through the windshield and out the back window. Through it we could see the blue Christmas lights of the house and the faint shadows of the gifts we’d quietly placed on the front porch. We hustled back to our hiding spots, leaving one of us, Sean, behind. Among our group were Sean, Wayne, and Yours Truly. We’re all still in pretty good shape, but Sean’s the fastest runner. We would need his speed tonight. The plan was simple: Ring the bell, then run like there’s no tomorrow and get out of sight while the rest of us watched.
We watched as Sean crept up the steps. There was a light on in the living room but no sign of stirring inside. Sean rang the bell, then lept over the gifts, swooped down the steps, and hightailed it across the driveway to the side of the house. We saw the door open and saw a burly, bald-headed 6’5″ frame fill the open door. It was Jon, no question. We snickered as he looked around. Then he looked down. We saw him look around again and scratch his head. Someone giggled. “Hello?” Jon shouted. Someone else giggled. I didn’t worry so much about that. We were a good 250, 300 feet away. Maybe further. Surely he wouldn’t hear…
“I hear you!” Jon shouted. I could tell he was looking in the direction of our cars. Funny, they seemed well-hidden when I drove up.
I stood up. We were found out. I walked around my car, through the parking lot, up towards Jon’s house. A few others followed. Sean emerged from his hiding place. Jon was standing there in his pajamas, grinning like a kid in a toy store with $1,000 to spend.
“You guys didn’t have to do this,” he said.
“We wanted to,” someone said.
“You guys are the best,” Jon said. “Bethany’s in the shower.”
A plot started to emerge. Jon’s as much of a conniver as we are. We’d hustle out of there, drive to the community center and watch the last few minutes of the Blues game. Jon would call one of us on a cell phone when Bethany was out of the shower. He’d give us a secret code. I suggested a phrase like “These pretzels are making me thirsty,” or “I’m selling these fine jackets.” He suggested, “Sorry, wrong number.” I lost. So we piled into a couple of cars, drove off to watch the game, and waited.
The reason for our mission was simple. Jon and Bethany are expecting. January was to be the month to get ready. But Jon and Bethany’s baby (they won’t let the doctor say whether it’s a boy or a girl) is getting impatient. It’s been 32 weeks and the baby’s ready to rumble. And that’s a problem. Jon and Bethany aren’t ready. They don’t have all the stuff they need, and Jon’s the first from his family to have offspring and Bethany’s the first from hers, so it’s not like there are any relatives ready to jump in with emergency hand-me-downs either. They’re the intrepid pioneers. The baby shower was going to be in January. Now we’re praying the baby waits until January. We found out about this late last week, so on Friday, we started planning an emergency shower. We ran out Saturday afternoon, fought the Christmas crowds, and bought some stuff. We went separately but kept running into each other. That was good–they had a registry, but we were able to compare notes and make sure none of us bought overlapping stuff. One bottle warmer is a good thing. Three bottle warmers are too much of a good thing.
We sat there at the community center, waiting in anticipation for the call. The Blues won 2-0. The phone never rang, but the pager went off. Jon paged us instead of calling. Recognizing the number, we piled back into our cars. We were on a mission. We zoomed back to the parking lot, parked, and took our strategic positions. We saw a figure standing through the living room window as Sean walked up to the driveway. He quickly ducked for cover. The shadow disappeared. Sean crept out from his makeshift hiding place, tiptoed up the stairs and onto the porch, rang the bell, and bolted. We waited. And waited. And waited. We knew darn well they were home, because we’d just seen someone walking around in there. Besides, their Dodge Intrepid was parked in front of the house.
Sean ducked out from his hiding spot. Still no one had answered. So he slowly crept back up the stairs, knowing full well that his cover could blow at any instant. He rang the bell again and took off like a cat. Nothing. Finally the door opened. A shadow emerged. A couple of giggles came out. A couple of shhh!s followed. I noticed this was a burly, 6-foot-five shadow. Now, Bethany’s tall and all, but she’s no six-foot-five, and I think the last word I would use to describe her would be “burly.” It was Jon.
The burly shadow beckoned. We stayed down. A second shadow emerged, ever so slowly. The burly shadow beckoned again. We came out from our hiding spots.
“I kept yelling, ‘Jon, Jon, someone’s at the door!” Bethany said, laughing.
“I was hiding in the garage, listening to the doorbell ring, saying, ‘Come on, woman, get the door!'” Jon said, laughing harder.
“It’s 9:30 at night, my hair’s wet and someone’s at the door and I don’t know who it is. No way I’m answering it,” she said.
So we gathered the gifts up from the porch and handed them to them. Jon asked us to come in for a few minutes. We said no, it’s late, it’s past Bethany’s normal bedtime now. They insisted. So we came in and gathered in their kitchen. Jon whipped out the digital camera. “These pictures won’t go outside the family or the group,” he promised. He snapped a couple of shots. Someone suggested Jon sit down with Bethany and I take camera duty. It took me a minute to figure out the camera. They started opening gifts. I shot 34 pictures. “I still don’t know what this is for,” Bethany said about some of the things. One of the members of our group who has a niece and a nephew explained some of it. The three guy visitors, Sean, Wayne, and I, just nodded like we knew something. We were, after all, The Three Wise Men Bearing Gifts. Or something. Or something bearing gifts, that is.
We were in and out of there in 30 minutes. “Fastest baby shower on record,” someone said. “That’s they way they should be,” someone else said. I’ve never heard a girl say anything good about going to a baby shower. Maybe that’s because there are no guys around to liven things up with smart-aleck and clueless commentary. Or maybe that’s because they run on too long. Regardless of which is the cause, we’ve found the cure.
“We’ll have to do this again,” someone said. Then we piled into our cars and drove off into the night.