Little Johnny sat on his tricycle deep in thought. Mother had promised him a big surprise today and no amount of coaxing could convince her to reveal the secret. He’d wandered the corridor between his play veranda and kitchen more times than he could remember trying to coax the secret out of Mom. And it had been one too many interruptions. As Mom put the finishing touches on the chocolate cake she turned and ordered him to stop pestering her and go and play until she was ready to reveal the secret.
Now Johnny knew it wasn’t his birthday and that was part of what was puzzling him. Cakes were for special occasions and chocolate cakes were for birthdays. If it wasn’t his birthday, then whose was it? He looked crestfallen. Mom never talked to him that way! Tears formed in the corner of his eyes.
Mom’s irritated look instantly evaporated as she saw the tears in his eyes. She dropped the spatula and opened her arms to receive her little boy.
“I’m sorry Johnny, I’m really busy trying to get ready and you keep interrupting me. We’ll be late for the surprise if you keep interrupting me. You don’t want to be late for the surprise do you?”
Johnny smiled as he folded into his Mom’s arms. She dried his eyes with the corner of her apron.
“I’m finished with the cake and there’s a little of the chocolate icing left in the bowl. I don’t know who to give that icing to Johnny, do you think we should give it to Jack next door?”
Johnny shook his head vigorously.
“If you want someone to eat it I could do it for you?”
Mom suppressed a smile. “Why Johnny that’s real nice of you. I’d really like you to help me by eating the left over chocolate icing!”
Johnny grabbed the spoon offered him and looked into the bowl. There was hardly any chocolate icing left in the bottom but the sides of the bowl had a thin layer the spatula was unable to pick up. Johnny quickly put the spoon on the table and grasped the bowl with both hands transferring it to a chair where he could inspect it more minutely. Then with his fingers he methodically cleaned that bowl until there was not a trace of chocolate to be seen. He reached above his head and placed the bowl neatly on the sink with other dishes for washing.
Mom couldn’t suppress her mirth anymore and broke out in a happy laugh. Johnny looked at her uncertainly.
“Look at you! You’re covered in chocolate. Don’t you know where your mouth is? Mom hugged her son affectionately.
“Come on it’s time for you to get cleaned up. We’ll be going out soon!”
Mom steered Johnny into the bathroom where she removed soiled clothes and gave him a good scrubbing down. She sang a happy song as she dried and dressed her son in clean clothes. Then deposited him in the lounge with a book and instructed him to sit still while she took her bath and then dressed.
Johnny loved to hear his Mom sing! When Granny read him books about angels singing he thought of his Mom’s singing and felt good. Soon he was lost in his picture book and forgot about the surprise.
The singing stopped as Mom appeared around the corner smelling nice and in Johnny’s favourite dress. It had bright designs. He liked to watch as Mom moved around in his special dress. The designs swished and curled as she walked.
Mom took his hand. “Come on, we’re on our way to Patsy’s home. That’s the surprise!”
It was a half mile walk to Patsy’s home down by the river. Both mothers were good friends and often met together to spend the afternoon. Johnny sometimes had to run to keep up, especially when Mom was holding his hand tightly. But progress was a little slower today as Mom carried her wicker basket in one hand with the cake inside, and held onto Johnny with the other. She’d learned quickly Johnny could easily be diverted looking for gold specks beside the road. The roads in his city had been paved with blue metal mine tailings crushed small enough to make road seal. After rains both gold and fool’s gold specks could be seen at the road edges. Johnny had quite a collection.
They arrived at Patsy’s home and were welcomed by Mrs Mahoney who hastened to turn down the latest song by the Andrews Sisters as other guests arrived behind them.
“Go and play with Patsy in the back yard dear!” Mrs Mahoney pointed to the back stairs and then turned to Mom with a puzzled expression.
“Why is he looking around the house, Patsy’s in the back yard with the other children?”
Mom giggled and told the story of Johnny’s pestering all morning as she unpacked the chocolate cake.
“He’s probably looking for the surprise.”
“Johnny, do what aunt says and go play with Patsy.”
Johnny ran down the back stairs and came to a sudden halt. The back yard was filled with girls enjoying a game while a couple of their brothers were busily engaged in a game of marbles. Johnny didn’t know any of these children. He attended a different school.
Johnny was about to return upstairs when Patsy caught sight of him.
“Here he is, this is my boyfriend!” The girls rushed over to meet Johnny chatting excitedly. Johnny looked over at the little group of boys playing marbles but was pulled into the group of girls as Patsy exhibited him proudly. He was plied with questions until the excitement wore off.
“Let’s play a game, what shall we play?” Patsy asked while pulling Johnny behind her.
There was a hurried conference while they discussed options. Finally, one of the girls quietened the rest and spoke.
“Let’s play getting married. Patsy you be the bride and Johnny can be the man.
The girls clapped their hands and one ran over to pull a complaining brother from the marble group of boys.
The newly established leader went into a huddle with her friends. Finally, she made an announcement.
“Patsy will be the bride, Johnny will be the man, and Vera’s brother here will be the second man. I’ll be the Priest. Nora you can give the man away to the bride and June you can be the brides servant. You’ll have to pretend to pick up the long dress Oriel you can be the choir to sing while the bride and her man march. The rest of you can shout out ‘I do’ after I’ve finished speaking. Don’t worry if you can’t remember I’ll tell you what to say!”
And so it was that a very embarrassed Johnny went through the ceremony and was married to Patsy. At the end of the ceremony the Priest said “You can kiss the man now!”
Patsy looked uncertain so the Priest came over and kissed Johnny on the cheek. “Do that!” she commanded.
Patsy looked at Johnny and burst into tears but the Priest insisted until Patsy brushed his cheek with her tear wet face.
The crowd of girls shouted “I do!”
The girls went into a huddle again as Johnny and Patsy stood miserably waiting for the outcome.
“The bride and her man will go on a honeymoon. It’s a holiday brides have after they’re married.”
The two of them were herded into an empty refrigerator carton and commanded to sit and have a honeymoon. Both of them stared at opposite sides of the container as they contemplated their change of circumstances. Johnny struggled with the protocol of it all.
So this was the surprise Mom had promised him. He was to be married! Did this mean Patsy was going to live with him or did he have to stay with Aunt Mahoney now? Did he have to share his tricycle with Patsy? The uncertainty of it all was very troubling.
But before he could solve all those problems Aunt Mahoney called for all of them to come into the house.
“The surprise party is to celebrate Patsy’s birthday, but because it will be on Monday when she has to go to school we thought to surprise everyone with a party on the weekend.
“Happy birthday!” shouted the children with enthusiasm as they saw a table filled with all kind of goodies. Within a few minutes the only sounds in the house were from munching and drinking.
Mom pulled Johnny away from the table and whispered she’d hidden a gift for Patsy in the wicker basket.
“Go and give it to Patsy and wish her a Happy Birthday!” She said as she gently pushed him toward the basket.
“Happy Birthday Patsy, are we really married now?”
“I don’t know Johnny you can ask the Priest.” She pointed to her friend who’d managed the whole occasion.
Johnny needed to have the matter solved so went back to his Mom and asked, “Am I married to Patsy now? Was that the surprise?”
Mom sat bolt upright in her chair and stared at Johnny. “Why do you ask that Johnny, no of course not, Patsy’s birthday was the surprise?”
So the whole story was retold. Mom assured him it was only a game and he was certainly not married. Then she beckoned her friend into a bedroom and shared the story. The children paused their eating in surprise as loud laughter issued forth from the bedroom.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2016 All rights reserved”
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