hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA


May 30, 2012

Poor Tom's Almanac: Life is chock full of surprises!

Tell me reader, is there anything more stunning — or revolting — than to walk into a room totally off guard and see your best friends and family all gathered?

Yes, it's one of life's vagaries to which we're accustomed. The element of surprise can subdue us all and send us into a delirium.

Wish I had a dollar for every time I was shocked out of my trousers, whether it was a surprise anniversary, a birthday party I didn't want, a testimonial I didn't deserve, a moment in time I didn't expect but wish to preserve forever.

There was the time — gulp — I was expecting a quiet dinner with immediate family at a local restaurant. I fussed about it, but in cases like these, the children usually win out. So off we went against my better judgment.

I walked through the door and a chorus greeted me. "Surprise!"

Okay, so it was my 50th birthday, but did people have to make a big deal out of it? Balloons and streamers bedecked the room. My chair — the hot seat — was draped in back with a balloon showing the Grim Reaper. Was this the end of the line or just the beginning?

A root canal would have been a better alternative. "Fifty is nifty," they told me. Not with me. It was that point in my life when I was beginning to look forward to a dull evening at home and not loud, clamorous parties.

Over the years, I've come to believe that the unexpected doesn't always happen. But it happens when you least suspect it. As a kid growing up, I couldn't wait to get my hands onto a box of Cracker Jacks. Not so much for the caramel corn, but more for the toy inside.

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