The Biggest Surprise Of My Life

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A week before my sixtieth birthday, my daughter said the family would like to celebrate my birthday late, after my trip, because of “technical difficulties.” “Oh, sure,” I agreed, but I was thinking to myself that “technical difficulties” meant whatever gift they ordered online wasn’t going to arrive in time.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

As my sixtieth birthday (which was this past April) approached, I decided it was time to start doing the things I had planned to do “one of these days.” And one of the things I had never done was visit my brother John and his family, who live in Hawaii. Hawaii in April–I liked the sound of that–and so did my sister Marianne, who had also never been there.

Marianne Hardy and Kathy Purdy in Hawaii

And while we spent the week in Hawaii, I imagined my grown children impatiently waiting for their “technical difficulties” to be resolved.

I could not have been more wrong.

The afternoon after I returned home, I found this cryptic message on my desk:

first clue of birthday treasure hunt

I could tell my birthday celebration was beginning, but I had no idea what was next.

Shortly afterward, I heard a beep-beep, beep-beep while at the same time a message popped up on my computer screen asking Where is that noise coming from? I tracked the beeping to a digital stopwatch underneath my desk, with the second clue attached. Kudos to my son Arlan for such a clever treasure hunt!

finding a clue in the birthday treasure hunt

Some of the clues were outside, and some were inside.

eggshell clue for birthday treasure hunt

One clue was even inside a blown-out eggshell, hidden in the carton in the refrigerator with the rest of the eggs.

mossy path leading to the treasure of the birthday treasure hunt

The next-to-last clue encouraged me to break the “rule” about no clues further than the mailbox, and led me down this mossy path…

balloon with last clue of birthday treasure hunt

…until I found a chilled and shrunken balloon marking a sign which read “Look around you, gaze far and wide, you can see your last clue from here.”

first view of garden shelter from the birthday treasure hunt

I turned my head to the left, looked up the hill, and saw–well, we call it the garden shelter.

I was never more surprised in my life.

Kathy Purdy seeing her birthday garden shelter for the first time

I was astonished…dumbfounded…

Kathy Purdy sitting in her birthday garden shelter for the first time

…completely and utterly gobsmacked!

Having fun with my new toy

I later learned our family friends Nicole and Derrick had proposed building a garden shelter based on an image in one of my Pinterest boards. Derrick and several of my children had built the garden shelter while I was away. The garden shelter was built in an area of our property (which I have dubbed the Wild Apple Woods) where I had spent the past winter making trails. But the trails never seemed to have a purpose or a destination–now they did!

garden shelter in May

By May, I had changed some of the furnishings.

wicker hanging baskets in the garden shelter

The gorgeous hanging baskets that adorned the shelter when I first saw it needed more sun than the woodsy location provided, and I eventually replaced them with some semi-trailing begonias.

finished garden shelter in August

Since then, my shelter has looked like this.

It was the perfect place to listen to the peepers this spring. That was probably the last time I sat in it for any length of time. I do sit on that bench–while I’m contemplating which branches in my gaze need to be removed in order to improve the view. I’ve also been busy transplanting spring ephemerals from Fern Alley to spots that can be viewed while walking to the shelter or sitting on its bench. Soon I’ll be planting ‘Pagoda’ trout lilies along that mossy path. And I want to find a vine to climb up the back. Any suggestions?

My heart is full

Always when I visit, I’m reminded of the family and friends who love me so much, and who went to such great lengths to give me the biggest surprise of my life.

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