Flamingo Surprise by
(237 Stories)

Prompted By Special Birthdays

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When I turned 50, a birthday I viewed as more depressing than special, I arrived at work to find 50 pink flamingos decorating the lawn in front of Cherry Preschool. The staff of this relatively new preschool I had founded and now directed had decided to surprise me. They had even painted a banner declaring my age. Was I really “Nifty at 50”? After some initial embarrassment that all of the parents now knew my advanced age, I leaned in to the experience and had a wonderful day.

If I live to be 90 like my parents, my children are free to surprise me. Just no flamingos this time.

Surprise birthday parties can be a mixed bag. My flamingo surprise was perfect — right on the morning of my birthday so I didn’t think people had forgotten my special day, and with no elaborate ruse at all. When I turned 40, my mother insisted on a family celebration, complete with a poster of my baby picture with the caption, “Lordy, Lordy … Laurie is Fourty.” That right, she misspelled my age. Perhaps she was wishing I was four rather than forty?

I left the infamous poster out of this photo

When my husband turned 50 at the same time as his close friend, his friend’s wife and I had the brilliant idea of making a combined surprise party for them in a private room at a restaurant. The event was on neither of their actual birthdays, so they probably thought we were not going to acknowledge this milestone. It was also challenging to pull off the surprise by telling them we were going out to dinner to celebrate their special birthdays at a local pizza place. They were confused once we arrived because there were some guests that the other one didn’t know. I remember Hank asking, “Why is Fred’s mother here?”

Double surprise

When I turned 60, I had a suspicion that planning for a surprise party was afoot. We were supposedly going to our daughter’s house for a birthday dinner, but when I came downstairs to go wearing old jeans and a casual sweater, Fred (who rarely noticed what I wore) proclaimed, “You’re wearing that?”

Nana’s 75th – a true surprise


My mother’s 80th

Some of my favorite special birthdays were for our parents. Once they hit 75, we saw them as officially old and made big parties every five years thereafter. My mother-in-law loved her surprise 75th party and lived to be 93. The family gathered to celebrate that one, which ended up being her last. Both of my parents enjoyed 90th birthday parties.

Nana’s 93rd birthday — after 90 we celebrated every year


My father’s 90th celebration


My mother’s 90th birthday


So, I guess if I live that long, my children are free to surprise me. Just no flamingos this time.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    I love your flamingo surprise, Laurie – Nifty at 50, indeed. Glad you leaned into it and enjoyed! It would appear that your family enjoys celebrating big birthdays (whether surprises or not) and I applaud that. I think we must treasure the moments we have and celebrate our events. Glad to hear that you’ve come to agree and you have all those wonderful photos with your happy parents and grandparents to support the case. Those are treasures.

  2. Marian says:

    You looked terrific at 50, Laurie, and still do. Love all the photos of these milestones. Good idea to celebrate yearly once a loved one turns 90. Each year is a cause for celebration.

  3. Dave Ventre says:

    Your family seems to have a good track record of longevity, so you’re likely to see that birthday!

  4. Thanx for the wonderful stories Laurie, about your flamingo birthday surprise and others you’ve thrown for loved ones.

    Here’s to many more – dare I say to 120!

  5. John Shutkin says:

    What a lovely rendition of these speciual birthdays, Laurie. And all enhanced by the great photos. And, yes, the flamingo birthday surprise really takes the cake (play on words intended).

    As mentioned, I hate surprises on me, but love and admire when they are pulled off imaginatively and perfectly (for someone else). Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Suzy says:

    I love the poster saying “Lordy, Lordy, Laurie is Fourty” – presumably the misspelling was to show that it was ironic? And Nifty at Fifty is great too, not to mention finding 50 flamingos on the lawn. I think you win the prize for the most creative birthday celebrations! Can’t wait to hear what you get when you turn 80!

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    Wonderful photos of happy birthdays through the years. It seems so crazy that anyone thought fifty (or thirty or “fourty” or sixty) was “old”. Ha ha. Here’s to many more, with family and friends.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      It is strange that I thought once my parents nd mother-in-law hit 70, they were pretty old. LOL indeed. But I’m glad I did because those every-five-year celebrations were quite special and I love that I haver those photos.

  8. Susan Bennet says:

    Laurie, this is charming. Looking at your 50th photo I thought, wow, does she look young! Now I see it’s all in the family. Going forward I wish you more candles than can fit on a cake! P.S. In my experience parents have more confidence in a principal/director that is “mature,” so you needn’t have worried about them knowing your big secret.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks, Susan. I’ll admit to feeling a bit embarrassed by the age reveal at the time, but now that my son, son-in-law, and daughter-in-law have crossed the 50 barrier, I still think of them as young.

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