Friday morning, I was dead set on going to Woody’s, and no one was going to hold me up. Fridays have been, for the last few weeks or so, a time when our office staff (all whopping three of us!) get lunch together. By lunchtime on Fridays of late, we’re ready to vent a little and laugh a little.

Friday was no different. It had been a week in September (which, I’m remembering now that I’m in the midst of it, is about the equivalent to a week in May), worthy of all the groans and sighs and rolling eyes I could give it. It doesn’t help that my patience level is challenged by the frequent rib cage punches I’m getting internally, I suppose, and that I’m about as pregnant as I can be. (I feel like I’m using that as an excuse a lot lately. But I also feel like some of my rollercoaster reactions to things are attributable to that. If not that, then I need to say some serious prayers for St. Dymphna’s intercession, because I’m losing my mind!)

I was ready to go to Woody’s. The ladies and I piled into a car, and we headed over to Nama Gloria’s to drop off Miss Muffet for her Friday with Nama (and, of course, the Kitty of Infamous Patience, Sassy). Nama had a certain chatty look about her as she rocked on her dreamy porch under the shade of the front tree. I braced myself for a quick departure – I was HUNGRY and I wanted some barbeque pork in the worst way.

“Hey girls, come on in. I have a little project to show you on the back porch.” Ever the crafty person, Gloria is the sort of person I could just spend all day visiting with. I thought about just inviting her along to Woody’s as we walked through her house.

As she opened the screen door to her deck, she said, “Well, I guess we can all keep a secret,” and something like 23 women yelled “SURPRISE!” and I could only think, “Great, NOW it’s going to be a while before we get to Woody’s” and then, immediately after, “How thoughtful to have a party for the girls.” Our office staff deserves a party. I was really saluting this bunch of women for their thoughtfulness.

Then Gloria did the strangest thing. She pinned something on my shirt. As I looked down, I realized that this was a party for me. ME? Hmm, that seemed odd. Then the overwhelming pink theme struck me and I realized, no sooner than three minutes after hearing the word “SURPRISE!” from the lips of all those women, that this was a baby shower for me.

And I felt the tears start. Luckily for my pride, they didn’t get far, because I caught my mother-in-law’s eye and had to start laughing. You see, my mother-in-law is notorious in our family for not keeping a secret. Except she can. You just have to specify that she can’t tell anyone. She might burst, but she can keep a secret. She can even talk to all the people around you, your husband and your sisters-in-law and your friends at work, and never let on that she’s helping with a big surprise party. She can keep a secret so well, sometimes, that you’ll walk into the party and not know it’s for you.

I could go into detail about the day, and lull you to sleep with fun stories about the kids that were there, helping me open the gifts, and the beautiful stuffed tomatoes Gloria made. I could tell you all about how her backyard is the best place in the world (aside from some places that exist only in a young girl’s memory) for a gathering of friends. I could go on and on about each guest who was there (and the ones who weren’t) and how they have touched my life with their own example of motherhood and womanhood.

But really, I kept thinking to myself how unlikely it is in my experience to have a shower for any baby past your first. You don’t usually need anything. But what I needed – though I didn’t realize it until Friday afternoon – was a big group hug, a big shot of adrenaline from women who have been there and have loved it and hated it, a big dose of “what better reason to have a party?” as a reminder of just what it means to be a culture of life. The presents were nice, sure. But the presence was what made it a day of blessings, and one that I will cherish in my memories and link always with this pregnancy and this baby.