Mara Matilda Bitterman, known to all as Tildy, was facing her fortieth birthday. I got this from Herkimer after the fact.
"Tomorrow you will be forty!" said Herk, perhaps a bit too gleefully. He has never let her forget that he is a year younger than she is.
"I am fully aware of that, and you will keep it to yourself, if you know what's good for you."
"My lips are sealed, but Teen is bound to let it slip."
"Teen cares for nothing but himself. Totally oblivious."
So on the morning of her birthday,Tildy is sitting at the kitchen table drinking her coffee, Herk reading the newspaper. Teen comes into the room, slides a small square box across the table, bends and kisses his mother on the cheek. "Happy birthday! Love you, Mom." And with that, he's out the door, and just in time to catch the school bus.
Tildy, stunned, finally opens the box. What a lovely set of earrings! Red tear-drop pendants. A teardrop of her own trickles down her cheek.
"Yep," says Herk. "Happy birthday. I might as well give you this." And he slides a small, square box across the table to her. When she opens the box, Tildy gasps. The garnet ring she admired in the jewelry store last month! She takes the birthstone ring from the box, slips it on her finger. Sized perfectly!
Tildy jumps from her chair, throws her arms around Herkimer and gives him a long, deep kiss.
"You are an old clod, but what a wonderful old clod. I love you so much! And you still had better not tell anyone it's my birthday."
It's way too late for Herkimer to call off the surprise party he has planned for the evening.