Supporting the Arts, the Family Way

By Pepper Edmiston
Special to the Palisades News

Awhile ago, Charlie, our artist, told us he was invited to create a one-man show in Vancouver. This would be his first international exhibit and he was beyond excited. As the youngest of seven and the only child to breast-feed until he could drive, Charlie assumed we’d all travel to Canada to witness his great achievement.

It was difficult breaking the news to him that his dad and I couldn’t attend because we’d be leaving for Kenya the day after his opening. He sulked but figured his siblings would come through. However, one by one, each explained why s/he wasn’t coming. Charlie had never before realized what “undependables” his family members were.

Half a dozen of his friends and 11 (!) of girlfriend Kelsey’s family committed to coming. For weeks Charlie kept mumbling about “everybody being supportive but my own blood.” Unbeknownst to the complainer, however, from the very beginning, we decided to make the trek north to surprise him.

Other than his two oldest brothers—Jon celebrating his anniversary and David beaming from above—13 family members were on board.

The Edmiston family surprised Charlie (center, in teal shirt) in Vancouver, Canada, for his first international art exhibit.

It was worth seeing Charlie’s continual pout knowing that we would witness his wonderful, dimpled smile when we jumped out of a cake, or whatever we were doing to prove what a devoted family we were.

Charlie worked like a madman, coming up with an entirely new oeuvre. From the time he was a graffiti artist/juvenile delinquent, he spray-painted everything that didn’t move.

But, for his maiden solo effort, he created depth. Charlie made brightly colored shapes out of assorted materials, which he assembled like puzzles. It took many 60-hour weeks, but by show time, Charlie was ready to go with 12 standout pieces.

Not trusting the U.S. or Canadian mail, nor FedEx, nor customs, nor some guy willing to drive a U-Haul to Vancouver for a thousand bucks and some weed, Charlie decided to drive himself.

His loyal, but misguided friend, Brendan, accompanied him. Brendan is a gun-toting, Trump-admiring, Republican imbecile, but otherwise just a darling guy. The boys drove three long days to get to Vancouver, and, with art and political positions intact, showed up on time.

We flew up the same day Charlie arrived. He called me from the road twice: first, to let me know that he’d made it to Vancouver! I wanted to say, ‘Yeah, well, we beat you,” but didn’t.

The second call was about, duh, money. I’m sure Charlie expected quiet on my end of the line, picturing me prone on my usual perch in my fluffy bed. However, I was in a noisy, hip Vancouver restaurant.

Quick as a wink, I said the power went out at Ralphs and they were giving away free ice cream. Charlie bought what mommy said as the baby of the family always does. So, there we were! But, how to surprise our artist?

For weeks, we had discussed the possibilities. Here are some of the ideas, minus identities. I’m no longer exploiting my kids for a cheap laugh, so you can figure out who thought up what:

1. All of us, including Charlie, had rooms on the 14th floor of the hotel. Once Charlie and Kelsey entered the elevator, each of us would be on a different floor and jump in and yell “surprise!” But, too much energy and coordination was required.

2. When Charlie was in the hotel restroom, all of his male relatives would hide in different stalls and jump out and yell “surprise!” But, what about the girls?

3. When Charlie was at the gallery, we would pay a local to say he was a hologram artist and had a gift for Charlie. Then, we’d enter in slow motion, walk around and leave. Seriously?

No plan seemed right. Before we knew it, Charlie picked Kelsey up from the airport and, according to her text, was 30 minutes away.

Still without a plan, we crowded into Susan’s room, which was adjacent to Charlie’s. We “shushed” two-year-old Caroline 300 times. We threatened eight-year-old Gabriel 400 times.

Matt was the lookout, giving us assorted signals which were to indicate bell boy, room service guy, CHARLIE, etc. But, nobody understood Matt’s signs and we were getting semi-hysterical.

Finally, in the nick of time, a group effort yielded the plan that we carried out: Charlie and Kelsey entered their room and closed the door. Gabriel climbed into a crib and covered himself with a blanket up to his nose. Will pushed the crib in front of Charlie’s door, knocked loudly and rushed back into Susan’s room.

Charlie opened the door to find what he thought was an abandoned baby. He yelled, “What the hell!” Then, Gabriel stood up and Will came out of the room, saying “Hi, Bro!” Charlie went crazy and the three Edmistons went into Charlie’s room, shutting the door behind them.

Will said, “Let’s call mom, she paid for our tickets.” I answered the phone and Charlie thanked me and told me about the crib. As I was saying, “That’s stupid,” I knocked on his door.

While on the phone with me, Charlie opened it. The biggest smile ever! The deepest dimples ever! The warmest hug ever! I came in and closed the door.

Two minutes later, Susan, carrying baby Caroline, knocked on the door. Charlie was in shock. None of us had ever seen him so happy. And, so it went. Wait. Knock. Enter. OMG! Another relative!

We will never know why we put Gabriel in a crib as the first responder, but it all worked out perfectly. Everyone was thinking, “What a great family!” Especially, Charlie.

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