THE BEST BIRTH­DAY PRESENT

With her mother’s 90th birth­day com­ing up, Emily Sims wanted to sur­prise her.

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Contents - CHRISTINA PFEN­NING CRAIG

ALL KATHER­INE BATES JONES wanted for her 90th birth­day was to own her child­hood home. Her daugh­ter, Emily Sims, wasn’t so keen on the idea; it seemed un­wise for a non­a­ge­nar­ian to en­ter the real es­tate mar­ket. And, as the old say­ing goes, you can never re­ally go home again. But the mother and daugh­ter of­ten drove from their cur­rent town in South

Car­olina, US, to cruise past Kather­ine’s beloved old home in nearby Gaffney. While ad­mir­ing the charm­ing one-storey dwelling she was born in, Kather­ine would say, “I’d like to have that house back.”

One day, as Emily strolled down the doll house aisle of her lo­cal craf t store, in­spi­ra­tion struck: her mother could have her house back – in replica form. Emi ly’s f riend Thomas McAbee put her in touch with Ray Mey­ers, a lo­cal re­tired den­tist with a tal­ent for wood­work­ing. Ray paid mul­ti­ple vis­its to the orig­i­nal home, tak­ing pre­cise mea­sure­ments and com­pil­ing de­tails with the help of the house’s cur­rent own­ers.

There’s the invit­ing front ve­ran­dah where Kather­ine and her mother, Net­tie, spent hot sum­mer nights cool­ing off be­fore bed. There’s the lit­tle door to a nook be­neath the pantry win­dow in which Net­tie stored her canned green beans, toma­toes and jars of ap­ple jam. On the replica home, that door con­ceals three C bat­ter­ies that power tiny, twin­kling in­te­rior lights. Small stones line the base of the minia­ture house, echo­ing the large river rocks that Kather­ine’s un­cle once hauled up from his farm to un­der­pin the foun­da­tion of the orig­i­nal. And there’s a teeny flute on an itsy-bitsy table in the replica’s hall­way.

That flute set the sound­track for Kather­ine’s life. She was proudly play­ing it in her high school march­ing band when she met Mal­colm ‘Mack’ Jones. The two mu­si­cians got to­gether af­ter a Christ­mas pa­rade in 1942. Mack, a horn and trum­pet player, proved to be the per­fect ac­com­pa­ni­ment for Kather­ine;

Bat­ter­ies power tiny, twin­kling in­te­rior lights. Small stones line the base

the two were mar­ried on Jan­uary 1, 1946. Emily was born soon af­ter.

The replica home and the amaz­ing story be­hind it de­served an im­pres­sive un­veil­ing. Emily ar­ranged a sur­prise party at which the minia­ture and Kather­ine would be hon­oured. But keep­ing the big se­cret about the lit­tle house was a tough task.

“Ray would ask me ques­tions about the house”, Emily says of the plan­ning process. “The last time I was in­side was when I was a teenager, so I couldn’t re­mem­ber ev­ery­thing. When vis­it­ing Mother I would start a conversation where I would say, ‘Oh, by the way, do you re­mem­ber …’ and ask her some­thing about the house. She would give de­tails from her mem­ory about the colour and the lay­out. She would tell me ex­actly what some­thing looked like or where it was in the house.”

On Au­gust 28, 2016, Emily gath­ered 40 friends and fam­ily mem­bers at her house. The par­ty­go­ers waited while Emily’s daugh­ter-in-law, Christie, took Kather­ine out to lunch.

Af­ter the spe­cial birth­day meal, Christie brought Kather­ine to Emily’s house.

“When we went in­side, there was a house full of peo­ple singing ‘Happy Birth­day’ to me,” Kather­ine says. “I was just shocked.”

Kather­ine’s many friends, si­b­lings, grand­sons and great-grand­chil­dren packed the party. Emily and Thomas pre­sented Kather­ine with the care­fully wrapped replica home. It was the per­fect gift.

“I just couldn’t be­lieve it,” Kather­ine says. “Now, the replica sits in the mid­dle of my din­ing room table. I have fond mem­o­ries of that house. I have had sev­eral fam­ily din­ners where we eat around it. I can turn on the tiny lights within it. It’s so pretty.”

For Kather­ine, it turns out that it is pos­si­ble to go home again.

Emily Sims wanted to sur­prise her mother with much more than a party

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