Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lessons learned from arranging a surprise for someone else

For Christmas, this year, on a whim, I discovered I could travel to the UK to spend the holiday with my parents. We had already agreed that we'd spend Christmas on different continents and that-was-that, so when I found out I could get the ticket to London, I didn't feel the need to inform them of my changed plans. It's a rare treat that such a surprise offers itself so conveniently.

I really didn't put much effort at all into planning the trip which lasted just under four days including travel time. But there was some temptation to soupe up the surprise, add some flair, some extra special moments. I wondered if it would be possible to connive a way to get them to a restaurant in central London where I could be waiting for them. Or perhaps ask my co-conspirator friends to create a diversion that landed them at the train station at the exact same time as I'd be coming off the train. But it was so easy to just make my own way to their house at a time I'd knew they'd be there (because my mother had already shared with me her plans for the holiday weekend, broken down by activity). So that is what I did. Nonetheless, with as little planning as I'd invested, the experience still taught me a thing or two:

- Simpler really is often the best. No tricks or games, just the surprise itself. My mother told the story of my arrival on her doorstep about a dozen times in the three days I was with her. I didn't really need to do any more than that.

- To surprise someone you need to know what they want. To surprise them with your own presence, it sure helps a lot to be absolutely confident of their love. This only really worked because I know my parents love me and are always happy to see me.

- Likewise, it helps to know them well. I could be confident that when my mother said she was serving dinner at 8 p.m. on Friday evening that meant the family would be home on Friday evening, barring a serious emergency. I know I can depend on them that way. (unlike myself – if anyone wants to surprise me, I will certainly be a moving target)

- My mother always says that she dislikes surprises, so I was worried she'd be upset I didn't let her know. But she didn't seem to mind. In fact, having the story to tell seemed compensate nicely for the preparation she normally would have done for my arrival. I don't think I like surprises either, but who knows maybe I actually do

- To get the ticket I used frequent flyer miles and with the miles I had to return business class. There's something about being treated as the elite, a smaller group of people with a curtain binding us together and separating us from everyone else, and knowing that we're the elite... that just added a bit of confidence and spring to my steps yesterday as I dealt with security, immigration and other officers paid to stall us.

1 comment:

Lisa notes... said...

As a mother myself, I have to say this was probably the BEST gift you could have ever given your mom for Christmas. Your presence. My 21-yr-old just left this morning after being here since Friday, and I loved having her home for this many days.

I always say I don't really like surprises either; I enjoy the anticipation of the gift sometimes as much as the gift itself. But in your case, I think surprise was a great idea. Glad you pulled it off. It will be a fun memory in your family from now on.

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