When was the last time you were surprised? I mean, really good and surprised?
Not in a “oh-crap-I-wasn’t-supposed-to-get-my-period-until-next-week” kind of way, but in a “you’re-taking-me-on-a-long-weekend-away-tomorrow?” kind of way. (And by the way, that’s never actually happened to me, but isn’t that the very best kind of surprise you can imagine?)
I love surprises.
I always have.
I was the kid who didn’t even want to touch my Christmas presents before they were handed to me for fear I’d hear or feel something that would give them away. My mother could’ve “hidden” all my gifts in plain sight in her bedroom and I’d have avoided it like a room full of snakes. I remember one year hearing a very loud noise late at night a few days before Christmas which I quickly figured out was gum balls being poured into a glass gum ball machine (which was a gift I’d asked for). Instead of being thrilled at the thought of my lifelong dream of cramming countless sugary balls of flavorless gum into my mouth on a daily basis coming true, I was crushed that I now knew I was getting it. I tried to convince myself that surely it was something else — a jar of marbles perhaps? A new rock collection! Anything but the coveted gum balls. (It was the gum balls).
As a parent, I love surprising my kids. Through the years I’ve tried my best to find a few things that I know they’ll think are awesome that aren’t on their Christmas or birthday wish lists. Things they didn’t even know they wanted. And when I find them I get every bit as excited (if not more) at the prospect of giving it to them than they are when they actually open it.
I’ve had my share of surprises in my life. Not many, but there are a few that stand out.
When I was a freshman in high school my sister and I came downstairs on Christmas morning to find an enormous box wrapped in front of the tree that hadn’t been there the day before. Inside were plane tickets to London for a trip in which we were leaving on the next day. Our gifts that year were all sorts of fun things for our trip: a butane powered curling iron, sweet new pastel striped corduroy pants, books for the plane ride (real ones with real paper pages), and a new Member’s Only jacket — just to name a few. (Early 80’s gift giving at its finest) No matter that my mother had just gone through a divorce that crippled us financially, we were going to London, dammit!, and boy were we surprised.
Since Husband and I had been joined at the hip since my sophomore year of college (shut up) and it was no mystery to any of our friends or family that we’d eventually get married, I’m happy to say that one of the best surprises in my life was my engagement. To hear Husband tell it, I’d badgered him for several months about finally biting the bullet ever since our friends had become engaged. (I’d like to go on record as having absolutely no recollection of that and of being an extremely patient and understanding girlfriend.) Because, like I said, it really wasn’t a question of if we’d get married, but when, and because we’d I’d planned practically every aspect of our future lives together, it was a happy surprise to be blindsided when he finally actually proposed. We’d gone up to a small, cabin-like resort in the mountains of Arizona (check your maps, they’re there) for his birthday and had taken a hike. On the way back we stopped at a big rock waterfall on the creek and he pulled the ring out of his pocket and said a very beautiful thing (that shall remain between me and him) and I can remember looking at it and thinking, “But when did you get this without me?” Turns out he’d not only found the time to shop for and purchase the ring, but design it as well. And it had been in our apartment for like two weeks. Hoodwinked! Happily.
When Thing 2 was about six weeks old I stumbled, bleary eyed, into her room at about 5 a.m. one morning when she started shrieking to find a velvet box situated in her bassinet right above her head. My sleep deprived mind immediately thought it was a tarantula or object of extreme danger (because tarantulas are square and velvet boxes kill) and I started screaming for my husband.
Diamond solitaire necklace. My baby present. Surprise.
Sometimes surprises don’t have to be expensive trips or fine jewelry, though. One of the best surprises I can remember is another Christmas morning, this one only a few years ago. Husband and I had been to Napa a few months before and I’d seen some wrought iron votive candle holders in a winery that I’d just fallen in love with. They weren’t for sale, and if I’d had a big enough bag with me I very well might have risked doing hard time in Napa for them (because there are a lot worse places to do hard time). On Christmas morning I opened a box to find four of the coveted candle holders, which Husband had found from the artist via the winery. Not a grand gesture of a surprise, but one that was so thoughtful it brought me to tears.
But now I’m older, and I fear that getting older means fewer surprises. Oh, I know it shouldn’t have to mean that, but think about it. How many of you, like me, just end up buying your own birthday, Christmas or anniversary gifts? We know of something we want, and it’s easier to just cut out the middle man and save everyone a lot of time and get it for yourself (which I like to call efficient). We think of something we want, be it a new purse or a pair of kick-ass boots or the newest iDevice and we use the next holiday as the perfect excuse to get it for ourselves. And by the time we’re older (cough) we have a lot of things. It takes a lot more effort to pull off a surprise. I get that. I don’t necessarily like it, but I get it.
So maybe I haven’t been good and surprised in a long time, and maybe I already know what most of those wrapped boxes for me under the tree this year contain, but I’m about to wrap something for my girls that, while not an extravagant gift by any means, will make them shriek with joy when they open it. Which, to me, is pretty much every bit as exciting.
Although, if one of those boxes contained an itinerary for a weekend getaway, I’d happily eat those words.
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