Aren't surprises just the best? I knew ages ago that I wanted to keep my return date a secret so that I could surprise my friends and family, but when two different people told me they'd had dreams that I showed up unannounced on their doorstep, it was basically a done deal.
My parents live pretty close to the airport, so I knew it would be easy enough to get a taxi there. Of course, my biggest worry was that I'd get there and they would have picked this week as one of the ones to work remotely from their other house. And, in fact, that's exactly what happened. Luckily, I had a backup plan. Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself. . .
I got to my parents' house and it looked awfully dark. I took a shot at ringing the doorbell anyway, but when the dogs didn't start barking, I knew for sure that they weren't home. I went to let myself in through the garage and, oops!, they'd gotten a new garage door opener AND a new code for it while I was gone. So it was 9:30pm on a Tuesday night, the taxi had just left, I didn't have a cellphone, OR keys. What the heck was I gonna do? I saw that the neighbor's light was on, so I headed over there to ask if he happened to have a spare key. The poor guy had been watching television in his underwear and wasn't exactly expecting the daughter of his neighbors (who he's never officially met) to show up on his doorstep. :-) Once inside, I was fortunate to find that my parents have been keeping my car keys in a logical place, so I grabbed them and headed straight back out to go to my sister's house.
I knew that with three kids and a deployed husband, there was no possible place my sister could be at 10:30 on a Tuesday night other than at home. But as I got closer and closer, a fear crept in that maybe she and the kids were in West Virginia with my parents. What would I do then?! She was home, though, so I didn't really have anything to worry about. Her dog started to bark as soon as he heard me at the door, Amy looked through the peephole, and slooowly opened the door. She told me later that she knew there was a person on the porch, but it wasn't registering who it was. Once the door was open, she started squealing (couldn't wake the kids or neighborhood by yelling!) and asking what I was doing there. She was very surprised and I'm pretty sure I saw her eyes welling up. ;-) We spent a few hours catching up and I went to bed knowing that I'd get to surprise my niece and nephews the next morning.
The kids were sleepy for their surprise. They kind of looked at me and blinked a few times like, "Huh? What's Aunt Shannon doing here?" But in no time at all they were climbing all over me and asking questions and telling stories. It was like I hadn't even left at all. The best, though, was when it was time for them to go to daycare and my three year old nephew, with all seriousness said to me, "Aunt Shannon, you STAY here, ok? Stay here." It was as if he thought I was going to disappear again and he wouldn't see me for a long time. So sweet.
Next up on my surprise list was my grandmother. She wasn't at home when I got to her house and that was when I seriously started to reconsider the whole concept of showing up unannounced. Good for me, though, she showed up literally just a minute later. As she was backing into her parking space, she glanced over and saw my car. I drive a Smart car and they're not very common, so I know she was thinking hey, I know that car. She kept staring at the car and at me as she continued to park until finally I saw the lightbulb go off in her head as she realized it was me in the car. No sooner had she put the car in park, Grandma was all but out of the car and running my way. She was asking me when did I get home and what I was doing home so soon and did my father know? I spent a few hours with Grandma catching up and gabbing before I had to head to my second surprise spot of the day.
I've known my best friend Laura for almost ten years and I knew I could expect a good reaction out of her. She didn't disappoint. :-) Her husband answered the door because she was in the other room with the baby. We were chatting as we walked in, but Laura didn't hear a thing. He asked her to come into the kitchen because he wanted to show her something and she answered him in an exasperated kind of way as she came into the room with one-year-old Ruby. Ruby was walking in front of her and Laura was looking down. When she looked up and saw I was standing there, she literally jumped over her baby and came running over to me, screaming. Many hours later, we were somewhat caught up, but still have heaps to talk about, as it usually is with old friends.
Finally, the big surprise. My sister had found out that my parents were intending on returning home on Saturday night or Sunday morning, so I figured I'd stay at their house Saturday night and just wait for them. I wanted to get their reaction on video and was keeping an ear out to hear the garage door open. But. . .I didn't hear it, it's SO quiet! So they ended up surprising me almost as much as I surprised them. :-) Kathy came in first, wondering why Eric (my brother who doesn't live at home anymore) would be there watching tv. She looked pretty surprised and wanted to make sure that Dad was just as surprised so she may have spoken to him a bit gruffly, lol, as he was unpacking the truck in the garage. Dad was so shocked that his eyes may have started to leak a little. I had started to worry that maybe they were picking up on my clues, but they really had no idea. They really thought I was still in New Zealand! We spent the next four hours or so talking. I told them all about how I'd planned to trick them and they told me what a brat I was. :-D Our first night all together and we were already hanging out around the kitchen island!
The surprises are all done now, now it's more about catching up with people and letting them know that I'm back. That will be just as much fun, though.