As I am now earning a monthly salary I decided to make the most of it by buying flights to Calgary in March 2018. When my parents returned to Canada after spending Christmas in the UK in 2017, I felt extremely anxious that I did not have a date in the diary to see them again. We knew we would be spending the following Christmas together in Calgary but eleven months was too far away.
In the few weeks before my flight was due to take off, I did find it increasingly difficult to keep it a secret from my parents as I speak to my mother almost every day. When the day arrived, I had it the flight/timings all thought out. I arrived at London Gatwick on the morning of Friday 23rd March. I planned to use my stopover in Toronto as a tactical opportunity to message mum as if I was spending my Friday evening out with friends. (That’s the only problem with Whatsapp, folks. My dear mother checks the messages she sends to Harry and me to be reassured that we are okay/at least alive… I receive many messages if mine doesn’t double tick or go blue…) In Toronto Pearson Airport, I sent an excuse about why I may be AWOL for a few hours… essentially blaming it on drinking too much so texting would be difficult… 🙂
Upon arrival in Calgary at 8pm the same Friday evening, I caught an uber to my house. I asked the driver to drop me a few houses down, I think he was a little worried dropping me off on a dark street – there aren’t many street lights there! – despite being in a built-up area. Anyway, at this point, I realised I hadn’t completely thought through how I was going to surprise them. Of course, being me, I didn’t want to do the obvious and easy action of knocking on the front door. I quickly tried to think of how I could I send a message or something but I knew that Harry wasn’t home and wanted to keep the two surprises separate.
So. I settled on leaving my big suitcase outside the front of the house but out of sight from passers-by. I ran around to the side road where all the garages run down the backs of the houses and started to feel the minus temperatures turning me into a block of ice. I found the back gate frozen in its place by ice and snow.
What would a normal person do? Probably walk back to the front door and follow Plan A.
What do I choose to do? Fuelled by a combination of adrenaline and jetlag, I scaled the gate and landed in 1ft+ deep snow. My ankle boots immediately filled with snow and I can tell you now… it was lucky for my surprise that I didn’t squeal.
By this point I had been awake for almost 24 hours, had no creative inspiration left, so went up to the back door and knocked. Coincidentally, at this point, my parents were watching a movie in which one of the actors knocked on a door/window so they thought my knock was coming from the TV. I am now really cold. I knock again and eventually, my Dad hesitantly pulls back the door that separates the house from the back utility to find me stood there shivering. I wish I had taken a picture of his face as he looked at me in utter disbelief but my hands were not willing to hold my phone up in the cold. After shouting “well, let me in then!” he kindly does. My mum is stood with her hands in her hair repeating “what the [insert explicative here]???” Due to my choice of an entrance, they both were rather freaked out that I had used the back door as no-one has ever done that. Also, I guess it inspires thoughts of burglars and other scary things on a dark wintry night… whoops!
It just felt so good to be home.
Two down, one to go.
The next day Mum and Dad had planned to pick up Harry from his University accommodation as it was his birthday the next day and he had washing needed doing (#studentlife). They pulled up to the back entrance of the building, I got out of the truck, hid behind the large green dumpster, and we heard him come out of the building. My brother is a man of routine. My parents knew he would sit on the right-hand side of the car after putting his washing basket on the left-hand side. Once I had heard the right number of doors close, I scurried out from behind the dumpster, opened the car door… and you can see the rest from the video my Mum somehow filmed.
It was the first birthday we had spent together as a family in five years and was well overdue. The theme has continued this year with both my Dad and brother trying to surprise me at different points. Harry did well, but my Dad does get the prize so far.
I gotta say… I am rather difficult to surprise but I am so good at surprises.
I really believe that one should never underestimate the power of a surprise, even if it’s a few people gathering unexpectedly for an event or occasion.