Thursday, November 27, 2008

We Are Not Navy SEALs: A Thanksgiving Story

Late last Thursday night I got a call from my sister Amy. Amy, who has posted here before, lives in Australia with her husband and two kids. There was much glumness in the family, because they weren’t going to be able to come to the States for Christmas. My mom had been giving me weekly reports on the degree of wistfulness she detected in Amy’s voice when the holidays were discussed. And her own voice was growing more wistful by the day.

Amy told me that she had a plan. A plan so crazy, she said, that it might actually work. If she booked a last minute ticket to Atlanta, could I pick her up Monday night, and spirit her up to the mountain house to surprise Mom and Dad for Thanksgiving? Um, yes, I thought I could do that. Her adoring husband agreed to hold down the fort there and give her a solo getaway, so the only trick was keeping the secret from Mom and Dad. This is easier said than done. Our mother is nearly psychic, especially about things having to do with her kids. I decided that the best plan was to speak to her as little as possible. The woman notices precise shades of tone of voice, choice of words, and what is said or left unsaid. I am accused, in the family, of having broken the news of Amy’s pregnancy by asking mom, “Have you talked to Amy lately?” So I just went into radio silence. My brother, who was in on the secret, declared that we would only refer to Amy, even between ourselves, as The Package. As in, “I’m on my way to retrieve The Package”, or “The Package’s hair looks really cute.”

So Monday night I picked up The Package. I was afraid that I would be unable to restrain myself from blogging about it. I hated keeping the secret from you, Internets! And indeed, on Monday night, Amy had to turn off her Facebook wall, because her friends in Sydney were posting things like, “Was your mom surprised?” and our mom is on Facebook. She’s hip like that. So we were plugging leaks right and left, worrying that our covert op would get blown wide open.

Tuesday, Amy helped host Pre-Thanksgiving with Matt’s family, then Wednesday afternoon we headed up to North Carolina. We had exhaustively discussed among ourselves the best way to go about the big reveal. We didn’t have a cake she could jump out of, so we were left with deciding how to configure the main elements: Amy, our minivan, the mountain house, Mom and Dad, and time and space. The simple way would have been to have her in the back of the van with the kids, and when Mom and Dad came out to open the doors to greet the kids, there she would be. Surprise! My brother Dave was more in favor of the Gradual Surprise, where Amy was let out of the car before we arrived at the house, and would walk up the road after we were in. They would either see her from a distance, thus prolonging the pleasure of realizing it was she, or she would come up to the house and let herself in. I hoped that in this scenario, neither of my parents would have a cardiac arrest.

I was driving the van, and when we got up on the mountain road to the house, I was amazed at how bare the trees were. All of the leaves were gone, and we could see Dad on the deck (and he could see us, I think) from really far away. We were reaching the critical decision-making point, where Amy would either have to deploy or abort mission. Dad was walking around the house, ready to greet us, but I stopped the car where I thought there were enough tree trunks between us to obscure the car a little. Amy got into position, and I yelled, “Go! Go! Dive!” while she rolled out the door and ran around behind the car. I took off again in a spray of gravel while Amy pulled up her hood and crouched behind a tree. Did I mention that she is 14 weeks pregnant? Take that, Delta Force.

So I pulled up in front of the house and we all acted as naturally as we could while being greeted. Which was not working because I did not feel natural. I don’t think I will win any Oscars for playing myself. Inside, Mom followed Hank to his train table in another room, while Dad went back out onto the deck to check his rotisserie meat situation. I decided to go back out to the van to get my camera, and when I did, I could see Amy jogging towards the house. I ducked back inside and tried unsuccessfully to get everyone in the same room. The front door opened and Amy peeked in. When she saw me standing there alone, she closed the door again. So I started, in a so very natural manner, to say, “Hey Mom, come look at this!” I gestured vaguely in the air. “Hey Dad, come in here!” More gesturing.

Finally Amy opened the door again and walked in saying, “Boy, it’s cold out there.” I have never seen anyone more surprised than my Mom. She said later that she thought she was hallucinating, and she actually had her mouth hanging open. The way people look in comic strips when they are really surprised? That’s how she looked. Then Dad came in and made the same face. Then there was much hugging and kissing. We just finished eating dinner. Today is Mom and Dad’s 40th wedding anniversary, and we are all together, and we are very thankful for that and for many things.

Tonight there will be karaoke and hot tubbing, though sadly, not at the same time. I hope you and yours are having a wonderful day.


the gazelle said...

that is an awesome story! I am very impressed with everyone's secret keeping skills.

Also, I would someday like to karaoke & hottub at the same time.

Cassie said...

I don't know... rolling out of cars in the woods at night sounds awfully SEALish to me.

What a great surprise. Glad you were able to pull it off!

Hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Cassidy said...

That is a great story!

Bren said...

I think anyone would be delighted to have Amy make a surprise visit to their mountain house. I loved imagining your parents' faces.

Anonymous said...

That is a wonderful story. Your parents will remember that forever and probably repeat it to everyone they know!

The Stiletto Mom said...

That is awesome...and your mom sounds really cool as well. Gotta hate it when they know EVERYTHING.

David said...

One of your best posts yet. How exciting that Amy made it for the holiday! Tell her -- and the rest of the clan -- "hi and Happy Thanksgiving" for me!