Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Mothers Day Surprise

Whilst in England for the Christmas holidays, Hayley – my brother Adam’s fiancée – discretely suggested the idea of me popping over to surprise my mum for Mothers’ Day in March. I thought this was a brilliant idea, and would be a great opportunity for me to get some revenge for the surprise leaving party they had organized for me in September last year.

The idea would be for me to get a flight over and make my way to my parents’ house without my mum knowing, and then to nonchalantly walk into the living room as if my being there was a normal, everyday occurrence. I knew this would be a big surprise for my mum, and was very excited at the prospect of making Mothers’ Day something special this year – it would certainly beat the normal gift of flowers or Daim bars.

The problem I had was that I didn’t have a job, and therefore had no money coming in to pay for the flights. To complicate things further, Christelle and I were about to start renting an apartment of our own in Switzerland, and would therefore be spending pretty much all of our savings on furniture and all the other things one has to pay when moving to a new place. Luckily, my brothers and sisters (including sisters-in-law) came to the rescue and paid for the flight for me. This was, after all, a group present to my mum, and it was rather fitting that all her children pitched in to ensure the surprise could go ahead as planned.

So, with the flight booked – I was to arrive on the Saturday morning, an early Mothers’ Day present – all that was left now was to decide exactly how we should give mum her surprise. Many emails were exchanged offering different ideas for the surprise, ranging from putting me in a large box like an oversized gift, to me ringing the doorbell whilst wearing some sort of disguise (Jeremy Beadle-style). Eventually we settled on a plan that we were all happy with, and began the countdown until Mothers’ Day.

When the big day finally came, I headed to Geneva airport with a childish glint in my eye, looking forward to the prospect of giving my mum one of the biggest shocks of her life (in a nice, non-heart attack-inducing kind of way). I had planned to get to the gate early to ensure I was there well in advance of the boarding, but things didn’t quite work out according to plan. After shuffling through an enormous queue at security, I checked the flight departures board and saw that the easyJet flight to London Luton would be leaving from Gate B43.

“Lovely jubbly”, I thought, as I had flown from that gate countless times before and knew exactly where to go. I left the baggage checking area and passed through passport control, then arrived at the gate, where I became profoundly confused – the flight to London Luton was nowhere to be seen. The screen above the gate said the next flight to leave would be headed to Madrid, which, although tempting, wasn’t really what I was looking for.

I hurried back down the stairs and checked the nearest departure board, only to find that my flight was now apparently leaving from gate D10 – which is at the complete opposite end of the airport, a good 15-20 minute walk away. I quickly left the gate, passed back through the passport control point, and followed the signs on the wall for gate D10, walking as fast as I could – I had no intention of missing this flight.

All of a sudden, I found myself standing in the baggage collection area. I had no idea how I had arrived there, as I was supposed to be on my way to the gate. I retraced my steps back to the sign pointing the way to my gate, only to end up next to the suitcases again. By this time I was becoming increasingly concerned at the prospect of missing my flight, and therefore destroying the surprise that we had so carefully planned. Hot, bothered and slightly frantic, I started to walk around the entire baggage collection area, looking for the magic doorway that would take me where I needed to go.

Just as I was about to reach my wits’ end, an airport employee sauntered over and asked me where I was trying to go – I didn’t know if he had been watching me for a while and laughing to himself at my struggle, but quite frankly I didn’t care, I just needed help. I told him that I needed to find gate D10 but could not see how to get there. He ushered me to a little hand baggage scanning machine off to one side, where there were no other people and no signs of life.

Confused, I popped my bag on the conveyor and Airport Savior Man scanned it through, then told me to take the nearby elevator up to the 3rd floor and keep walking straight until I found my gate. I was puzzled as I had never had to do this to get to gate D10 before, but by this time I was desperate enough to try anything – boarding was due to start in 30 minutes.

Luckily for me, Savior Man was right. I exited the elevator as instructed and found the sign shining the way to gate D10. After a very brisk walk (I was almost running – Nelly would be proud of my walking speed!), I arrived at the gate, just as they called for the passengers who had purchased Speedy Boarding to come forward. Trying to look calm, I casually strolled over to the desk, presented my boarding card and passport to the somewhat homely looking easyJet lady, and proceeded to take my seat on the plane.

An overwhelming sense of relief took over from the fear of missing the flight, and I was able to relax into my seat ready for the flight. The familiar buzz of excitement began to surface once again, and I couldn’t help smiling to myself as I imagined the look on my mum’s face as her surprise is revealed to her. Whether the other easyJet passengers thought I was some kind of nutcase for grinning like a Cheshire cat to no one but myself, I will never know.

The plane made it safely to England, and my sister Steph picked me up outside the airport. After a brief stop at ASDA in Stevenage to pick up a Mothers’ Day card and some flowers, we went back to my parents’ house in Datchworth. As part of our master plan, Hayley had taken my mum shopping in the morning to keep her out of the way while I was smuggled into the house.

So, I had time for a cup of coffee and a chat with my dad, brothers and Kelly, before we received word from Hayley that they were on their way back from the town, meaning it was time for me to hide.

Our clever plan was for me to hide in Adam and Hayley’s room while my mum came back into the house. We guessed she would then spend a few minutes putting her shopping away before settling down in the living room, where someone was supposed to offer to make a round of teas and coffees.

All the mugs would then be dished out to my family in the living room, except for my mum’s cup of tea – I would then bring this in to her as if it was nothing out of the ordinary, and wait for the shock to set in.

When my mum and Hayley finally arrived home, I had been squashed down the side of Adam and Hayley’s bed for at least 10 minutes. It was not comfortable at all, but I didn’t care as I was too excited about the impending moment of surprise. I could hear my mum’s voice as she busied herself putting things away, and the excitement inside me began to grow – I found it very hard to stop myself from laughing, knowing any sound could potentially give the game away.

I then heard Adam offer to make a round of drinks, and Hayley tried to get my mum to sit down in the living room, something that is easier said than done. I listened intently to the sounds coming from the other room, as repeated gentle suggestions to my mum were uttered, encouraging her to sit down while they sorted out the drinks.

Mum then asked everyone what they want for lunch, and I had a sudden vision of being squeezed into my little hiding place for another hour, while my family helped themselves to sandwiches and crisps. I hadn’t eaten anything that morning and so was starving at this point, meaning the prospect of listening to others happily munching away was not a very appealing one.

Fortunately for me and my stomach, I heard Adam tell my mum that he will take care of the lunch, and that she should sit down for a minute while they do the drinks. Another minute or so passed, and then came my reprieve from uncomfortable hiding – Hayley came into the room and handed me my mum’s cup of tea; it was time for the surprise.

My heart began to thump with excitement as I stood in the hallway and waited for Hayley to take her seat. Then I walked into the living room.

My mum was sitting on the floor concentrating on trying to set up the new phone she had bought for herself. She isn’t particularly interested in gadgets and electronic gizmos, so configuring a new mobile phone requires her to focus on what she was doing. That helped me to walk into the room completely unnoticed. I stood right next to my mum (who was still oblivious to my presence), lowered the cup of tea in front of her and said, “Cup of tea for you mum”, expecting her to jump up in surprise on hearing my voice.

What I got instead was a “Thank you dear”, as she took the cup of tea from me. A couple of confused seconds passed, as my mum’s brain tried to work out why the person she thought was Adam bringing her a coffee had Paul’s voice and Paul’s arm. Then she looked up at me and the realization hit her – she sprang up (after carefully placing the tea on the table) and gave me a huge hug, as tears of joy formed in her eyes.

The surprise was complete, and I don’t think it could have gone any better, especially as we all collapsed into laughter over my mum not recognizing her eldest son.

Fortunately, my dad managed to catch the moment of surprise on his mobile phone’s video camera. Unfortunately, his mobile phone’s video camera is rubbish. This is what it managed to record:

It’s a shame there isn’t any audio of the moment when mum said “Thank you dear” as she accepted a hot beverage from her surprise visitor, without realizing who he was.

The moment of surprise now finished, we spent the rest of the weekend playing the Sonic Racing game that I had bought my dad as a belated birthday present, in between popping out for a meal at the Raj Tandoori in Knebworth and enjoying the delicious “bird-in-a-bird-in-a-bird” roast lunch cooked by Adam and James.

All in all, it was a brilliant weekend. I was sad to have to leave again on the Sunday afternoon after such a brief visit, but happy in the knowledge that the surprise we had been planning since Christmas had been such a success.

On the flight back to Switzerland I was once again a smiling nutcase, this time grinning at the memory of the moment of surprise. Mission accomplished.

1 comment:

Steph said...

That was a nightmare, trying to distract Mum! I even had to get her new phone out of the box and try and distract her with that, asking her questions (and putting the SIM card in round the wrong way, while not concentrating on the phone, more on distracting Ma!!) lol Finally got her attention away from making lunch long enough for you to surprise her with a cuppa cha :)