This year my mom turned 70.
I really wanted her to feel special and loved.
I wanted the memory of the celebration to meaningful as well.
I didn't want us all to be somewhere so that the memory was "remember that time we all went to X?"
So, I figured that doing something in her new home town would be the best way to accomplish all goals.
At first I thought a dance party would be fun. My mom loves to dance. After consulting with her partner, we decided that had too much risk of failure.
We figured that a visit from her favorite kids doing her favorite activities would be the best celebration ever.
My mom spent most of her life teaching and mentoring people. She always talks fondly of the memories of people who have come through her life when they get in touch with her many years later and talk about the affect she had. I have always wanted to collect those memories for her, and I figured 70 was a good birthday to target. Early in the summer, she came to visit me, and was having a hard time with all of her online passwords. We sorted it out, and in the process I got access to her email address. I exported all of her contact's email addresses as part of the plan.
I sent an email to everyone on the list saying "you may be her doctor, or the bank, but if you are not, please would you send me a note about how you remember my mother."
I figured that in this busy life, if people forgot, I would just not talk about this "present".
I got SO many notes, that I had to go back to the craft store 3 times to get more pages and parts for the book.
This surprise was actually spoiled, because one of my mom's cousins forwarded my email to her saying "how exciting, happy birthday!"
The surprise visit celebration was nearly spoiled too.
A couple months before her birthday, my mom started talking to me and my brother about how much she wanted to spend her birthday with us.
Neither of us really knew how to lie to her, so I decided to throw her off by sending her a card inviting her to a surprise. I used an online card company, and made up a return address.
This didn't work either because my mom saw the black card cover, and threw it away... twice...
both times her partner fished it out of the trash. The second time, he told her to read it!
now she wanted to know if I sent it... I said: if someone sends you an invite to a surprise celebration, there kinda isn't any surprise if they admit to it!
she read this as - it wasn't me.
Then, my brother blew the surprise. He told her we were going to visit.
But he didn't tell her when.
She spent the weekend before her birthday expecting us to show up everywhere she went.
We didn't. She must have forgotten that the card included dates.
The plan was for me and my partner, my brother, and a very close friend of my mom's and her partner to all show up at the house at 5pm on Sunday.
Our flights from VA were scheduled to get us to AZ by 11am.
I figured this was time for my brother and I to do some last minute present shopping, check in to the hotel, and show up at her door.
Well - United Airlines was against this plan, and at 11pm the night before our (6am flight) we got a phone call telling us that our connection from Houston to Tucson was canceled. We'd been rescheduled on a flight to Phoenix with a connection to Tucson that got us in at 5:30pm.
All day we worked our way across the country (after getting up at 3pm, mind you), to finally arrive in Phoenix to the news that our flight was delayed an hour. Our new Tucson arrival time was 6:30pm.
Now I know what it means when people say "It's not a problem if it can be solved by money".
A trip to National and we were driving ourselves to my mom's.
Scheduled arrival time 4:30pm.
We all congregated outside of the house, my mom's partner going in and out to try and wake her up from a nap. We rang the doorbell, waiting, heard her telling him to get the door. So we just went into the bedroom!
This was the best way to make this surprise happen because she was not expecting it at all!
We all went into the living room and had tea and chats.
Since my mom knew we were coming, she had cooked up a storm! We ate every meal at the house because there was so much delicious food. The first night was meat and chicken Cornish Pasties, the second was curry and rice, and we all loved the Pasties so much we made them again on the last night with the lamb stew as filling.
During the first day we went up to Madera Canyon for a BBQ.
After buying a bunch of meat and some eggplant at the store, we caravaned to a cool high-altitude picnic spot.
Celebrating with Family
The next day, I gave my mom the book. She was very moved. I think she has been collecting more memories since I gave it to her.
On the last day, we went to Tubac and had lunch, walked around, and acted silly.
Making more Pasties:
All in all, the whole surprise was a success! I'm grateful to the peeps who helped me make it happen, and give my mom some great memories in celebration of her 70th Birthday!