Travel Surprises Are The Best Kind

I told the punchline before the plot again. Whoops.

I forgot to tell you all about the actual act of surprising my family when I came home from Bali for RaeRae’s pageant. First of all, the only family member who knew I was coming home was my brother. I know I can trust him to keep quiet because he doesn’t really listen to anything I say anyhow.

I booked my flight way back in early February, so I had to keep the secret for well over a month – not an easy feat when I Skype with the family so frequently. I had to pretend to be gutted about missing the pageant. I had to ask lots of questions about hair and makeup but stop myself before saying, “Oh, I’ll just help with that when I get there.” It was super tricky.

Then, as I mentioned, I had to fly an ungodly long miserable route from Bali to Singapore to China to NYC to get home, without Tweeting or Facebooking, spending two full days with friends in the city and somehow getting them to keep quiet online as well. It’s a miracle no one in my family suspected a thing.

The day I was to fly from JFK-ATL-JAX, I called my grandma in Jacksonville to let her in on the surprise and recruit her to help me pull it off.

ME – Hey Monga. What are you doing?
Monga – Why are you calling me at midnight?
Me – It’s not midnight where I am.
Monga – Yes, it is! I just looked at the Indonesia clock.
Me – Hehehe, I’m not in Indonesia. (Meanwhile, Lauren is sitting on the bed trying not to squeal.) I’m in New York!!!

Monga agreed to pick me up at the airport that night and drop me off at home bright and early Sunday morning when I knew Mom, Dad & RaeRae would all be milling about getting ready for church.

It seems like air travel always has a way of delaying plans when you most want to be home. First, we sat on the runway at JFK for a few hours while the mechanics tried to repair the nose of the plane or the wheel, or something. I was still pretty jetlagged, so I slept through it all. We had to deplane, then replane once they fixed it… but it was too late, I’d already missed my connection in Atlanta. I’ve slept at ATL plenty of times though, so I wasn’t even concerned. I’d just grab the first flight to JAX in the morning.

That is until, for the first time ever, I had really phenomenal travel luck. The pilot alerted us that the weather was terrible in Atlanta, so we circled the city long enough for me to watch all of SNL. A good 90 minutes later, he came on to apologize because he’d had to divert the flight. I was so bummed… it was going to take me forever to get home now. Except, he announced, we were diverting to Jacksonville! Does that ever happen?! I fist-pumped and the rest of the plane looked at me bewildered. Once I told them my story though, all the rows around me high-fived and clapped for my travel blessing. It was such a sweet moment and a very precious homecoming.

Anyhow, I ended up sleeping at an airport hotel because it was about 3 a.m. when we finally arrived at JAX. In the morning, Monga picked me up for the hourlong drive to my family’s house.

When we drove up, I ducked down in the front seat while Monga went inside to get Mom. As always, Dad was tootling around the garden, so I stayed tucked until I heard Mom’s voice… then I popped out of the car like a jack-in-the-box. “Ta-dah!” I said. Dad said, “Who the heck is that?” and the look on Mom’s face was priceless. Monga was bawling.

Mom went in to get RaeRae, who was upstairs having just woken up, and said Monga was here with a new puppy she wanted her to see. She took the bait and stumbled out of the house in her pajamas looking for a puppy. At this point I was crouched behind the car, so when she came around I jumped up, yelled surprise, and then she started bawling for a good 5 minutes. So we were all crying and hugging and RaeRae said, “I knew you’d come home!”

Was it worth $900 and the world’s longest, crappiest flight? You bet!

Have you ever traveled a long way to surprise someone? Was it worth it?

Up next… what you’re all here for. MORE TRAVEL!

5 thoughts on “Travel Surprises Are The Best Kind”

  1. AWWWW I absolutely love this story (and I’ve been waiting for months now to hear it!). What a sweet sister you are, and I know Rachel was just thrilled you came all that way for her.

    I flew home to surprise my mom for her 60th birthday two years ago, and it was similar–even though I was only flying five hours from California to Nashville and then driving an hour to my parents’ house–in that it was SO HARD to keep it quiet. Dad and I had it all planned, and we picked up a puppy for her, too (Ella’s mom, Katey), so to this day, I’m not sure which surprise she liked better: me or the puppy!

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