Thursday, December 10, 2015


     I think one of the most magical parts of the holidays growing up were the surprises. That first second when, as a little kid, you ran down the stairway to see what Santa had left under the tree—that was a moment we instantly recognized as one we wanted to experience over and over. It was that moment that inspired all of us as parents to give to our own children—the thrill of the surprise. The build up of “naughty or nice,” “where is the Elf?” or whatever “conditions” have been put in place to make the child feel deserving of gifts—those were all part of the deal. 

     As I traipsed around the mall yesterday looking for “surprises” for my family, I am wondering if, when they see my gift to them under the tree, will they relive those heart-racing seconds of their youth. Will my teen-age grandsons’ faces light up when they open their UNC sweatshirts? Will my little grand-daughters in Arizona squeal when they open their “Shopkins” or their skinny jeans? I hope so. I still get excited when I see a gift under the tree for me—a gift I had not put on a “wish list,” or registered for on Amazon. When asked for a “list” of what I want, I always list several items so I will be surprised. Taking the surprise out of Christmas seems wrong somehow.

     In the past year, I have two friends (over 60) whose husbands surprised them with trips. One trip was a long week-end in Florida—nothing glamorous, but a lovely intimate getaway that I am sure made her face light up. The other was a husband who (you won’t believe this, ladies) planned a surprise birthday party on a Caribbean island complete with a dozen of their closest friends. Imagine being whisked away to a sunny beach only to arrive and see all your close friends standing there ready to celebrate your milestone with you. That husband ruined it for many men who are just trying to clean up the dishes occasionally or run to the store when she runs out of Muscle Milk. Needless to say, that husband is pretty cool in my book. Personally, I think there should be a required marriage and family course in high school that teaches young people how to surprise one another by doing something thoughtful and kind. More marriages would be thriving.

     Yesterday, as we began our two-hour trek home from the mall, I received two surprises that absolutely made my day and warmed my heart. One was a recommendation posting from a recent student I tutored. He wrote many kind things about how I helped him pass his course so he could graduate from the university. He praised specific things that I did which helped him—things I take for granted, that made a difference to him. I also received a beautiful note from my piano coach, a brilliant local concert pianist, who praised my hard work and my musical talent—and the big surprise—how she was so happy that we had become friends. The gift of words:  give me those any day. They are the best surprise, the most meaningful and the least expensive. 

     Hmm. Under whose tree can we all place some of these?

Student:  "During our tutoring sessions, she would make sure that I completely understood something before we would move on to the next topic."

Coach: "Thank you for being a part of my life. I am a lucky person to have such a delightful friend."