My parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary while I was a senior at Milligan. Kevin was a freshman at Anderson. So both of us were out of town at the time. Throw in the end-of semester projects and preparations for finals and it looked like we were not going to be able to do anything special for my parents’ silver anniversary until sometime during Christmas break.
Appearances can be deceiving though.
With the help of Grandma and Grandpa Craig, we were able to pull of what had to be the biggest coup in Todd family history. It was definitely one for the record books and it took a whole lot of effort from a whole lot of people to pull this thing off. But they did. And it was fabulous. It’s amazing how a plan comes together. Because of all the planning and uncertainty and moving parts and potential for disaster, I believe this was the biggest surprise I was able to pull off. It was an even bigger surprise than when I proposed to Christy.
Before we go much further, I want to remind you of one very important thing: context. This was 15+ years ago. The Internet was still very young and not readily accessible. Yahoo looked like this. Google didn’t even exist. Very few people had cell phones. And if they did have them, they weren’t much smaller than Zack Morris’s.
And texting? I don’t even think we’d ever heard of such a thing.
I know. We were in the dark ages of communication technology. How did we ever get in touch with all those people in Evansville when we lived 8 and 4 hours away from everyone? Why, snail mail, of course! Grandma and Grandpa Craig printed up a bunch of invitations and we mailed them to family, friends, neighbors…anyone we thought might want to celebrate this momentous day with my parents. We may or may not have even invited the local fire department, police department, and area bridge clubs. OK, we didn’t. But let’s just agree that we invited a whole lot of people.
So after inviting almost all of Vanderburgh County, we had to use all of our creative energy to pull this thing off. I remember talking up my concern about the upcoming finals and how I was going to be spending the weekend camped out in the Library in preparation for them. Friday and Saturday were going to be nothing but study days for me. My cover had been established. Mom and dad had no idea that Christy and I were driving up to Evansville that Friday. They had no idea that Kevin, Christy, and I would be sleeping at Grandma and Grandpa Craig’s that evening.
We had recruited some family friends to take mom and dad out of town for the morning and afternoon on Saturday. Once they were on the road, they had to make a quick emergency stop. I don’t remember what the excuse was, but they had to stop so they could call to let us know that the coast was clear.
Then we broke into my parents’ house.
We grabbed whatever bags looked like they might contain gifts and gently tossed them into one of our bedrooms. Because I like to keep surprises a surprise, there was no peeking at the potential gifts. We furiously cleaned and scrubbed and cleaned as quickly as possible, hoping to make the house as spotless as possible. Grandma was worried (and rightfully so) that Mom would be mortified if she knew a bunch of people were at her house and the house wasn’t clean. That would’ve been a surprise of a completely different sort.
As we cleaned, we began preparing the food. Grandma had ordered an anniversary cake from Donut Bank, the same baker who had made their wedding cake. The wassail was simmering on the stove. And in a very short amount of time, we had my parents’ house transformed. We were ready to party like it was 1999.
We had a shuttle system established. People parked around the block or in the nearby church parking lot. We would shuttle them to the house. That way there wasn’t any chance of Mom or Dad accidentally recognizing one of the cars, which could potentially ruin the surprise. Once everyone arrived, we gathered in the Dining Room and we waited.
OK. Most of us were patient. I really wasn’t that patient. I was anxious. I couldn’t wait for the surprise to unfold.
As their friends’ car pulled up, Mom and Dad got out of the car. The tightly-packed room fell silent as they approached the front door. Because of the layout of the house’s main level, we could not see the door from the Family Room. And they could not see us. My body tensed as we heard the door open. I couldn’t believe we had actually pulled it off.
Mom and Dad were talking about something as they opened the front door. Then, mid-sentence, Mom said, “Wow. Something smells good.” She could smell the wassail as it simmered. I asked her about this later and she didn’t think anything of it at the time.
Then she turned the corner into the Dining Room. Dad trailed closely behind, still out of sight. As she rounded the corner, she saw us.
I wish I had thought to have a camera with me because the look on her face was priceless. She screamed and ran back around the corner. She whispered to Dad, “There are people in our house.” Then they both came around the corner together and they were greeted with a giant
“Surprise! Happy anniversary!”
And she didnt’ faint. I really did think Mom was going to faint. I’m sure glad she didn’t!
We had a great time with Mom and Dad, surrounded by family and friends. It was a magical evening. And I still can’t believe we managed to keep the event a secret.
So the pressure’s on our kids. What are they going to be able to do for us when we celebrate our 25th? I think we’ve set the bar pretty high. Fortunately, they have a few years to get things together. They might want to start planning now so there isn’t any pressure a decade from now.
This post was inspired by #ThinkKit’s post-a-day in December initiative, presented by Smallbox. Today’s prompt: Don’t look….it’s a surprise! Yes, I deviated from the prompt just a little bit. But that’s OK. This story must be told.