I decided to attend my mother's birthday dinner - as a surprise. She lives near Brisbane and I live in Sydney, approximately 900 kilometres between us. It wasn't a special birthday so it wasn't on her radar that I would be attending. All the better to surprise her with.
In collusion with my step-father, I booked the plane ticket. We both found it difficult to not blurt it out that I was coming to the dinner, he especially since he lived with her and knew how much she was going to enjoy having me there. That created a buzz and excitement for us over the next two months.
Then it also meant, a weekend, well one night and a day away from the family. At the airport, I found the long queues for security, waiting at the gate to board, and then a plane ride for an hour and half by myself, pure luxury. I was carrying a completely gripping novel, The Sorrows of an American by Suri Hustvedt and it meant more reading time. Something I rarely did uninterrupted unless I was on the toilet. When the plane was delayed by fifteen minutes, and the other passengers groaned with impatience, I grinned with the deliciousness of more reading.
I had planned a morning with a friend M. She picked me up from the airport and we sped towards good coffee and good gossip, shopping, gifts and more food. There was excitement just from having a fly-in visit with an old friend.
My sister then picked me up and took me back to her spacious, quiet home. More bliss. An air-conditioned room with a double bed, films and fast cars - driven by her boyfriend.
Then came the moment of surprise. My sister and her boyfriend walked into the restaurant where my mother was already seated with her husband and a good friend. They handed over their gifts and then quickly texted me. I was clandestinely concealed in the back of my sister's sports car, waiting for the signal. Like a regular pro for the Bond movies, I disengaged myself from the secure position and entered the restaurant. I approached their table and stood in front of my mother. She was still unaware of my presence. I said, "I've come to say Happy Birthday in person!"
My mother looked up, and for a moment there was confusion, and then complete joy and surprise. "Jedda! What are you doing here?" She stood up and hugged me, a huge smile across her beautiful face.
My step-father grinned ferociously. He had been keeping this secret for too long and he was glad to finally have it revealed.
The meal was good, the dessert was better. It was three hours we would all remember. Not everyone likes surprises and I'm one of them. I had experienced some trepidation over whether my mother was in my category or the category that completely feel loved by surprises. My mother, I was glad to find out, was in the latter.
To top it off, I slept in, read for an hour in bed, and felt like I'd been away for a week. Though I would prefer not to receive surprises, the zest I felt in delivering one, meant I would always be happy giving them.