I love surprising people with gifts. I love teasing my readers with hints.
On the other side of that. I really don’t like surprises. And the only person who really gets away with teasing me is my brother. If you think I’m bad, you’ve seen nothing. He’s turned it into an art form.
We learned all of this tantalizing teasing and the joy of surprises from my parents. Dad loved creating a sense of expectation around a gift. Rather than ripping into a present, we spent time with it and the anticipation was part of the excitement.
When I got my first bicycle, I just knew it would be there for my birthday. But there was no bike in the kitchen when I came down for breakfast. No bike on the front porch. No bike anywhere. My expectations immediately went down … until Dad handed me the end of a a colorful piece of yarn. He asked me to ball it up as I went. I followed that thing upstairs and through rooms, then outside and back inside and finally down the steps to the basement where the other end was attached to the handlebars. I’m sure Dad had as much fun setting up the reveal as I did receiving the gift.
Mom’s greatest fun was Christmas. She loved building our anticipation as she finished one more gift, wrapped it, and put it under the tree. It didn’t matter who the gift was for, we were all caught up in the anticipation.
But the best part of a surprise gift is the open-mouthed “OH” that comes when a person realizes how terrific the surprise is.
We lived in a small (tiny) town in southeast Iowa. The church’s traditional gift for the pastor was a big deal for the congregation … and a little intimidating for the pastor’s family. The people spent a great deal of time discerning what we might need. Now, this was back in the sixties. Families were a lot more open about their lives. Then they purchased a *big* gift and presented it after the Christmas eve service. One year we received a new television set, another year it was a wonderful stereo. There was a beautiful wing chair and one year it was cash. The three of us kids were quite young, but they filled small red stockings (with our names on them) with pennies for each of us. We kept those stockings hanging on the tree for years. Mom would put something fun in them. Sometimes it was the money from Grandma or the check from Mom’s mother, or sometimes it was just a candy cane.
Those surprises were pretty wonderful.
Max hates that I’m so difficult to surprise. I pay attention to everything and don’t often leave much room for him to get something I’m not expecting. It’s hard to surprise me and I’m sorry for that. I’m the person who doesn’t care if you give me spoilers for a movie or when necessary (because my heart is in a panic), I’ll read the ending of a book – though it’s been quite a while since I’ve done that.
Carol and Max managed to pull off a great surprise for my 50th birthday. It was going to be a quiet dinner at Carol’s house as far as I knew. Until I walked into a 1950s themed party. My brother’s family all showed up in white t-shirts and jeans, looking like hoodlums. The rest of my friends came dressed in 50s style clothing – everything from Poodle skirts to leather jackets. Carol had a truly amazing cake made and I spent the evening in shock that they’d pulled it off. But what fun!
For now, I take great joy in surprising my sister with silly presents. She has the best “OH WOW” face ever. And torturing y’all with teasing hints about what I’m writing for the next Bellingwood book gives me no end of pleasure. I’m just that awesome.
Do you like surprises or would you rather be prepared for the outcome? Have you ever read the ending of a book first and then gone back to find out what led up to it?