The Homecoming Surprise

A number of years ago, my siblings and I coordinated a trip home to Virginia to surprise our mom for Mother’s Day. Even though there are those of us in the family who rarely enjoy surprises (me being one of them), we were sure it would be a big hit with our mom. She’s always asking us to visit more often.

I’ll never forget ringing the doorbell to my childhood home as I stood on the front porch with my luggage. My mom answered the door, and the expressions on her face went through the following steps:

  1. Utter confusion (had she invited me home and forgotten to write it down?)
  2. Sudden stress (she hadn’t prepared food, cleaned the house, or any of the other things you do when you’re expecting a guest)
  3. Tentative joy (her boy was home!)

It’s the second one that really stuck with me. I learned from that experience that my parents would much rather be physically and mentally prepared for a visit than to have me unexpectedly show up.

I’m reminded of this whenever I see a member of the US Armed Forces surprise his or her spouse after being away from home for a long time. I’m sure the spouse is elated, but is the surprise worth the stress? Wouldn’t all that joy still be there if they had a little advance notice?

But hey, I don’t know–I’ve never been in that situation. If you have, I’d love to hear your experience. Or if you’re a civilian like me, picture one of your favorite people in the world. Would you be happier if they showed up at your house right now OR if they asked if they could come visit in a few days?