“Peter is heading to San Francisco tomorrow morning,” I mentioned to my fellow musicians at rehearsal one evening.
“I love San Francisco!” exclaimed the woman next to me. “You are going with him, aren’t you?”
“I don’t think so,” I replied. “Money is tight, we have two kids in college, Peter’s trip will be brief ...” blah, blah, blah.
“But it’s such an awesome city!” my friend urged. “You don’t want to miss this opportunity. Maybe you could surprise him.”
“Hmmmm,” was my reply.
Her enthusiasm piqued my curiosity. It was highly unlikely I’d find a deal on such short notice, but it didn’t hurt to look.
To my amazement, I found a dirt-cheap fare. It involved multiple stops, but it would be worth it.
I booked it.
Two days later, I arose at 3:45 a.m. for a 6 a.m. flight. After two plane changes and untold delays, I arrived at the San Francisco airport. I took public transit to the hotel where Peter’s conference was under way.
Then came the tricky part. It’s every hotel manager’s nightmare when an unexpected wife arrives to surprise her husband, or vice versa. Too often, it ends badly.
As I strode to the desk, I tried to look like I belonged. I introduced myself and stated that I was joining my husband Peter Cram.
“Um,” stammered the clerk with a side glance at the manager, “Um, is he expecting you?”
“No,” I replied with a grin. “I’m surprising him.”
The clerk summoned the manager, who politely refused to provide Peter’s room number. At this point, I’d been traveling for 13 hours. I was hungry and cranky, hadn’t had a decent cup of coffee since the previous day and I looked like I’d slept in my clothes. Whose bright idea was this trip?
As I considered my next move, I glanced into the nearby dining room where conference attendees mingled. There, at the back of the room, was Peter.
At precisely the same time, Peter looked up and we locked eyes. He grinned widely, crossed the room and wrapped me in his arms. “I hoped you’d come!” he whispered.
The fact that it was a surprise made our time together extra sweet.
Once when we were newlyweds, a parish family offered us their mountain cabin for a weekend getaway. I immediately began scheming to surprise Peter.
The following week, we drove a friend to the Hartford train station. As we headed out, I took the highway in the wrong direction. After a few miles, Peter asked why I was driving north instead of south; I told him I was taking a shortcut. For reasons I cannot begin to fathom, he believed me. I even had an excuse for the presence of cross-country skis on the roof of the car. I am a frighteningly good liar.
Seventy miles later, when he spotted the “Welcome to Vermont” sign, he finally grew suspicious. An hour after that, we arrived at a simple cabin nestled among the trees. To this day, we laugh about that trip.
Why do I put such emphasis on surprise? Because life can be hard. Elderly parents, job loss, handicapped children, money woes — worries permeate our everyday lives. I believe that playfulness and surprises can soften hardship and sweeten monotony.
M. Regina Cram is a writer, speaker and author. She and her husband live in Glastonbury and have four children and seven grandchildren.