My dad's always been a 'surprise' person. You know...the kind of person that really likes planning and pulling off elaborate surprises for other people. Secretly planning something that he knows another person will love gives him great joy. The sneaky plotting. The carefully woven un-truths. The reveal. He's a surprise guy.
I inherited a bit of that love, but to a lesser degree. Or maybe it's just that my love of treating myself seems to take precedence over planning fun things to surprise other people with. Oops. But on occasion, I really do love plotting a good surprise for someone else. But I'm bad at keeping it a secret. Here's a typical scenario in my house:
Me: MATT!!!!! Your birthday is coming up!!! We are going to do something SUPER AWESOME and soooo fun and you are going to DIE!!!! from how awesome it is!!!!!!!!!
Him: Cool, what is it?
Me: I'm not saying, it's a surprise!!! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
Him: Oh, okay, cool!
Me: ...ummmm...don't you want to know what it is?
Him: You said it was a surprise....??
Me: It is!! But don't you like...want any clues? Aren't you curious? Do you even CARE THAT I'M PLANNING SOMETHING SO SO SO AMAZING?!?!?!
Him: Oh, yeah. Umm...so what are we doing?
Me: NOT TELLING!!!!
Him: (wanders off to play with the dog or something)
Me (ad nauseum, for the next however many weeks it is until the reveal): Are you excited about the surprise? Have you guessed what it is? I'm not telling, you know. But here's a clue: it is so awesome.
Him: (ignoring me)
It's kind of sad, right? Right. Anyway.
A few weeks ago, my now-friend-but-then-stranger Emily sent me a Facebook message. I know of Emily (and am FB friends with her) because she's great friends with my blog friend/soulmate Colleen. Any friend of Colleen's is a friend of mine. Emily used to live in Colorado near Colleen, but recently moved to northwestern North Carolina. So anyway, Emily sends me a message.
Colleen is coming to visit me in a few weeks. I know she would LOVE to meet you in person, but I know it's pretty far from Athens to ____ (wherever she lives, I can't remember the name of the city). Any chance you could meet us in Asheville any of those days? I'd love to take her to Biltmore and I think it'd be a fun surprise!
Ummm....yes. Yes and yes. I gave a brief thought to the logistics: take the day off work. Drive a million hours (okay, three...each way) alone. GET TO MEET COLLEEN. Done and done.
So Friday was the day. I felt like my dad as the Surprise Day approached. Is there such a thing as Surpriser's High? I think that there is. Thinking about how awesome and exciting it was going to be when I 'revealed' myself to Colleen made me insanely giddy all week long. It is nothing short of a miracle that I didn't spoil my own surprise by sending Colleen obnoxious messages like I wonder who you might run into on your vacation??!?!?! Oh, how did I know you were going on vacation? Umm...good guess?? I hacked your credit card? GOTTAGO,BYE! Emily and I excitedly messaged and texted all week, imaging how it would all go down. And also scoping out the Asheville food scene WHICH IS MAGNIFICENT and planning our meals for the day.
I got to Asheville around 11:15 a.m. on Friday. We were planning to meet at Tupelo Honey Cafe for brunch. We weren't sure how things would actually go down because we didn't know who would get there first, whether we'd have to wait for a table, or what. As it turned out, I beat them to the restaurant by about 5 minutes. I thought quick and decided to cop a very natural pose against the outside wall of the art gallery next door to the restaurant. I opened up my copy of Queen of Hearts, one of Colleen's novels, leaned back against the wall, and pretended to read. I sneakily texted Emily to let her know what I was doing...and to make sure that at least ONE of them noticed the girl in the green shirt reading Colleen's book, ha.
Colleen fell right into the trap. I was wearing my sunglasses (and not actually reading), so I saw them when they turned the corner onto the block. I could hear them when Colleen spotted someone READING HER BOOK IN PUBLIC!!!!!! She stopped in her tracks and I could hear her freaking out that a total stranger on the other side of the country was reading HER BOOK...right next to the restaurant they were going to eat at!!!! She decided to approach the Queen-reading stranger and ask to take a picture with her.
I took my sunglasses off and said "Hi, Colleen!!"
She looked like she had seen a ghost.
"Er...eri...ERIKA?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!!?" (I cannot emphasize the excitement and loudness enough here.)
"ERIKA?!??!?!?!" is more like it.
Emily and I cracked up at her bewilderment. I hugged her. She looked totally shocked and sputtered "oh my gosh...do you live here??! Is this close to Athens?" (bless her non-geographically inclined heart)
I had to inform her that this actually was not a coincidence and was actually a big surprise plotted by Emily, whom I high-fived.
It was awesome.
The rest of the day was awesome, too. We ate, we went to Biltmore, we ate some more, we went to a wine tasting. We ate BBQ. And throughout the course of the day, approximately every 12 seconds, Colleen was once again overcome by the awesome surprisiness (real word, promise) of it all: I can't believe I'm _____ (eating, driving, sitting) with you!!!! and it was so, so fun.
I'll share more about Biltmore later (kind of small and tacky, in my opinion...), but hands-down the best part of the day was the realization that blog friends are even better as real life friends. That the people who serve as your sounding board and support system through messy and difficult years of life via email are even better listening ears and huggers in the flesh. It was so so so good for my heart to meet my blogging soul-sister in person.
And for a really good laugh, you should read Colleen's account of the day. It is hilarious and also a little hero-worshippy (with the hero being me!), which makes it even more hilarious. And also I'm a hero with the lilting drawl of Scarlett O'Hara...betcha didn't know that! (I didn't.) Also she describes meeting me (on the internet, pre-real life meeting) as like finding a seahorse in a swimming pool, a little bit of delightful magic.If you tell me you wouldn't travel across the universe and through time to hug the neck of someone who describes you like that, you're lying.
It was a super awesome day. And now I'm ready to plan my next big surprise! This could be addicting.