I’ve always loved surprises. Receiving them, giving them – both make my heart skip an extra beat. Now that I’m a mom, I’m primarily the giver of surprises. I’ve had a lot of practice perfecting them. Especially when successful execution requires me to pretend I’m still a lawyer and keep a secret for eight long months.
I bought the tickets back in November, when I didn’t yet know whether we’d be in town to use them. I kept the event under wraps because surprises are fun and also because if I told Sophie about it and we couldn’t go after all, she’d hold a grudge for decades.
The day before the show, I started to prepare her.
‘Don’t forget, you have your swim lesson tomorrow at 1 pm. And at 4:30 pm, we’re going on a mystery excursion!” I exclaimed.
I expected her to start hounding me to reveal the surprise. Instead, Sophie sought clarification. “What’s an excursion?” she asked. Despite her rapidly growing body (she’s like Jack’s beanstalk – and seems to grow a couple of inches between sundown and sunrise every single night) and her increasing use of multi-syllabic words, it’s those kinds of questions that reassuringly remind me that she’s still only nine years old.
“It’s like an outing.” Having vaguely and cryptically set the stage, I continued to anticipate more questions. However, much to my dismay – I was hoping to torture her a bit – none came, so I tried baiting her. “Don’t attempt to get any more information out of me, Sophie, because mum’s the word.” She didn’t fall for it.
The talk of the mystery outing must have buried itself in Sophie’s subconscious, however, because she was unable to quell her curiosity the following morning.
“Is it a long drive away?” Sophie asked, wary of any ride that lasts longer than an hour because she has a sordid history of puking in cars. I refused to answer. She huffed off.
“Can you guarantee that I’ll like the surprise?” she asked with a smile while eating lunch. I just shook my head to let her know that I wasn’t going to fall for her charms.
The questions continued periodically throughout the day until it was finally time to set off. When we arrived at the stadium, she deduced that we were going to a concert. She gamely posed for photos, knowing instinctively that visual documentation was part of the Faustian bargain she’d made with me in exchange for the surprise.
As we walked towards the gates, she noticed the familiar music playing in the parking lot. We reached the entrance. She observed the animated ticket holders with their hand-decorated t-shirts and elaborate Lite-Brite-like signs, which all but gave the surprise away.
Sophie smiled her cryptic Mona Lisa smile, but didn’t say a word. She wouldn’t give me the satisfaction of letting me know that she knew until I asked, “Care to guess what the surprise is now?”
“It’s kind of obvious, Mom! We’re seeing Taylor Swift,” she stated, more nonchalantly than I would have expected.
“Are you excited?” I asked, worried that the surprise didn’t live up to the hype I’d built up.
“Mom, seriously? Yes, I AM EXCITED!” she grinned through her words. “Can I get a t-shirt?” she asked, not missing a beat. I acquiesced, despite the outrageous cost, because Sophie’s first concert.
We leisurely made our way to our seats, which were closer to the zeppelin, the helicopters and the airplanes than the stage, but Sophie didn’t care. She was part of an exclusive, if not-so-intimate group of 60,000 people gathered to celebrate the music of Taylor Swift and she was thrilled.
And it wasn’t just any 60,000 people. So many girls! And moms. And a good number of young women. A few dads, but not many. Even fewer boyfriends and husbands. Not to mention the U.S. women’s soccer team. By my unofficial count, at least 90% of the concert-goers were female. It was an impressive sight to behold. The night screamed Girl Power. Swift’s savvy yet heartfelt message, oft repeated to her adoring crowd during the concert, was all about friendship, staying true to oneself and ignoring the haters.
Sophie was rapt. I was rapt observing her be rapt. Her happiness made me happy. “I’m going to tell Papa that this was the best day of my life!” she yelled in my ear after joining the throngs in sing-shouting the lyrics to one of her favorite songs.
It wasn’t easy maintaining the veil of secrecy. I told only a handful of people about it to minimize the chance of inadvertent slip-ups. I came close to divulging it myself a few times. I studiously avoided sending texts about the surprise since Sophie often steals my phone to play games.
The subterfuge was more than worth it. If there’s a theme to my blog, it’s that it’s too easy to miss once-in-a-lifetime moments with our kids as they grow up. Too easy to allow our day-to-day worries interfere with the creation of memories, which often take time and effort. Time and effort that I still don’t always make, even though I now have more time to spare for such endeavors.
I have not mastered the art of being a mom. I never will. I’m reasonably good at it, but my shortcomings are numerous and not insignificant. This time, however, I got it right – with more than a little help from Taylor Swift, whose fabulous show Sophie and I will not soon forget. Thanks for the memories, Taylor. You rock!
Have you pulled off big surprises for your kids? Please share!