Gift Present surprise

The Great Reveal

My family is all about a big reveal. It was rare, growing up, to not get a wildly dramatic, completely over-the-top, YouTube video worthy gift reveal. There was no You Tube back then, but my parents knew how to unbox before there even was such a thing. When my mother invited us to France and England for two weeks of our summer, I knew telling Miss O would be no different.

I remember standing in the kitchen when I was 16. We had just finished my birthday dinner and moved on to presents. I was handed a marbled blue portfolio folder, the kind with a thin cardboard cover that instantly elevates the importance of whatever is inside. I was told to stand up in the middle of our galley kitchen, the long skinny kind, and face my parents at the table. It felt like  I was giving a book report or facing a firing squad, but some of you may know it more as a spot on The Voice.

I knew something was up. This wasn’t my first experience with The Great Reveal, but this was the first presentation-in-the-kitchen-style one. I’ll spare some of you right now. No, I didn’t get a car. I went to boarding school, there was literally no need for one. I lost that argument before it ever started.

As I read through what turned out to be a novelization of an itinerary for a trip to ride horses in England with Bertie Hill, a prominent English trainer and Olympian, my hands shook and tears streamed down my face. I’m pretty sure there was jumping and mild hyperventilation, as well. I was a rider, an equestrian, and that trip meant more to me than any car could have. That’s the one story that comes up in the gift-giving hall of fame every time.

Horses Happy birthday barn girl quarter horse

Because of experiences like that, I absolutely ADORE surprising Miss O. There’s a range of course, from telling her we’re going to someone’s house for lunch and there’s a surprise guest, all the way up to big dramatic, grab the camera moments like that day in our kitchen.

When we booked our first trip to Disney World last summer, there was no doubt in my mind we were going for a top-level reveal. I poured through blog posts and Facebook comments about how others revealed their trips, scrolling through hundreds of amazing ideas.

We decided to wait until the morning we left for the airport to tell her we were going. We decided if we told her any earlier, she wouldn’t be able to handle the waiting and we wouldn’t be able to handle her not handling the waiting. We didn’t even tell her the whole family was going. We let her figure it out as she saw they arrive at the departure gate. It was so worth it. So much so that we’re surprising her again for our return trip.

Woman shhh be quiet don't tell secret

Do. Not. Tell. Her.

Going to France and England for two weeks is a bit different. This is really Mama’s trip. It’s something she’s wanted to share with Miss O for a while now and we felt she should be the one to tell Miss O about it. We wanted Miss O to have some more context to where we were going and why. We also know that waiting is incredibly hard when you’re seven. I was more than a little concerned that her response would include something along the lines of “so we’re not going to Disney?” I wasn’t sure I could bear that disappointment from her or my mother.

We opted to tell Miss O for her birthday, just about two months before the trip. Mama opted out of spending the day at the bouncy house place where we booked Miss O’s birthday party, so we decided to spend the weekend at Mama’s condo. Mama could tell Miss O all about the trip, we could answer any questions she had, and we could look through the photos of the trip I took as a kid, complete with early 80’s preppy argyle sweaters. So simple.

Alex P Keaton Family Ties 80s eighties sitcom Michael J Fox

If you don’t know who this is, I just don’t even know what’s going on anymore.

Simple, you say? Come on now. That just won’t do.

We arrived at Mama’s condo and lasted maybe 15 minutes before we were all dying to tell Miss O the news. True to form, my mother was ready to go with props and everything and after some mild cajoling, we managed to get her sitting next to Miss O so we could film the whole thing.

Mama had three gift bags, which Miss O could not wait to rip into, but gift bags in this family often have a specific order and a story, so patience is always required. Miss O opened the first bag to find a homemade book titled “The Adventures of Miss O 2019” with her photo on the cover. She looked a little confused, but she loves a good book and dove right in. She started reading aloud and as she turned each page it gradually dawned on her this was more than just a story. About two pages in, she looked up with wide, unsure eyes and asked “Is this for real?” That right there is why we do what we do.

surprise wide eyes

She kept reading and as she read about each castle and chateau her eyes and smile got bigger and bigger. When she finally arrived at the page describing the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Warner Bros in England I thought her eyes would pop completely out of her head. Thank goodness for Harry Potter. Not one mention of Disney and not one question as to why. Brilliant.

After much hugging of the book and many thanks to Mama, Miss O was given the second bag. Inside was the most blinged-out seven-year-old-fancy hardcover journal you could expect complete with silver foil Eiffel Tower on the cover. This is also tradition. Each night during that trip so long ago, just before bedtime, Mama and I would sit on the hotel bed and write in our journals about our adventures that day. Mama’s were much more in depth than mine, of course, but I do remember it fondly. I thought it was lovely that she wanted to share that with Miss O. Miss O never saw a journal she didn’t have to have, so it worked out beautifully.

The last bag held the most adorable fuzzy fox eye mask and socks. It’s an overnight flight both ways, so of course Miss O needs to sleep in posh comfort the whole time. Please universe, let it be so!

Miss O couldn’t stop smiling all weekend and I’m so glad she’s excited. Of course, she wants to go RIGHT. NOW. which is a little hard to manage, but we’re making it work. She’s got the dates marked on her calendar and the countdown is on. I can’t wait to share this trip with her. We are so lucky to be able to do this and I know we could not have given this experience to her on our own. I hope it lives up to the story in her book and it truly is an adventure worthy of Miss O.

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