We did it. We pulled off a surprise that involved having my parents and sister over from the Philippines to spend Christmas with us.
We are from a tropical country, so the thought of spending a few days in sub-zero weather did not excite my family. But after a series of phone calls and emails, my parents got more and more animated at the thought of spending some quality time with the boys, their only grandchildren. (Seeing my husband and I was just a bonus.)
We decided to keep the plans a surprise from the kids. Firstly, because we didn’t want them to be disappointed in case the visas were not approved. My family eventually got permission, but we decided to keep it a secret even after they bought their tickets. We thought it would make a good Christmas treat for the kids, seeing as how they were feeling sorry for themselves as friends went off to spend Christmas in more exotic locations.
After an excruciating wait, the day of my family’s arrival came. I went to the airport with my younger son and blatantly lied about meeting a friend. When he asked for details, I said this “friend” was someone whose name or physical appearance I did not know but would be carrying presents from family back to Beijing.
We would know who the bearer of the presents was by the packages coming out of the x-ray machine, gifts which that would our names written on them. As the story spun out, I kept thinking of a line from a Sesame Street skit: “It’s so crazy, it just might work.”
I was impatient to see the look on my son’s face as my family came out of the arrivals gate. As it turned out, I missed the moment because I had to go to the little girls’ room. But by the time I came back, he was over the moon about people he actually knew and liked appearing. We were lost in a flurry of hugs, welcomes, and the much-needed passing out of extra layers.
Off we went to pick up my older son from an ice skating lesson. I was thankful he couldn’t come to the airport because he would have seen straight through my bluff. My younger son and I stood by the viewing deck to watch him skate; the rest of the family was close by, trying hard to camouflage themselves in scarves, hats and sunglasses. They hissed and catcalled to get his attention. In his usual blasé adolescent way, he looked over and, not recognizing them, looked away. They hissed louder. When he turned around again, his eyes grew wide with recognition.
My kids may have declared themselves too old for Santa and our “gift” could not be wrapped and placed in a stocking or under the tree. But if you ask me, Santa brought the best gift of all this year: He made it possible for our little family to be reunited at Christmas. And the adults were accomplices in the whole plan.
Merry Christmas to you and all you hold dear. May the magic of the season fill your hearts and homes!
Dana is the beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent. Originally from the Philippines, she moved to Beijing in 2011 (via Europe) with her husband, two sons and Rusty the dog. She enjoys writing, photography, theater, visual arts, and trying new food. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city and driving along the mountain roads of Huairou, Miyun and Pinggu.
Photo by Tanya Puntti (flickr)