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Element Of Surprise
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For as long as I can remember I’ve always loved surprising people.

There’s just something fun and magical about the look on a person’s face when they first take in the unexpected or unplanned. Holidays and birthdays, of course, help keep this as a semi-regular occurrence. Some holidays or birthdays we might nail it. Present the person with the unimaginable or something we know they would enjoy but have never verbally expressed an interest in.

Surprises can come in all shapes, sizes, monetary amounts and times of year. Some of the best ‘just because’ surprises are among my favorite.

My children are simple. I’ve been blessed to be able to surprise them with a not so simple announcement of a trip to Disneyland a few times (that never gets old). Then there is the ever simplistic return from the Dollar Tree with wall decals or a gag trick, which can light up their eyes just as easily.

They do their fair share of surprising me just as well. From a book, my son insisted to his grandmother I must have at Christmas, to watching how they interact with one another when they don’t know I’m looking. It’s the simple surprises, the everyday life surprises that bring me the most joy.

Yes, ‘everyday life surprises’ bring me joy. A simple wave to go ahead by a driver in another car, a person holding the door open for no reason other than it’s kind or a co-worker offering help in a time when I’m quietly trying just to make it all come together. Simple stuff, which reaps big and lasting reward.

In the true area of surprise, I’ve never been a gracious recipient. That’s a big admission, but it is both truth and fact. A fact which brought my mother much frustration and perhaps a little hurt as I grew up.

I was the kid that would grab a package from under the Christmas tree and announce, ‘Oh! It’s my new blow dryer,’ long before the wrapping was removed. I can still recall the look of defeat (for lack of a better word) on my mother’s face as I would do so. Being a kid and somewhat naïve, I would giggle and proceed to reveal my suspicion was correct. Now as a parent myself, I’m sure these moments robbed a bit of fun from my mother.

Well into my adult years I’ve continued to enjoy surprising those I love with a random act or surprise appearance or package. Up until most recently however, if I ever caught wind of a ‘surprise’ being planned for yours truly, well … That just can’t be.

In true control freak fashion, I would spin, both literally and figuratively. The ‘need’ to know, enough to make one mentally exhausted and perhaps serve as a sick punishment to anyone in the know.

The beauty of growing older, the gift of self-reflection is the ability to not only see and recognize our shortcomings, but work to improve them.

In the last six months, a few surprises have come my way. Some were brought forth completely out of the blue, while others I was given little if any forewarning about. It’s a fantastic thing to no longer feel the ‘need’ to have to know and control every aspect of your life. The ability to truly surrender is both empowering and freeing, oddly enough.

As I recently shared with a girlfriend, what I’ve come to learn most about surprises and people wanting to surprise us is … we should let them. The desire to find out is natural. The pursuit to learn of the surprise before it’s revealed, is selfish. Yes, the moment we obsess over because we ‘have’ to know, is in essence stealing the joy from not just you but the person who has worked so hard to make it real for you.

After all … “Surprises are better than promises.” – unknown


Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.