How to pull off a birthday surprise


Remember when I said that I was keeping a secret?

You probably didn’t notice that it was quiet around here for the last couple of weeks. I had prepared a couple of posts to automatically post during my absence (I am not always that prepared, mind you), so you couldn’t know that Jon and I were actually spending time in a different time zone. 

On October 1, J and I got on a plane to Germany to surprise my parents for their 70th birthdays. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought that it was a possibility. I had just been in Germany in May. My parents’ birthdays are 2,5 weeks apart and there was no way I could get time off long enough to be there for both their birthdays. But when my Mom called at the end of August, saying that they had changed their minds about not having a party and were planning one for October 3rd (her actual birthday and a German public holiday), the wheels in my head started turning.

70 is a milestone birthday. My parents are not getting any younger (although I’d like to think of them as perpetually young-ish). I remembered that I was in Germany for their 60th birthdays. How could I miss this big event in my parents’ life and not go? So, I decided that we would go. Just like that.

Well, not really ‘just like that’. I talked with Jon (he was instantly on board!), I talked with my supervisor at work (to request time off), I checked flight prices, and then we just went ahead and booked tickets. 

When I told my sister that we were planning on coming, she was beyond thrilled, as she hadn’t really thought that this would be a possibility either. My parents, of course,  had no clue that we had booked tickets. In fact, nobody knew anything besides my sister. We were so paranoid that someone would slip up and ruin the surprise.
Believe me, it was hard enough to keep the secret for about 4 weeks myself, as I talk to my parents a few times every week. I made sure to complain plenty about the fact how much we hated that we weren’t going to be there for the party, that we would miss out on the amazing food, and how much it sucked sometimes to live so far away. At the same time, I hoped that I wasn’t coming off too strong and making them suspicious.

Finally, the day of our departure was here and as far as we could tell, the secret was still safe. We arrived in Germany on October 2, my sister had arranged for someone to pick us up from the airport and take us to her house, and then we surprised my parents in the evening before the party.

We had first thought about just “showing up” at the party the next day, but a) I didn’t want to give my parents a heart attack on the day of their party and b) we didn’t want to take away the focus from their birthday celebrations, as it was their day, not ours. (I mean, plenty of people still were surprised to see us, but at least my parents weren’t completely emotionally overwhelmed and could focus on their other guests instead of just us.)

My sister drove us and the kids over to my parents’ house in the evening, but dropped us off at the street corner so that she could see them alone first (pretending that she was bringing over some last minute things for the party). We had taken a picture with the kids in her backyard earlier in the afternoon, which she was going to show them. Since J hadn’t been in Germany with me for a while, they’d hopefully notice instantly that the picture was very current.

Meanwhile, we and the kids had walked up to the front door of my parents’ house and were waiting for them to realize what was going on.

Of course, I wish I could have actually seen my parents’ faces when they caught on to what was happening. My sister tried to capture the moment while trying not to seem suspicious when she started filming them. Haha.

Finally, the door opened and they came outside. My Mom was crying and I could tell that even my Dad, even though he doesn’t get emotional quickly, was moved to see us. I’d like to think: the surprise was a definite success and it felt amazing that we had been able to pull this off!

When I asked my parents if they had suspected something… anything… they said no. Of course, they had hoped and wished that we could be there with them for their birthdays, but both of them didn’t think that it was a possibility because of my limited amount of vacation time (comparatively speaking), the fact that I had just visited for three weeks in the spring, and the fact that flying in from California is not a simple train ride into town.

I am just so, so glad we went. I cannot explain how much it means to me to know that we were able to spend this time with them. I’ll tell you all about the actual birthday party (Octoberfest-themed!) and the rest of our stay (we stayed for 11 days) in another post, but just wanted to let you in on my little secret. 

  1. Omg how sweet!!’ And your parents faces are so filled with love and happiness ❤️ This made me so happy to read this morning. I’m so bad at keeping a surprise but I’ve noticed that it is always worth it in the end and I’m so glad you were able to make this happen!

  2. Also happy birthday to your parents!!!

  3. What an amazing surprise! I remember you saying you had a secret in a previous post and was so curious what that secret was. What a fabulous surprise to pull off! I am so glad you could be there for their parties!

    My parents turned 70 a couple of years ago and neither of them wanted a party. Their 50th anniversary is this December and they asked that we not throw a party for them. Instead they want all of us kids to come stay at a resort with them in early January. All of us kids and grandkids will be there and they rented this amazing 7-bedroom home on a beautiful resort in Northern Minnesota. I am sure it will be bitterly cold outside but it’s going to be such a gift for all 20 of us to be together!!!

    Happy Birthday to your parents!

  4. I am SOOOO happy you guys were able to pull this one off!

  5. Genial!!!! Geniesst die Zeit zusammen!

  6. All the feel goods! What an amazing surprise. Happy Birthday to your folks!

  7. How wonderful! Happy Birthday to your folks!

  8. Woooow, das war doch mal ein mega tolles Geheimnis! Es ist so schön zu sehen, wie deine Eltern freudig überrascht waren. :) Es war sicher toll, wenn auch sehr kurz, wieder in DE zu sein.

  9. I love surprises (at least these kind of surprises) and I am so happy you were able to do this and be their for their birthday party! I absolutely love the pictures!!

  10. Awwe that’s such a wonderful surprise and so happy that you were able to pull it off!

  11. Aw, I love this! I’m so glad you were able to surprise your parents – and happy birthday to both of them – and that your husband could go on the trip with you too. I can’t wait to hear all about the party!

  12. Their faces are priceless and make me tear up! They’re just so surprised and elated to see you! What a fun thing to do for them. :) I’ve been so curious about the surprise you alluded to and this is a GREAT one!

  13. This is such a thoughtful and wonderful thing to do. You can see in the pictures how thrilled your parents have been. Good job.

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