Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!
—Hamilton Wright Mabie
I always dreamed of pulling off the surprise prank of a lifetime. You know, the kind you see on TV, or laugh about late at night with friends? Well, thanks to a little determination, some luck, and a generous helping of Christmas Spirit, my dream became a reality.
My family is Canadian, although my sister moved down to Australia a few years ago to study speech pathology. She was graduating just before Christmas, but due to my own scholarly schedule back home, I would not be unable to make it down in time for her graduation. She was understandably disappointed, and I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to be there for her on this most special of occasions.
While I was talking to my supervisor the week before my sister’s graduation, the conversation drifted toward Christmas plans. When I mentioned that I would be missing my sister’s graduation by less than forty-eight hours, she commented, “Well, if you want to go, I have no problem with it, so go ahead!” I couldn’t believe my luck! I nearly jumped for joy. “Just make sure you get permission from admin,” she added. My heart sank. The administration at my school was notorious for denying any sort of time-off requests, and last-minute pleas would undoubtedly draw nothing but ire. I almost didn’t bother asking, because I knew it would be a waste of time and I didn’t feel like a thorough chastisement. Plus, I knew the answer already: no. But something in me decided to try, just in case. Maybe it was the hope that the Christmas Spirit would somehow permeate the administrative office at this time of year.
When I returned home to find the Associate Dean’s reply in my inbox, I steeled myself for disappointment. I gritted my teeth, opened the e-mail, and started to read. And re-read. And re-read, just to make sure I’d understood. Approval? I could actually go? I rubbed my eyes—there must be a mistake. But no. I was flabbergasted. There was no logical explanation. I couldn’t believe my luck! The only explanation I could possibly come up with was that the Christmas Spirit had been lurking in the heart of my Associate Dean when she’d read my request.
Immediately, I called the airline. Miraculously, even during the busy Christmas season, I was able to change my ticket to arrive the day before my sister’s graduation.
With news this fantastic, I was bursting to tell my sister. But, fingers on the dial, I paused. Wouldn’t it be so much more fantastic if I could surprise her? I pictured myself just showing up, knocking at her door. What a state of shock she would be in! I laughed gleefully to myself as I pictured her face when she opened the door and saw me. She loves pranks and practical jokes of all sorts. Pulling off a prank like this would certainly be the ultimate gift, and if I were successful, she’d probably be more excited about my unconventional arrival than even my attendance at her graduation.
Slowly the idea evolved in my mind. For a surprise of this grand a scale, I needed a much more dramatic arrival than just a ring of the doorbell. For me, Christmas surprises are epitomized by presents. Or at least boxes. What if I could arrive in a box? I started to plot. Then, brilliance struck. Getting delivered in a box to my sister’s house by couriers! I knew if I pulled this off, my presence at her graduation and my grand arrival would be the best Christmas present I could ever give my sister. No one appreciates a prank like a prankster!
Although I was leaving in less than seventy-two hours, I frantically jumped on my computer in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and started Googling courier companies. One of the first I came across, and the only one willing to go along with my Christmas surprise, was CouriersPlease. At first the branch manager said no, pointing out that Christmas was their busiest season and he couldn’t spare a courier for this rather unorthodox request. But he suddenly and inexplicably warmed up to the idea and actually volunteered to dress up and deliver me himself. The Christmas Spirit strikes again!
Upon arrival in Australia, the manager met me in full uniform, but that wasn’t all. He’d brought one of his couriers, plus a CouriersPlease van along for the ride as well! They even had a reinforced box prepared for me that they’d already tested at the office. I’d thought it would be easiest to walk up to the doorway, and then jump in the box while they rang the doorbell. But no, they insisted; my sister might see me through the window and they certainly didn’t want to jeopardize my Christmas surprise. Instead, they parked a few hundred meters up the street, where they loaded me in the box and carried me all the way up to my sister’s, where they rang the doorbell and announced they had a delivery for her.
I couldn’t see the look on my sister’s face as she opened the door to couriers with a surprise delivery, but I could tell from her voice that she was more than a little perplexed. This soon morphed into utter disbelief and shock when the box was opened and she saw her older sister sitting inside smiling up at her. She was at a complete loss for words, and I will never forget the look on her face as she opened those flaps on the box.
It was such a gift to be able to attend my sister’s graduation, and to show her my love by giving her the most unique, unconventional Christmas present in the history of our family. It was a memory both she and I will cherish forever. It also served as a lesson for me: never, ever underestimate the power of the Christmas Spirit. It can move hearts, minds, and yes, even people in boxes.
—Heather ThompsonReprinted by permission Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC © 2013
Next: Sharing a Legacy of Love »