What if your kids’ grandparents moved from several hours away to Champaign-Urbana, without the kids knowing?
For two Champaign-Urbana area kids, this dream came true
It started with a simple “wouldn’t it be fun if …” statement as the plans began to gel. Grandparents Gary and Mary decided to leave their home of more than 30 years and move to the same small town where their grandchildren were growing up. Not wanting to disappoint the kids in the early planning stages, it was initially a secret, just until some of the unanswered questions — like when and where — were answered.
But as time went on, the thought that they could actually make this a big surprise started to become reality. Ideas like pulling up to a “sold” sign in front of their current home several hours away or taking the kids on the final walk-through and breaking the news to them at that time all started to roll out as possibilities. However, the “big surprise” of just pulling up to a house one day with not just their grandparents, but all of their belongings already moved in too, seemed like the most fun option.
In the early planning stages, it was easy to keep it a secret. There was the day the kids were riding around in Gramma’s car in Chicago on a visit and the realtor called, registering on the bluetooth speakers of the car. And the many conversations parents Mike and Amy had dangerously within earshot of the kids while catching up on the latest updates, like the house tours done over FaceTime that particular day.
Finally, with just a couple of weeks until move-in day, it was time to figure out how to pull off the surprise. The grandparents pulled into town one random weekday evening with two vehicles, tired and weary from a full day of moving out of the home they raised their kids in, and sat down at our table with pizza, sharing not a word of what had happened that day. Still, no questions were asked and the kids welcomed the (supposedly) brief visit.
The next morning, the kids went to friends’ houses and the adults were focused on move-in day. While the kids played a mile away, their grandparents moved into their new home, now just minutes from where they lived (not hours). They would continue to play with their friends throughout the weekend while things were unpacked and everyone settled in, still with no idea that their grandparents now lived in town.
Finally, the time came to reveal the surprise. The kids were told they were going to dinner at someone’s house, “someone new to the area.” They had a dog, they were told, but no kids. And as soon as this little bit of information was shared, the questions started to tumble in.
“But how did you meet them?”
“Where did they come from?”
And the classic, “How long will we stay there?”
So the timeline was moved up, everyone hopped in the car, and it was time for the great reveal. And without exaggeration, the kids were driven over the (Sangamon) river and through (Lake of) the Woods to get to their grandparents’ new house, without them knowing.
Upon arrival, Amy entered the house first, “to see if the dog was friendly,” the kids were told. Then Mike followed the kids up to the doorway, where the kids were told to “just come in, the dog is friendly.” Both kids repeatedly said how much the dog at the house looked like Lady (Gramma and Grampa’s dog), and that was it. “It looks like Lady,” on repeat, over and over.
When they walked in, Gramma and Grampa were proudly sporting their new tees to represent the hometown team, and Troy (12) asked, “Did you guys rent this place?” Gramma responded, “Nope! We bought it!” and the kids were completely stunned.
In the hours, days and weeks to come, the reality of what just happened continued to settle in. It was equally awesome and strange to be able to just hop in the car and see grandparents, when previously there had always been hours of driving and device charging cords involved in getting from point A to point B. Once the school year began, another wave of awesomeness came their way when they realized they could ride the school bus right to Gramma and Grampa’s house some days.
In the end, it was fun to pull off such a huge surprise — one that surely won’t be topped by anything else! Everyone looks forward to enjoying what Champaign-Urbana has to offer for grandparents and grandkids together in the months and years to come, and think that there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had for families of all generations here in C-U.