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SURPRISES are handy in bringing up children. One Christmas Eve in Wisconsin, my father woke my brother and me up and took us to the field behind the farmhouse that we lived near and worked at. While Dad went sneaking to the barn, we and my mother stood yawning and wondering under starry skies....

Suddenly we heard jingle bells. My favorite horse came around the corner pulling an antique one-horse, open sleigh - with my father holding the reins and bursting with excitement. Our family took the most magical ride of our lives.

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Another cold night - this time in February, this time in Maine - my father woke us up, and five of us (we had added a sibling) headed inland about five miles to the top of a hill. Dad had been anticipating the aurora borealis and could hardly wait to see our faces when we witnessed the northern lights for the very first time.

It takes energy, spontaneity, and creativity to give surprises. These activities and the qualities that give them birth can be deeply felt by the children - or adults - who experience them.

Standing alone, not one of these experiences our family had was that remarkable, but the unity it created was. Lisa Redfern Hummell Oldtown, Maine

If you would like to share a short constructive experience about family relationships, please send it with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to In the Family, Home & Family page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115. Sorry, there is no payment, and we cannot reply to all submissions, which become wholly the property of the Monitor and are subject to editing.

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