Video | Home for Christmas, Mom
WILLIAMSTOWN — A tiny request became an enormous wish fulfilled: Tracey Gregory of North Adams asked for asparagus instead of green beans with her dinner on Friday and out from the kitchen came the son whom she expected to miss throughout the holidays.
It was a setup. Her son Hayden Parsons conspired with his stepfather Gary Yelle and the entire 1896 House ownership and staff to organize the routine.
Parsons, who serves in the Coast Guard, had told Gregory he would be in San Diego, Calif., over the holidays.
It would be their first Christmas apart, Parsons said. Like so many military mothers, Gregory accepted the fact without complaint, though she hadn't seen her oldest son in six months.
Until the tables turned.
Parsons approached her and Yelle wearing a chef's hat and apron, half the 1896 staff in tow. Upon recognizing him, his mother exclaimed a well-known phrase unfit for print. The room — patrons and restaurant staff alike — erupted into applause.
"No more empty nest," she said moments later. "It's going to be an awesome Christmas."
Parsons graduated from a New Jersey boot camp in June and was promptly shipped out to Santa Barbara, Calif., where he serves today and will be headed back to on Dec. 27.
In the meanwhile, though, he'll spend Christmas visiting with his mother, stepfather, three younger siblings and his mother's family.
"[Parsons'] mother deserved a good Christmas," Yelle said, after a week of conspiring emails between he and 1896 House owners Michael and Carrie Oring.
For his part, Parsons relished the chance to order a beer and expressed relief that the surprise was over.
"I was terrified I was going to screw it up somehow like an idiot," he said.
He did not. Parsons' girlfriend Sarah McDonough had picked him up from Bradley International Airport right on time and he had even remembered to grab Gregory a bouquet of flowers from Super Stop & Shop on his way through Pittsfield.
A graduate of Bridgewater State College and Drury High School, Gregory said Parsons pursued the military because he was "always an athletic, hands-on sort of kid."
"It's great to have him back," Gregory said.
Prior to Parsons' arrival at the restaurant, while his mother and stepfather sat at their table in the dining room, staff members — all in the know — anxiously awaited the event they'd been waiting for all week.
"Where is he? We're all so anxious," one waitress was heard to exclaim.
Williams Oring said it was "fun to be a part of the surprise."
"I think every single person on the staff got tears in their eyes when we told them what was going to go down," Oring said.
Carrie Oring added, "We've been all been waiting for this day."
Many military personnel spend the holidays away from home. It's so common that in many places families take in members of the service for home-cooked meals on the year's biggest holiday.