When Beverly Browning turned 54, her husband told her he was taking her to dinner.
The dinner hour came and went, and then he told her he was taking her shopping at a midnight madness sale at J.C. Penney.
Browning thought something was up, but she loves to shop, so she went along with it when her husband, Tim, proposed they head to Statesboro, Ga. — which was more than a half-hour drive from their home in Guyton, Ga. — at 10:30 p.m. on July 14.
They drove to Statesboro, but then Tim, 53, said he had to make a stop first. He needed to get a hamburger from a nearby restaurant before they hit the mall.
Once they were seated inside the Steak ‘n Shake restaurant, he pulled out his camera and started recording.
Browning, who teaches pre-kindergarten, immediately suspected a birthday surprise. She thought that maybe her husband was going to present her with a wedding band to match the engagement ring he had already given her when she lost hers.
“So I thought ‘he’s bought me a new band, I bet you that’s what it is.’ So I didn’t say anything else, I didn’t question it or anything. I just thought ‘OK … I’ll just play along and act surprised about this piece of jewelry I thought he was going to give me,’” she said.
It turns out that there was a surprise, but it was probably better than jewelry.
A video the family posted on YouTube shows Beverly Browning’s reaction when, as she’s sitting in the booth of the restaurant, her middle son, John, came and sat next to her and put his arm around her shoulders. John had recently joined the Navy, and was stationed in Pensacola, Fla., where he was studying aviation electronics. His mother hadn’t seen him in months, and she had no idea he was coming to visit.
Looking stunned, she pulls back and looks at her son for about five second before folding him into a tight hug and dissolving into tears.
“Oh my Gosh! What are you doing here?” she said.
Off-camera, her husband says “Happy birthday.”
Beverly Browning told ABC News she is “very hard to fool” but she was totally stunned by her husband’s surprise.
“For a moment I thought, wait a minute where am I? I was just like, ‘What? Not sure what’s going on here,’” she said.
Browning said she had “such a hard time” when her son was away for two months at basic training.
“I was so worried about him. Every time he would call home … I would say ‘are you OK? Are you ready to come home?’ And my husband would punch me every time and say ‘Don’t say that,’ and, well, I can’t help it,” she said, laughing.
John stayed with his family for the weekend, along with his younger brother, Culley, 16, and his older brother Daniel, 25, who came from college to be with his parents and siblings. Beverly Browning hasn’t seen John since that weekend, and she remains overwhelmed by her birthday surprise.
“It was just a wonderful birthday, it was just to be treasured,” she said.
Tim Browning, an avionics technical writer who also served in the Navy, as did his own father, said John was to have surprised his mother that night during dinner at 8 p.m. but the friend with whom he’d hitched a ride had car trouble. The late-night shopping ruse was as a result of John’s delay, his father said.
Despite the delay — and the fact that John forgot his shoes, so couldn’t wear his uniform for his mother — they pulled it off, Browning said.
“It worked out well and we all got to be together the next day so that was great,” he said.
The video has been viewed more than 51,000 times since it was posted to YouTube on July 31.