Two months is a long time to keep a secret, especially from your daughter.
Kodiak’s Sina Timu managed it.
Sina surprised her daughter Puni, a sophomore at the University of Jamestown (North Dakota), an hour before the tipoff of her junior varsity women’s basketball game at Minnesota State University-Moorhead on Nov. 21.
It was the first time the two had seen each other in almost 18 months. The encounter was emotional.
“For me, it was just like, ‘Oh, my god. I can’t believe she is here. I don’t think this is real,’” said Puni Wednesday via cellphone from the Mall of America in Minnesota. “It took a while for it to register in my head. It still hasn’t registered yet.”
The reunion, called “Operation Surprise,” was made possible by Puni’s teammates, who raised money to fly Sina from Kodiak to Minneapolis, Minn. The teammates got the idea because Puni was constantly telling them how much she missed her mom.
A teammate went to the coach, and he was on board immediately.
“I had goose bumps for most of the day, and all the players were so excited for this also; it’s all we could talk about. We were all so excited for Puni,” Greg Ulland said an article on the University of Jamestown website.
Sina kept the secret from Puni for two months. The only person she told was her husband. When Sina talked to Puni on the phone, she would ask questions about the team and upcoming games, which Puni thought was odd.
Puni, who played volleyball and basketball at Kodiak High School before graduating in 2012, sensed something was going to happen the evening of the reunion, but couldn’t figure it out.
“I just had a feeling, that at that gym, I was going to see somebody I knew. I just didn’t know it was going to be my mom walking in,” Puni said.
The team moved up all of its pre-game rituals an hour. When the team exited the locker room, Puni was held back by one of her teammates. Players and fans formed a tunnel to walk through. At the other end was Sina.
“I cried before the girls started the surprise,” Sina said. “My whole body was shaking.”
When Puni made it through the tunnel, her mom, who was waiting with a lei, surprised her. The two hugged and cried for nearly two minutes. The moment took both of them to their knees.
“When she walked in, I was just standing there, when she saw me she just jumped up and started crying. It was so nice to see her,” Sina said.
Jamestown ended up losing to Moorhead State, but that was an afterthought; it was the first time Sina got to watch her daughter play in two years.
Puni was thankful that her teammates, and Lea Ann Wise, a mother of a player, arranged the holiday reunion.
“They took it upon themselves to bring my mom out here,” Puni said. “It really meant a lot, because I am really close to my family and being separated for a whole year was something that broke my heart.”
Sina spent Thanksgiving with Puni and is returning to Kodiak today.
The two will not have to wait another year for a reunion — Puni is spending Christmas break in Kodiak.
Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at firstname.lastname@example.org.