She had been waiting there for more than five minutes and was getting impatient. Where was her daughter? Her mind went through several scenarios, wondering where she could be at this time. She thought of texting her or calling her to find out why she wasn’t there. But then, an idea came to mind. It was something she didn’t do very often but she thought it would be fun if she did it now. She was right - but for all the wrong reasons.
But Deanna Pilling never thought things would go the way they did. All she wanted was to do something nice for her daughter. She was excited to welcome 18-year-old McKenna back to New York City for the summer, after her first semester at Utah State University. But first, her daughter had to pack up her things and leave her freshman dorm. And this gave Deanna an idea - she thought she would give McKenna a surprise.
Deanna and McKenna had a great mother-daughter relationship, as Deanna was fun and laid back and her daughter felt comfortable telling her about her life. She was happy that McKenna was starting the new phase of her life in college, though that didn’t mean she didn’t miss her. So when her daughter told her she had to clean up her things and leave her dorm, Deanna didn’t hesitate. She decided to pay McKenna a surprise visit.
Deanna wanted to help McKenna with the packing and moving, but she wanted it to be a surprise. So she got on a cross-country flight without telling her daughter, thinking of how delighted she would be when she saw her mother at her university. She arrived in Logan, Utah, and headed for the campus. When she got to the residential buildings, she looked for McKenna’s dorm. She had been there when they visited the previous fall. But this time everything was different.
Kristin Murphy/Deseret News
The dorm buildings looked quite different now that they were abuzz with the hustle and bustle of college students waiting for summer. Excited to finally see her daughter, Deanna went up to McKenna’s room. On the way there, she spotted a few kids that she thought she recognized as her daughter’s friends, so she said hi. She knocked on McKenna’s door, picturing the face she’d make when she saw her mother standing there. But no one answered.
After waiting for a few minutes without anyone coming to the door, Deanna decided to try her luck and see if it was unlocked. It wasn’t, so she decided to go inside and wait for McKenna there. This would make the surprise even more exciting. The first thing she noticed was that the room was almost fully packed up. “I was just standing there thinking wow, she really cleaned up a lot,” she remembers. Then exhaustion overcame her.
Deanna was tired from her flight, so she decided to lie on McKenna’s bed while she waited for her. Luckily, her daughter hadn’t packed up her sheets and pillows yet. She laid there for five minutes, then realized she was starting to doze off. But if her daughter walked in and saw her mother sleeping on her bed, it would totally ruin the surprise. So Deanna decided to do something else instead.
Deanna thought she could text her daughter to find out where she was. But then she realized that would also spoil the surprise. So she decided to do something she didn’t do very often: take a selfie. She thought, if she sent McKenna a picture of herself lying in her dorm room bed, it would be both surprising and funny. And so she did just that. But she had no idea what was about to happen.
“Look where I am! Where are you?” said the text below the picture of Deanna laying on the dorm room bed. A few moments later, her phone pinged - McKenna had replied. But it wasn’t the reaction Deanna was expecting. “Where’s that??” it read. “I’m in my dorm. Please tell me you’re not in someone else’s dorm.” Deanna’s head started spinning, and the pieces began falling into place.
“I am in the wrong dorm omg,” texted back a panicked Deanna, realizing what she had done. Thoughts raced across her mind of the embarrassment she had just put herself through. “I felt sick to my stomach because I’ve already said hi to several people in the dorm and they probably have no idea who I was,” she said.” “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I didn’t even look at the name of the building. I could be in the wrong building.’” Meanwhile, McKenna rushed to get her mother.
“I just started laughing and I ran out of my room and went and found her in my building,” McKenna said. Fortunately, Deanna hadn’t been completely wrong. The dorm room she had mistaken for her daughter’s was only down the hall from the real one. And, even better, the person who it belonged to probably wouldn’t be too upset about it.
“It was a friend in my building; it was just down the hall so it wasn’t too bad but it was pretty funny," recalled McKenna. “She didn’t find out until today, actually. She commented on it [the picture] and was like, ‘Is that my pillow?’” Though Deanna was mortified, her daughter took it in stride and decided to post about the hilarious mix-up on Twitter. But she wasn’t expecting the reaction it got.
“Momma Pilling at it again,” read the tweet below a screenshot of the mother and daughter’s text exchange, accompanied by laughing emojis. The photo spread like wildfire, gathering more than 16,000 retweets in a matter of days. Both McKenna and Deanna were surprised. “We weren’t expecting anything of it,” said the young student. “I just thought friends and family would see it but now it’s completely gone everywhere.” But McKenna thinks this won’t be her mother’s last shot at Internet fame.
"She’s full of surprises so I’m sure there will be more," said McKenna of her mother. "I don’t know if they’ll get as big as this one did but she’s always got surprises up her sleeves." Meanwhile, despite having there been no harm done, Deanna does have some regrets about the incident.
McKenna was asked what her mother thought of her newfound viral fame. "Every time I refresh my feed more retweets/favorites pop up, and now all my mom has to say is, 'I wish I would've taken a better picture,'" she replied. Personally, we think Deanna looks great, and dare we say - so does the Internet.