After nearly a year apart, Navy reservist Julie Workman wanted the reunion with her son to be special.
So she consulted with her husband and her sister-in-law, who works at a local mall, and hatched a plan to surprise her 12-year-old boy, Dillon, as he got his photo taken with Santa Claus.
Workman, who had served in Bahrain since January, wasn't sure her son would consent to sitting on Santa's knee, given his age, but "he was being a really good sport," she told InsideEdition.com Monday.
Dillon was truly stunned when his mother walked up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder, and asked, "Mind if I get in this picture?"
The boy's jaw dropped and he jumped to his feet, throwing his arms around his mother and hugging her tight. "He didn't want to let go," she said. "We both cried. He was wiping his face on my shirt."
Workman had returned to the states last month, but was in Virginia, waiting for word on when she could go home to Cleveland.
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She called her sister-in-law last week, saying she was coming home the next day. Her husband and his sister got everything together, and convinced Dillon to sit with Santa for a photo for the first time in years.
"I'm surprised he did it," Workman said. And when he eventually laid eyes on his mother, he was the one surprised.
"He didn't know what to do," she said. "He's usually really shy. I was nervous that he would just be like, 'I want to leave now.'"
Instead, he seemed rooted to the spot as he fiercely hugged his mother.
"There were definitely tears on both sides," she said.