My mom, the sleuth

It’s not like our family was that big, about 12 of us when all the kids were grown and married, but Mom decided one year buying Christmas presents for everyone was getting too expensive and we needed a solution. The solution was to pick a name out of a hat and everyone would buy one present for one relative. A “Secret Santa,” I guess.
None of us were thrilled about it, but we went along and tried to make the most of it.
One way was to make the selection process a big deal. We did so at Thanksgiving right after dinner at mom’s house. Everyone was handed a blank Christmas card and envelope, left over from the year before, and told to write our name inside along with a few gift suggestions, particularly sizes. All the cards in their sealed envelopes were then placed in a box and we each picked.
It turned out to be a lot of fun for Mom, and the rest of us, too, if truth be told, trying for the next month to figure out who had whom. Mom, especially, got caught up in it. A determined detective was she. Who knew?
I must admit on Christmas Eve, when we exchanged our gifts, there was an element of excitement in the air as we anticipated the big reveal. “I knew it!” Mom would squeal each time her suspicion proved correct.
Well, the second year, my brother-in-law Paul devised a way to solve his portion of the mystery right off the bat. He wrote what amounted to a small book in his card, a long rambling essay. He concluded with: “Because I wrote so much, you are going to be the last one reading your card. When you finish, look at me because I will be looking at you.”
So Paul’s Santa was no secret.
Our plan to buy just one present didn’t last long. We missed giving gifts to each other. And besides, we always cheated and bought gifts for Mom and Dad anyway no matter whose name we got.
The Christmas mystery in those few years was fun, however. And I did admire Paul’s cleverness. And Mom’s tenacity.

Ed Ackerman