Sisters, secret santa, and cheese extraordinaire

My sister has an across-the-street neighbor who seems to get a delivery from UPS about every day. A few months ago, I was at her house, observing this phenomenon, and we were both wishing that we had more UPS visits. I came up with the idea of sending one another occasional surprise "presents" to be delivered. We've been doing it ever since.

We have some rules: You can't spill the beans, or even hint, that something is on its way. You can't ask, or even hint, for something specific to be sent to you. We don't have a dollar limit, though we never spend very much -- the point is the surprise of a delivery, afterall. (We both have Amazon Prime, so shipping is mostly free. I know, I know, "the man" and everything. But that's how it is, sometimes.)

We call it "secret santa". Even though it's not strictly a "secret santa" exchange -- afterall, we both know, when something arrives, who sent it. And it has no timeline. But it is a way to brighten the day of a sister.

Today I received a secret santa package. It was the most fantastic form of secret santa surprise: a blend of 80's fabulousness, nostalgia, and, well....

secret santa

Harry Belafonte.

I remember the day my mom picked up three cassette tapes in this Hallmark Christmas music series at the Hallmark store in the local shopping mall (which has long since vanished in the way of many shopping malls -- first with empty halls, then slipping into disrepair, its decrepit remains finally demolished in the last decade, slipping into memory).

Those three cassettes were the soundtrack of our family's Christmas preparation and celebration. We decorated on the Sunday before Christmas every year. It was my job to hang a display of all the Christmas cards received, using that chewing-gum poster tack, around the wooden archway in our 1916 Craftsman bungalow, while the banisters and window frames were decked with (real) evergreen garland, and our funny, tiny (artificial) Christmas tree was decorated.

Today as I slipped this CD in and sat back to knit while my children danced like crazy to Mary's Little Boy Child, We'll Sing You a Christmastime, and Jennifer Warnes's quirky rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentelmen, I floated off on the best kind of nostalgia.

Thank you, secret santa.