December 24, 2021

The Secret Santa Run

Despite the fact that our travel trailer is safely tucked away for the winter, Alan and I continue to embrace adventures, large and small, whenever we have the opportunity.  We’ve been tackling them together since day one when we set out on a month-long cross-country camping honeymoon with a two-person mountain tent, a Coleman cooler and our hearts full of love and wanderlust.

When our son, Ryan, was working at our local Tractor Supply Company store some years back, I’d sometimes stop in after running errands to drop off a bagel or some cookies from the bakery.  That habit of delivering treats like Santa himself led to a fairly recent tradition at our house – The Secret Santa Run.  Come along with Alan and me this year to see how it went and decide for yourselves whether or not we’re an embarrassment to our kids.

Our Secret Santa Run is not secret, we’re not really Santa, and you won’t catch either of us running anywhere.  But we have a heck of a lot of fun and it all starts at the Dollar Store.  The Secret Santa Run is not for delivering expensive or fancy gifts.  The good stuff is already wrapped and under the Christmas tree.  It’s about finding something useful, silly or tasty and delivering it to our unknowing and unsuspecting kids and bonus kid while they’re hard at work and not wondering what trouble their parents and future in-laws might be causing.

It sure would be nice if they all worked in the same general vicinity.  But, alas, they do not.  Ryan’s fiancĂ©e, Anya, works in a school district that’s forty-five minutes west of us.  Our daughter, Kyra, works in a barber shop one hour southwest of us.  Ryan is a lineman for Verizon and could be anywhere.  But his car is parked at a Verizon facility about thirty minutes south of us.  This year’s Secret Santa Run required a stop at Ryan and Anya’s house which is kinda sorta in between Anya’s school district and Kyra’s barber shop.  This year, we also wanted to include a stop at our cousins’ house to drop off Ryan’s old telescope for their grandkids.  That would be another fifteen minutes south of where Ryan’s car was parked and approximately thirty minutes west of Kyra’s barber shop.  Are you confused yet?  Good!  It gets worse.  Those of us who are not directionally challenged can see that the Secret Santa Run follows a large and rather circuitous loop.  No worries!  Alan and I were up for the challenge and the adventure!

Last Friday, I bagged up our big $4.00 haul from the Dollar Store and off we went.  Our “toy bag” wasn’t quite as big as Santa’s, but we still felt like two of his elves as we set out on our adventure.  It was a beautiful day – bright and sunny and comfortably warm for a winter day in the northeast.  For our Secret Santa Run deliveries, we leave Kyra’s gift inside her car.  She lives at home with us and her extra set of keys resides in the key basket on the kitchen counter.  Very convenient, yes?  We leave Ryan’s and Anya’s gifts on their car windshields – one of the reasons why we always choose a good weather day for the Secret Santa Run.

Our first stop was Anya’s school district.  As we drove slowly through the parking lot looking for her car we sincerely hoped that nobody was watching us.  We didn’t want anyone to think we were casing the place or that we were a threat to the students.  A quick in and out with a fast drop off – that was the goal.  Guess what.  Anya wasn’t there!  Now what are we going to do?!  Where could she be?  Is she sick?  Did she have car trouble?  Is she just at a meeting out of the building?  Am I going to get to keep this cute silicone tray that makes snowman-shaped ice cubes?!  It was our first fail of the day, so we moved on to Plan B – we’ll leave her ice cube tray at their house when we drop off gift #2 – a sweet little travel trailer sign that said, “Seasons Greetings.”  The plan was to tap it in the ground next to our former travel trailer which Ryan and Anya now own and which is parked on their property next to their house.  We decided that our best option was to simply leave Anya’s ice cube tray by the sign.

We encountered our second fail of the day even before we reached Ryan and Anya’s house.  I looked in the back seat and realized I had forgotten to pack snacks.  Oh, boy.  It can be hazardous to a person’s health and safety to travel with me if I haven’t eaten in more than a few hours.  I try to avoid disastrous situations by always packing snacks when we hit the road.  Guess what.  No snacks!  Luckily, Alan’s sense of self-preservation kicked in and he spotted a teeny tiny grocery store in a teeny tiny town we were passing through on the way to Ryan and Anya’s house.  I was able to find a snack to tide us over until lunch which was looking to be much later than usual.

As we turned onto the road on which Ryan and Anya live, I said a bad word.  No, you don’t need to know what it was.  Okay, I’ll tell you.  It was a four letter word that started with an “s” and ended with a “t.” I try not to use it unless it’s absolutely necessary, but it was absolutely necessary last Friday.  Why?  Because Anya’s car was in the driveway - parked right in front of the house - and they have a security camera.  Was she at home not feeling well?  Maybe asleep in bed (right next to the travel trailer)?  If Alan dropped me off at the far side of the driveway and I walked down the property line to the travel trailer would I be out of camera range?  Would Anya come to the door and ask me what I was doing sneaking around their house?  Or would their neighbors call for law enforcement?  Should we check on Anya and ruin the surprise?  What a dilemma!  Alan did drop me off and, as I casually (but stealthily) worked my way toward the travel trailer, Whiskey started barking inside the house.  I almost said that bad word again because if Anya was, indeed, home, then we were, indeed, busted.  But Anya didn’t come to the door (confirming our guess that she wasn’t actually there), the neighbors didn’t call for law enforcement (or, at least, law enforcement didn’t arrive before we skedaddled) and we called stop #2 a success.  On to stop #3.

We zipped down to our cousins’ home to pass along Ryan’s telescope expecting it to be nothing more than a quick drop and run, especially since we were watching the time to ensure we hit Ryan’s car before 3:30 p.m.  Well, not actually hit his car; you know what I mean.  However, it was our cousins who informed us that a national threat had been posted to schools across the country on Tik Tok that day and there was a heightened level of security and surveillance in many districts.  Great.  We pick the one day that staff may be particularly concerned about suspicious vehicles.  There’s probably a BOLO out on us and the State Troopers will be camped on our doorstep when we get home.  Whose idea was this anyway?

Well, in for a dime, in for a dollar.  It was on to stop #4 – Kyra’s barber shop – after a quick stop for subs that we didn’t even have time to eat.  (All I can say is that Alan must like to live dangerously.)  The last time we pulled this stunt we made a Secret Santa Run, we were busted as soon as we pulled into the barber shop lot.  A couple of Kyra’s colleagues happened to be out on the back deck taking a break and started waving.  We vowed to be stealthier on this go round.  The shop has a driveway that cuts through to the street behind it, so Alan dropped me off at the back entrance to the drive and I walked casually through the lot looking for Kyra’s car.  (Kyra’s station is in the big window at the front of the shop, so coming in through the front is definitely not a stealthy option.)  That day, she happened to park closer to the shop than usual, which made things a bit trickier.  I must be perfecting my “casual but stealthy” approach because a couple of people talking in the lot didn’t pay any attention to me and I successfully made the delivery – a box of mini candy canes left on the driver’s seat of her car.  (Here’s hoping she looks before she sits.)  Our confidence in our Secret Santa abilities skyrocketed because Kyra’s delivery is always the trickiest and, besides that, we still saw no flashing lights indicating that law enforcement had tracked us down.  Yay, us!

We were really watching the time now as we made our way to stop #5, Ryan’s car.  A traffic slowdown was cause for concern, but we were approaching the city street where the Verizon facility is located at 3:10 p.m., giving us a 20 minute window before Ryan might possibly return.  We were delighted that our Secret Santa Run worked out so perfectly!  Delighted, that is, until we saw a Verizon auger truck with a trailer full of telephone poles – just like the truck Ryan drives – headed right toward us.  YIKES!  Is that Ryan?  How many auger trucks can there be at this facility?  What are we going to do?  Alan immediately slowed down knowing that, if that was Ryan, he would easily recognize the car if we got too close.  We waited for the driver to make his final turn, then we slowly crawled up to the corner for a peek.  The truck was just about to turn into the Verizon lot and we could see Ryan’s car from the corner.  As soon as the truck was out of sight, we zipped around the corner.  Alan barely had the car stopped before I leaped out and dropped Ryan’s ice cube tray (Christmas candies, this time) on his windshield, looping the hang tag around the end of his wiper blade so the gift wouldn’t blow away.  I jumped back in the car and Alan drove down the street, turned around and parked behind another car so that we could spy on Ryan as he found his gift.  There we waited and waited and . . . no Ryan.  How long could it possibly take him to walk from the truck to his car?  Maybe it wasn’t Ryan.  Do you think it was Ryan?  If it was Ryan, where could he have gone?  After ten minutes of waiting for the prodigal son who never returned and having made the last stop on this year’s Secret Santa Run, we decided to go to a park to finally eat our well-deserved and badly needed sub sandwiches.  A good time was had by all (well, at least by the two of us) and, best of all, we found no State Troopers waiting for us when we arrived home.

Now, for the rest of the story . . . As it turns out, Anya had an out-of-town dental appointment and had taken the day off from work.  Her car was at home because her mom went with her and they took her mom’s car.  Anya loved the cute little sign and ice cube tray, so we decided that our first fail was actually a rousing success.  We had figured that the candy canes we left for Kyra were a dead giveaway since she would have found them inside her locked car.  When she asked if we were at the shop that day, I played dumb and asked why.  When she replied that someone had left something on her seat, I commented that only Santa can get in a locked car.  No reply.  When we actually chatted later, it became apparent that her keys had been out of her sight for part of the day and she really wasn’t sure who left the gift.  I fessed up when she said that she was going to call the next person on her list of possible suspects.  So, now, two out of three successful gift drops.  Finally, as it turned out, that wasn’t Ryan we saw pulling into the Verizon parking lot.  He actually worked late that day and didn’t get back until 6:30 p.m. – well after dark.  He never saw the little red silicone ice cube tray and didn’t find it until he got home.  His comment?  They ride really well on the windshield!  Considering the fact that he was probably really surprised to find it there after arriving home, Alan and I gave ourselves a three out of three for our stealthy Secret Santa Run deliveries.

All in all, Alan and I traveled 219.5 miles, put smiles on the faces of our kids and bonus kid and enjoyed each other’s company on a gorgeous day to be out and about.  We decided that this year’s Secret Santa Run was a complete success!  We’d like to think that we embarrassed our kids but, honestly, I don't think anything we do throws them for a loop any more.  As you can tell, it doesn’t take much to entertain us or to make us happy.  We’re both pretty cheap dates and if we can’t find a good time, we’ll just go ahead and make one up.  It’s important to remember (especially at Christmas) that there’s still a little kid deep in our hearts that lives for the fun and excitement a delightful adventure can bring.  May we never forget.

A heartfelt thank you to all of you who stop by this blog to visit throughout the year.  I know there are countless ways to spend your time, and I’m honored that you choose to spend some of it here.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!



  1. Mary,
    Loved the story. Confirms my strong feelings that the best things at Christmas are the little things we do for others. All our best for a fabulous 2022. Joe

    1. Joe, I agree that the little things we do are often the best. For years, Alan has enjoyed coming up with creative and silly To & From comments on our gift tags. It gives us all a laugh, and now our daughter has also picked up on this sweet little tradition. Just goes to prove that gestures and gifts don't have to be monumental to be exceptional. Best wishes to you and Helen, too, for a spectacular year ahead!

  2. What a fun tradition! I agree that it's often the small things we do—and the time we take to show others we care—that mean the most. Wishing you a joyous year and many more wonderful adventures, both large and small!

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head, Laurel. It's a small, silly way for us to show the kids we're thinking about them. Warm wishes to you and Eric (Magnolia,too!) for all of life's best in 2022!


Comments are encouraged and appreciated, so please do join the conversation!