Columnist Bob Bridge
It came upon a midnight clear. My mother, Ruthie Laverne Bridge, was alone in her Evansville residence, seated in her most comfortable chair, when a no-nonsense knock on the large wooden front door demanded her attention.
After peering through the main entry’s small window, she ventured onto the porch and discovered a Christmas bag at her feet. She scanned the large, landscaped lawn in an effort to determine the deliverer, but nary a soul was in sight.
A message, printed on computer paper and attached to the bag, began with: “On the first day of Christmas we’d like to give to you ...”
Inside the bag was a variety of clever, thoughtful gifts.
When I arrived in Evansville the next day I faced a stringent interrogation in regard to the source of the package in question.
“I had nothing to do with it,” I proclaimed with the most innocent intonation I could conjure. “But I’ve got a feeling there will be more.”
Sure enough, when I awakened at 2:30 a.m. to deal with my beloved basset hound’s inconsiderate, bloated bladder, I nearly tripped over a strategically placed package.
A few hours later, when my mother appeared in her housecoat to wish her son and favorite grand dog a good morning, I sipped my coffee and pointed to the suspicious sack.
“Where did that come from?” she demanded.
Emerson and I responded with a collective shrug of our shoulders.
Her curiosity piqued, Ruthie was as giddy as a child on Christmas morning. She started displaying her prizes on a table in the living room and questioned everyone about potential suspects.
She even went so far as to solicit the assistance of my snooping soul mate, Ralph Waldo Emerson. I explained that unless the culprit was smothered in sausage gravy, his services were about as useful as a snow sled on a dog-day afternoon.
Emerson and I departed Evansville on Sunday, Dec. 16. For the next week my mom provided long-distance, detailed information about gifts received and a list of suspects she compiled.
“It could be your sister.”
“Nope, she can’t stay up that late.”
“What about my sisters?”
“Nope, they couldn’t run fast enough to get away.”
“Well, who could it be?”
“Don’t know, maybe those gifts are for me and Emerson?”
“No, because they have my name on them.”
“Fine, then it’s your mystery to solve.”
When I arrived home near midnight on Dec. 22, Ruthie was fit to be tied. She was curious, clueless and convinced someone close to her was harboring useful evidence.
“Who do you think it is?” she asked.
“I don’t know, but it sounds like something Billy would do.”
Billy, Ruthie’s nephew, is clever and infinitely thoughtful. Like just about everyone else I know, he loves my mom and would do anything to please her.
“You know, I’ll bet it is Billy,” she insisted. “I thought I saw a white car parked in the driveway the other night before I went to bed, and Billy drives a light-colored car.”
In an effort to get indisputable proof, she summoned Angie, her granddaughter, to help solve the puzzle. Sunday night, while I was watching the Colts, we heard a rap at the door. Mom ran to the threshold and Angie sprinted to the kitchen to peek out the window.
Mom returned with another package and Angie reported seeing two people sprinting across the lawn and down the rock wall that borders our front yard.
“What did they look like?” Mom inquired.
“Well, I didn’t get a good look, but they ran like girls.”
In no way, shape, or form does Billy resemble a girl. I listened while Mom and Angie compared theories.
“You know,” Angie suggested, “it will probably be someone you’d never suspect.”
Mom spent Christmas Eve giving our extended family members the third degree. It was to no avail. Either they were innocent or very convincing actors.
Late that night, as Emerson and I prepared for a stroll, we heard a rap on the door. Mom returned with a gift she recognized.
“It was your sister!” she shouted. “This is the gag gift Becky opened at the party tonight!”
She was interrupted by another loud rap. This time, she was greeted by a couple of giggling, mischievous nieces, posing as culprits.
“I told you it wasn’t Becky,” I gloated. “They’re just pulling your chain.”
Moments after my nieces departed, the genuine gift-giver appeared for the 11th time.
“I give up,” Mom said when a quick scan of the landscape failed to provide a clue.
Christmas morning was wonderful. Mom was in great spirits, and her family bestowed her with a bounty of gifts to place beneath the table that displayed the treasures she collected from the mystery bags during the past couple of weeks.
Just as my sister’s family was walking out the door, I received a call from Dave, a boyhood friend. I had seen his wife, Jean, another dear friend, at the mall on Christmas Eve, so she knew I was in town. I had planned to give Dave a call before I left town that evening, but this was better. Dave said he, Jean and the rest of the family intended to stop by for a visit.
They arrived about an hour later. Dave and Jean introduced me to their son Andy, daughter Sarah, and Sarah’s friend, Whitney.
My mom explained to them about the mystery gifts and her suspicion that it could be her nephew. They listened attentively and Sarah even read aloud a note on one of the bags.
Then, following a pregnant pause, Jean arose and walked to the entryway. She returned with a bag.
“It’s just a little something we got for you,” she said.
As soon as Mom looked at the sack, the mystery was solved. While our guests giggled and guffawed with gusto, Mom stood speechless.
As Angie had so sagely suggested, it was someone Ruthie never suspected.
Since my dad died a few years ago, Christmas hasn’t been the same at 320 Evergreen Road. In a nasty case of twisted fate, Dad died on Mom’s birthday, Dec. 20. It’s hard to celebrate a birthday and capture the Christmas spirit under those circumstances.
But for 12 wonderful days, my friends provided Mom with an uplifting experience. I don’t think I’ve seen her smile and giggle so much since we lost Dad.
Before I left late Christmas night, she inquired: “Why do you suppose Dave and Jean picked me?”
I could have explained all my friends love and treasure her, but I didn’t. Instead, Emerson and I just shrugged our collective shoulders.
You reap what you sow, Ruthie. And don’t think for a minute there aren’t angels walking among us.
Bob Bridge welcomes comments at 812-276-9646 or email@example.com.