Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
April 2020
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Secrets of a secret Santa

Warning: This blog post may reveal truths that have been kept secret for more than — ooh, I don’t remember exactly — let’s say 25 years. If you did not cope well with “finding out” about Father Christmas in general (oh, you didn’t know? oops, sorry!), then you may want to skip this post. My suspicion, however, is that any readers who have been victims will have guessed the truth already.

There is a long-running family tradition in my parents’ household of doing “cookie drops” in the week leading up to Christmas. My Mum makes batches of her signature shortbread and chocolate chip cookies, and then decides on a list of people —mostly local Church members (although I have vague memories of dropping some off at Hobart’s ambulance headquarters one year) — who might appreciate a surprise delivery.

SecretSantaWhen we were younger, we’d pile into the family car one evening, with the biscuits packaged up, and do our cookie drop run. Mum and Dad would drive/navigate, while we kids took responsibility for the exciting bit: undetected delivery (or, at least, unidentified delivery). This would involve stealthy sneaking under cover of whatever nearby shrubbery and fences could be found (cover of darkness is a rare thing in Tasmania at this time of year when it is still light at 9pm!). After placing the package, one of us would give the door a brisk knock, and then we’d just about fall over each other in a rapid dash to the getaway car, which had to be parked far enough away that no one could see it (it being rather recognisable). There was always a sense of anticipation and hyperawareness in the approach manouevres, a heightened tension in the last few metres to the door, a rush of adrenaline for the get-away sprint, the triumph of reaching the car and piling in and slamming the doors and saying “let’s go”, and the occasional sense of anticlimax when we realised the victims weren’t actually home.

One year one of our victims lived on a bush block out in the countryside, with a single long driveway that seemed to us too obvious as a means of retreat (“they’ll know which way we went”). So, we snuck up this driveway in the gathering gloom (it was rather late in the evening by the time we’d reached the place as the final visit for the night), knocked on the door, and then charged blindly cross-country through the scrub like a mob of mad kangaroos until we hit the fence-line and found the car. Unless these victims were totally deaf I suspect they knew which way we went anyway!

In recent years I have usually been the only one of my siblings around to do the Christmas cookie drop, although on occasions I have been joined by one of my nieces. Despite the fact that I’ve been away sufficiently long to be unfamiliar to most of the current victims on Mum’s lists, it still seems important to maintain the secrecy. These days, however, the sneaking has been replaced by cunning costuming. Even if you knew me, you can see from the photo what a master of disguise I am. Thus it is that I can stroll up to the house directly, and on several occasions have actually said “ho ho ho” directly to a victim who has made an inconvenient appearance. On the other hand, if all goes well and the victims are inside, I knock and then sprint back to the car.

No, that’s a lie. I jog as fast as my dodgy knees and unfit state will permit … and then huff and puff for quite some time afterwards. I also have to extract the furry bits of fake beard that I have half-inhaled, roll up the sleeves of the thin felt costume because I’ve just exerted myself and it’s summer and it gets hot (even in Tasmania), and readjust the pathetic plastic belt. With luck, the distance to the next victim’s place is long enough for me to recover my breath.

As suggested, I really can’t remember how long we’ve been doing this; but if I’m home at Christmas and the knees can hold out, I guess we’ll keep doing it for a while yet.

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