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January 25, 2021

Window on the World Column: Secret Sisters

By Lucy Jensen, Soledad Columnist

“‘Tis the season! Join my baking group, send Christmas cheer out to the world, be a part of a Secret Santa, Operation Christmas Child or Secret Sister group?” Normally, I wouldn’t go there. I don’t have time to be figuring out how to do my part, not let the group down, be timely in my attendance of the Zoom meeting for the Pots and Pan presentation or any of that. But something moved me this year to do something that could be fun and raise spirits a little. “Be a part of the Secret Sister Gift Exchange,” a friend of mine posted. “Let’s start the Christmas spirit early!” Oh yes, that might be good for the sense of humor, I thought. It has been such a very down-spirited year.

I read my friend’s message several times. I even made notes. Move number 2 to number 1. Don’t forget to put your name and address on there, share … Wait, did I do that right? Thinking I had finally understood the concept, I opened the door to my own Secret Sister Gift Exchange online and the voices echoed back from across the world. People really wanted to get in the spirit early this year! A friend piped up from England, several from here, even one from Russia hailed back “Count Me In!” My goodness me. I had a whole plethora of mature Secret Sisters all over the universe wanting to play a game with me. I better not mess it up!

The weight of responsibility almost made me regret signing up, because it seemed a lot harder than it had first appeared. I messaged my original friend for guidance and created a new online group titled “Christmas Cheer.” Seemed as if it would be better if we were all organized in a one group setting. I felt better already. What could go wrong? Oh, lots can apparently in the cyber-group-sharing world, unless you are very militant and persistent with your flock. You also need to understand the rules. My group started to fall apart very quickly. Folks dropped out because they feared — with some probability — that no one would want to pay mailing costs to their country, others fell at the starting line because they found it more difficult that was originally perceived; and then they got so annoyed by it they ran screaming, as it were. The Festive Secret Sisters group was now becoming kind of a burden.

But then I saw all the festively decorated trees appearing online; illegal pre-thanksgiving decorating was going on across the country, post-Halloween sparkle was popping up all over the planet. People, the world over, were looking for an early Christmas in their hearts. They wanted the sparkly lights, the music, chunks of goodwill to all men, the feelings that everything is going to be alright, if you have hope in your heart. Well gosh darn it. If our Secret Sisters wanted a gift exchange, I would bring it to them and make it happen, regardless of my failures as a group leader.

My childhood friend in Russia had backed out, because she felt no one would want to participate with her and her substantial mailing cost. Forget that. “Do you have Amazon?” I asked her. She told me she had never used the service, but it existed. I figured out how to order her a copy of my book (via Amazon.UK is apparently the way to go), included a nice festive message and paid the $40 additional postage it took to get the gift to her. She was so delighted. I told her it was about time I sent her a present; we had only been friends for about 57 years! She told me she would be returning the favor. A gift from Russia — how exciting! We had such a lovely dialogue; I felt the holiday spirit soar in my heart.

My friend in England said she could no longer play, because she just lost her job and must watch her pennies. Forget that! I shipped her a copy of my book too with a nice message. “I’ve sent you something just for wanting to be cheerful and play along!” “No way!” she responded. “That is so cool!” We were at school together over 40 years ago and haven’t shared a gift between us since. This is so fun. I was on a roll and feeling light of heart and champagne-cheery. My dad told me his friend in London was on lockdown again and had just lost her dog. How sad! I sent her a book too with a nice message. She was so happy; she called my dad just to tell him.

You can find joy in some very unusual places. Sometimes it is under the tree, sometimes it’s over the phone and, every now and then, it can be disguised as an annoying group game that blossoms into some severely needed world cheer. Never mind I got a random, possibly re-gifted pair of pink socks for my Secret Sister gift that made me laugh quite a lot. It is all about the giving — as Granny would say — and I don’t mind a bit. I’m thinking that a proper tree will be in order this year with lots of decorations and lights. We shall put it up early and enjoy the bejeebers out of it through the holiday season. I’ve decided to clear out the fireplace and put lovely sparkly lights in there, since we never light a fire (I have year- round birds that sleep in my chimney). How cheery will that be?

If you’re feeling the winter doldrums nestling on your shoulders and you’ve got no appetite for playing a Secret Sister game, think about my story and how one small outreach can take you to marvelous places you never dreamed of. Also, if you need to ship an easy gift, Amazon can mail my book, “The Animals Teach Us Everything and Other Short Tales” … it’s pretty cheerful and not too pricey. Plus, you’d be cheering up its author.

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