There’s been a bit of a plot in the air at church this Christmas. Mystery. Intrigue. Conspiracy. Even some good-natured holiday ribbing.
And it’s my fault.
So let me explain. A little awhile ago, my dad and I pooled some money and purchased a nice Nikon Coolscan V negative and slide scanner. My first batch of slides to scan on this consists of 3 reels plus one box of slides from the church archives, some 600 images or so. I’ve got 350 scanned so far. We’ll be using these in the centennial book we’re working on, and I’ll burn some DVD-Rs for use by the church in the future.
There are some real treasures in this set. Some extremely rare color photos of the old church building (torn down in 1965), including its interior. All sorts of people in their younger days, plus photos of quite a few people that have since passed on. There were also many photos from 1983 for the church’s 75th anniversary celebration. It’s safe to say that few, if any, people have laid eyes on these photos in the last 25 years.
About two weeks ago, I was remembering how I surprised Aunt Viola by giving her a print of a photo of the choir she directed in 1946. It occured to me how many photos are in this slide set that people would love to see. I started thinking “Hmmm…..”
As I was sitting there scanning, I had lots of time to think. (Each slide takes about 3 minutes at 4000 DPI). I finally decided that I could make nice prints of these images by uploading them to a photo printing service. I’d surprise a few people with an anonymous gift of photos on Christmas.
Well, a “few” grew into “as many as possible”, and I wound up ordering 175 prints. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I ran into a problem early last week. I don’t know who many of these people are, or who their relatives are that still attend our church. I needed help. I had to enlist my dad in my conspiracy — he knows many of these people and who they’re related to.
With his help on Monday, we identified people in some 300 photos. I rushed to get them uploaded to Shutterfly and place an order with overnight shipping to make sure they’d arrive by Christmas. They finally did.
I had help stuffing envelopes while I sorted out the photos. Each envelope had the name of the recipients, plus “Merry Christmas!” written on it. Our names were nowhere to be found.
Saturday afternoon, before the big Christmas Eve program, my brothers and I (who had heard the conersation with my dad, but were good at keeping secrets) helped me stuff mailboxes at church. We escaped without tipping anyone off to what we were doing.
The Christmas Eve service came and went. I tried to listen for conversations about pictures, but didn’t hear any. I was a little concerned — hopefully people liked these photos.
I knew that the moment my aunt saw her photos, she would be able to figure out it was me behind it, and would spread that, but I figured I’d remain anonymous for awhile. It’s fun to keep people guessing.
Well, I accidentally blew my own cover this morning. I asked my aunt about her pictures, but she hadn’t opened the envelope yet. Oops. (In my defense, that’s not very like her!)
But it turns out that these photos have been a topic of many conversations over the past two days. Lots of 70- and 80-year-olds “blaming” each other for delivering surprise photos on Christmas. Wild speculation about who this anonymous Santa is. And where did these old pictures come from? Whose closets would still have such a thing? Plus, lots of checking to see exactly what photos each person got. (I tried to give people photos that would be meaningful to them — friends, relatives, etc.) There was even some amateur handwriting analysis going on. Apparently nobody even suspected me at all.
This was probably the most time I’ve put into a Christmas gift in a long time. But also the most fun and rewarding. I got to see somebody run out the church to show a picture of some high schoolers in 1965 to a friend before they drove off.
This is what makes Christmas such a fun time of year — touching someone’s heart. The sort of thing that can’t be found on any Walmart or mall shelf.
I’ve never been able to give a meaningful Christmas gift to so many people before, and it is a really wonderful feeling to have surprised so many this year.