After a long Thanksgiving weekend, I walked into the Newsleader office Monday morning, greeted the staff in my usual way and exclaimed, “Who put up the Christmas tree? What a nice surprise.”
Smack in the middle of the front window stood a 5-foot tall imitation Christmas tree with brand new cinnamon-colored balls and baubles hung on its many branches.
The two ladies in the office, Tara, our graphic designer, and Kathryn, my sales assistant, gave me a blank stare and Tara said slack-jawed, “We thought you did.”
I assured them I’d been out of town for the holiday and only returned Sunday evening.
“Well that’s strange,” Tara said, “I asked Kathy when I came in this morning if she was the culprit, but she’s denying the whole thing.”
Kathryn said adamantly, “I didn’t do it.”
Tara and I looked at each other and decided either she was telling the truth or she definitely could hold her poker face.
“Then,” Tara said, “when Kathy said it wasn’t her, I assumed you and the kids had come in over the course of the weekend and put up the tree and ornaments.”
I said, “Well I know it wasn’t me, but who would do that – pay for a fake tree and all the bells and whistles? And who else has access to the office besides us three?”
We started to wonder out loud. Could it be the renters in the basement? No they don’t have access to the upstairs office. Could it be a past employee who may not have turned in the keys? Why would they want to do such a nice favor?
Tara said, “I’ll call Glen (our delivery driver) and ask him if he planned it all.” But when she called she only got a voice-mail message.
“Maybe it was Dennis (our editor),” Tara said. “You know how much he loves Christmas and is always decorating his own place so nicely.”
But when Dennis answered the phone, he was as surprised as the rest of us.
“Maybe we have Christmas elves who secretly did the deed,” he said. “Or maybe Kathryn’s just a super good actress.”
Then Glen stopped by because he happened to be in the area when he received the earlier message. We all stood around for a while, mystified by the whole thing.
Then we decided if we couldn’t figure out who had done it, maybe we needed to get the police involved because someone had definitely been in the building during the weekend.
“But there’s no sign of forced entry,” I said. “And if someone did break in, why would they do such a nice thing and not take anything else when they left?”
I couldn’t fathom pressing charges against a “pay it forward” burglar.
Then Glen piped up, “Maybe your husband did it as a goodwill gesture on his part.”
My husband did have to work Friday so was not with us for Thanksgiving weekend, but I assured all of them he doesn’t have access to the building either unless I give him my key when he’s helping with maintenance and the like.
Finally, it dawned on me, my 19-year-old daughter, Rajahna, had been helping with administrative duties during the summer while one of the staff was on medical leave and may have kept her key. When I contacted her later that day, and when I asked her if she knew anything about the tree, she sheepishly said, “Maybe. What if I did?”
Then she finally confessed and said, “Merry Christmas! I was having a hard time deciding what to get you for Christmas, and I know how much you love a tree for the holidays, so Noah (her boyfriend) and I came in Sunday evening and put together the tree and decorated it for you and everyone at the office to enjoy.”
“What a thoughtful thing to do, I said. “Thank you.”
Later Dennis said, “Well I’m glad it turned out to be Rajahna. It was either that, or Kathryn deserves an Oscar for her straight-faced performance.”
It was good to have the riddle solved. We’d been so stumped we were thinking about publishing in the paper a thank-you note to such a mysterious Christmas burglar who, instead of taking things, gives such good cheer.