A new year of Bunco is starting and that means new Secret Pals. Every year at our December get together, we exchange gifts and try to guess who our Secret Pal was that year. Some years you have a hunch and others you get totally taken by surprise. Right after, a hat gets passed around and you draw the name of the person you will have for the next year. This can be fraught with peril, as some people are trickier to buy for than others. It's always a moment to cross your fingers and think positive thoughts. (Barring that you can throw a name back in under the guise of "just having had them this year", not that I've ever done that.)
We'd been playing a year or so before we started doing Secret Pals. The original idea was just to do little gifts that you would bring with you when we played. It didn't have to be every month - the big thing was that you gave a birthday and Christmas gift over the course of the year. Since we were all mothers of young kids at that point, money was an issue for most of us, so the things we got and gave tended to be small, thoughtful, quirky gifts. If your kids had the flu you might very well find a casserole from your SP on your front porch with a bow on it. Fight with your husband? Wow. There's a bottle of wine on the front seat of the car. Need some slipcovers? Your SP may just have traded babysitting with the seamstress in the group to come and whip some up for you.
It was fun. It was personal. It was low pressure.
It still is, but there's an element of danger in it that wasn't there before. With some changes in the line-up, we've been together as a group for nine years this month. We've gone on trips together. We've gone through childbirth, divorces, death, affairs, surgery, illness, members moving away, advanced degrees, children trying to kill us and so much more. We haven't taken vows of secrecy although god knows we probably should. We know a lot about each other for the most part. That's what makes it hard. We know too much. And sometimes that puts a lot of pressure on to find the perfect gift. Twelve times a year.
I'm really excited about who I drew. She's got a lot of changes going on in her life, and I'm having fun trying to figure out how to make her life easier. Or at least more fun during the stress. I'm sure I'll get more creative as the year goes on, but for this month I'm going with the tried and true - a nice bottle of California Syrah. It may not take the stress away, but hopefully it will dull it down briefly.
Because, really, isn't that what friends are for?