Christmas is all about mystery – the advent of Jesus, the Savior of mankind born of a virgin. Somehow, later came Santa Claus, the jolly man who drives an airborne sleigh by the power of magical reindeer and delivers presents to obedient children.

I believed in Jesus and knew Christmas celebrates His birth. And I also believed in Santa to see him as many children said they did. Perhaps an unfulfilled anticipation of spying Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve bred the desire for my children to see Santa. For I promised my three little girls their father would take them to see St. Nick. They would tell him what they wanted for Christmas.

A risky plan, indeed.

Nonetheless, my husband drove our girls downtown to Detroit’s J.L. Hudson’s, took escalators up to the twelfth floor to Santa’s Wonderland. A photograph ever memorializes our youngest daughter in tears, Santa forcing a smile under his mustache.

Years later, Christmas joy languished during the long sorrow of our firstborn’s substance abuse and death. Graciously, Amy Grant performed at the Palace the December my broken family needed her most. A surprise gift to my husband and daughters, we adored every minute of Amy’s show, a lovely voice we all knew well.

In 2008, I planned a trip for the wonderful women who offered to serve on my lavender farm’s advisory board and staff. After a festive breakfast, wouldn’t it be fun to drive them to individual mystery destinations to celebrate Christmas?

Oh yes, both groups loved the surprise entirely. Several advent seasons later, I blended both advisors and staff for all to enjoy a new mystery trip.

Friday, December 16, the lavender ladies and I met again around my dining room table. I served currant lemon lavender scones, Ensalada Nochebuena, Quiche Lorraine, Quiche Nicoise, tea and coffee to those who helped build my lavender farm.

After our gift exchange and stories of cherished Christmas memories, I said, “Time to leave for our first destination!”

“What about Erna’s cake?” a guest asked.

“Oh no! I forgot the cake!” And Erna’s beautiful chocolate layer torte is not to be overlooked.

I closed the door to my study and called our second destination, my favorite restaurant close by our first stop. “I have reservations for six at four p.m. today. Will you permit us to bring our own dessert to the table?”

“Yes,” the employee said.

I led the convoy down Rochester Road, across Tienken, and down Adams Road with one red traffic light. The ladies and I parked in the lot for Meadowbrook Hall and entered the stately doors on time for our self-guided tour.

Dear Reader, nearly two hours we strolled decorated, palatial halls and rooms where another family suffered tragedy, and left their remarkable legacy for public view.

From four to almost six p.m., we dined at Kruse & Muer, our final stop. Justin, our server, plated our cake while the pleasure of friendship and another road trip witnessed God with us. The ultimate mystery.

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