By: Lauren Keith
PIEDMONT, Mo. - An anonymous letter from a Heartland News viewer sent to reporter Lauren Keith then led her to track down the Christmas Mystery in Piedmont. That's where we meet Mr. Bud Schuller, a retired Clearwater Middle School teacher who still substitutes regularly.
It all begins with an unwrapped gift. In Christmas of 1982, Mr. Schuller says his family gathered to open gifts, when someone said it's a shame we have all these gifts to open, and tomorrow it will be just another day. That got Mr. Schuller thinking, and he randomly decided to hold back one of his gifts to open the next day as a way to stretch out the joy of Christmas a little longer.
Well, he got busy in his travels and gatherings. One day turned to one month, and then one year later!
"The next Christmas I snuck it under the tree," he recalled.
But his mother remembered she had given Bud that gift, and she marveled at his willpower to not open it.
"It became a family tradition. This will be the 26th year in a row this has been under the tree!" he said.
Sadly, it will be another Christmas Mr. Schuler's family now spends without his mother. She recently passed away, and now the family believes she lives on through this gift.
"We just think if we open it, then it's like she's gone for good. Each year when my brother passes out the gift, the room gets a little quiet when this gift is next. My kids wonder if this will be the year I'll finally open Grandma's present," Mr. Schuller said choking up.
In the meantime, Mr. Schuller does receive much joy bringing it back to the classroom each Christmas. He 's retired from Clearwater Middle School but still loves substituting. Each year, this story of the unwrapped gift amazes the students.
"I'm going to take my biggest gift this year and hold it back so I can open it next year or several years later," said student Jake Woods.
"I think it's great Mr. Schuller did that and now he has a way to remember his mom," said student Gage McFadden.
"Should we open it today?" asked Mr. Schuller. He then quickly said, "No, you guys need to have willpower! I'll make you a deal. Let's all meet back on the Friday before Christmas in ten years. By then, I'll be ready to open it. I've been thinking. A gift is given to bring joy, and this has certainly done that for my family. So, in ten years, I'll thank my mother for such a cool present."