BRUSHY PRAIRIE, Ind. -- A northeastern Indiana soldier surprised his mother Friday with an early return home, masquerading as Santa Claus while she sat on his lap at a school staff Christmas breakfast while she gave a wish list of gifts.
When Prairie Heights High School math teacher Kim Harris told Santa her son had returned from a tour in Afghanistan and was at Fort Campbell, Ky., he asked her if she was sure of his whereabouts. Army Spc. Ethan Harris then pulled down his fake beard and revealed his identity, eliciting a hug and tears from his mother.
"This tops the list and couldn't be a better Christmas," Kim Harris said.
The News-Sun reported that Ethan Harris arrived back in the community about 40 miles north of Fort Wayne a few days earlier and hid at his sister's house until Friday's breakfast.
He said he was so excited Thursday night that he couldn't sleep.
A lottery to see who would sit on Santa's lap had been rigged in advance so the honor would go to Kim Harris when Superintendent Alan Middleton drew her name from a gift bag.
She wasn't expecting her son to be in town until Monday, when a surprise party for him was planned.
It turned out the surprise was hers.
"This is Christmas," her husband, John Harris, said. "I have an awesome family."