My mother loved Christmas, but she especially loved Santa Claus. She told us of her delight as a child at getting an orange and a dime in her stocking, and I think she wanted us to have that same kind of delight. So here’s an account that I wrote in 2005. A true story!
“I’m staying up to see Santa this year!” I stoutly insisted, and my parents consented with surprisingly few objections. It was 1954, and at age 9, I was sure I had the Santa thing figured out and was planning to catch my parents in the act.
My 5-year-old brother Larry and I slept in an attic room whose only access was a drop-down stairway. We made a pallet at the head of the stairs so we could peer down into the hallway that led to the living room. I talked Larry into lying there with me to watch, but of course he immediately fell asleep.
As I also was dozing, I was awakened by a noise at the front door–sleigh bells, without a doubt. There was a stomping of boots, and a thumping in the living room as items were obviously being unpacked. I was frozen with astonishment. As I carefully leaned forward to get a peek, I saw a large, white-haired red-suited man–the classic Santa, standing there in my own living room. I stared, wide-eyed, as he took a step in my direction and gave a brief salute. “Merry Christmas, boys!” he chuckled, turned, and went out the door.
When I could no longer hear the sleigh bells, reason asserted itself and I shot down the stairs and into my parents’ bedroom, flipping the light switch and crying, “Aha! Where’s Daddy?”
My sleepy-eyed dad rolled over, sat up, and said, “What’s wrong? Why are you up?”
I stopped in shock. There were both parents, asleep as usual. Then who was the red-suited man?
“You’d better get back to bed, young lady!” he said. “You don’t want to be up when Santa comes!”
“Oh, he’s already been here!” I cried, breathless. “I saw him! But he called us boys. You don’t think he just left boy things, do you?”
“I don’t know and at this point I don’t care,” Daddy said, uncharacteristically gruff. “I need my sleep!”
“Wait!” said Mother, sitting up. “Did you actually see him, Lanita?”
“Yes! In the living room! And I heard his sleigh bells!” I answered, quivering.
“How wonderful!” Mother responded. “In all my childhood I never got to see him when he came. I always fell asleep. How exciting for you, darling!”
“Well, I guess it is,” Dad grudgingly agreed. “But we still need to get some sleep. You’d better scurry back upstairs, Lanita. You can’t look until morning.”
So I went back up to my cozy pallet and snuggled up to my warm little brother, peacefully missing all the excitement. I trembled in awe at what I’d seen–and that it had not been my dad. Amazing!
When I was 18, I asked my mother who had come dressed as Santa that night. She gave me a blank stare. “What are you talking about?” she said. “It was the real Santa!”
And to this day, when I am 60 and she is 82, she still gives me the same answer!