I was seven years old that Christmas. It was getting to be time — really for me to face some hard truths about Christmas. All the kids in my Sunday School class were already murmuring the unthinkable.
I knew The Truth, however and by the time I got done talking to those unbelievers, I had won them back over. Santa Claus WAS real. Of course — He was real. And here is the story of how I knew that Christmas beyond a shadow of a doubt, he existed.
In the spring of 1966, my family had suffered a fire. No one was hurt, thankfully, but our business had been shut down and we were living in a trailer next to my parent’s motel for months while they rebuilt. It was no secret that times were tough.
Christmas Eve came as always and my mother and I headed out to Midnight Mass. She had done her best to prepare me for the less than robust Christmas I was to endure this year. We had even gotten a fake tree. A first. The house fire had terrified my mother. She would never have another real Christmas tree after that. (I would become an adult who always unplugged my toaster and never left the house with a clothes dryer running — but I digress.)
When I wandered back into the trailer after mass, imagine my surprise to see that Santa had visited. Just like always. He had left me a real bicycle with a basket. It was blue and way bigger than the one with training wheels I had out grown that summer. There was also an “I Dream Of Jeanie” doll, an Imagination Doll house, and a typewriter. My parents had gotten me a couple practical gifts of clothes and PJs.
So you can imagine my shock when I went to CCD class and heard the kids in my Sunday school class telling other kids that Santa wasn’t real. POPPY COCK!!! Everyone in town knew our house and business had burned that year. And that my parents were struggling. I remember calmly explaining to the Doubting Thomases everyone in that small town knew my parents couldn’t afford presents. It had to be Santa and I watched their faces as belief dawned in their eyes. I always was a very convincing debater, even at a tender age.
When I got older, and opened my first Christmas club — to pay for my own children’s Christmas, I smiled everytime I remembered this story and the fervor with which I defended Santa — based on the logic that my parents would not frivolously spend money on a new bike for me.
And then — I would swallow the lump in my throat and dry my eyes.