Santa, Virginia, and Me

Santa Comes to Visit Me  ~ Christmas Eve, c. 1952

From the time I was old enough to recognize him, until well past the time most children would have been done with such things, Santa visited our house on Christmas Eve.

The first present I received from him, a floating rubber bath duck with a hollowed-out back meant to hold soap, both thrilled and terrified me. Delighted by the gift, I feared Santa’s early visit would mean no presents under the tree in the morning.

My parents assured me that Santa visited before bedtime only so children could meet him. Even as he stood in our living room, his elves at the North Pole were continuing to fill his sleigh for the journey that would begin once he returned home. The next morning, I discovered they’d been right, and from that year forward I awaited Santa’s visit with eagerness.

The ritual never varied. At the sound of sleighbells and stomping on the steps, my father would look over the top of his newspaper and say, “Better go see who’s at the door.” In a flash I was at the door, throwing it open to hearty laughter, shiny black boots, a beard as white as the snow filling our yard, and a present from the hand of Santa himself.

Eventually, curiosity and increasing sophistication led to questions. I began to suspect my parents knew Santa’s true identity, but they swore ignorance, and Santa kept arriving throughout my junior and senior high school years. By the time I reached my senior year in high school, rubber duck soap dishes had gone by the wayside. That year, Santa brought Chanel No.5.

Only with college looming on the horizon did my parents confess. “Santa” had been one of my father’s co-workers, and one of his best friends. Every year, his visits to children of colleagues had provided memories enough for a lifetime, but he’d decided to retire, and let someone else make the rounds on Christmas Eve.

My parents played bridge regularly with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, so I saw them often, and we had more than a few laughs about those years.  During my first Christmas holiday from college, they stopped by for a short visit on Christmas Eve, and we talked again about the changes that had come for us all.

Then, we heard the sleigh bells. And the stomping. And the pounding on the door. “What in the world?” said my mother. “What the heck is that?” said the former Santa. “I guess you might want to go to the door,” said my father.

Completely mystified, I went to the front door, only to find Santa on the front stoop. A little chubbier, a little more bearded, and a good bit heartier in his laugh than my former Santa, he said not a word. With a bow, he handed me a package, then turned and disappeared around a corner of the house, into the snow.

Shutting the door, I went back into the living room and confronted the adults. Swearing they’d had no hand in it, they were equally puzzled. Finally, my mother had the good sense to say, “Well, open the package.” 

The silver and pearl necklace shimmered in the light.

I still have the necklace, of course, even though I have no knowledge of its source. I wear it from time to time, and always at Christmas. Each time I put it on, I think of Virginia O’Hanlon, who sent her own question about Santa to the New York Sun in 1897, and Francis Pharcellus Church, whose response has become history’s most reprinted editorial.

In a world too often tempted toward cynicism and despair, it’s not the worst thing to read at Christmas:

DEAR EDITOR:
I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, “If you see it in THE SUN  it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God!  he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

May he make glad your hearts this season. Merry Christmas!

 

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

131 thoughts on “Santa, Virginia, and Me

    1. And all good wishes to you, Dina — for the holiday season, and for the coming year. With all of the complexities and difficulties of 2017 behind you, it’s time to begin planning for and enjoying that new patio, and all the little creatures that will come into your life. I can’t wait to meet them!

  1. I was not brought up to believe in Santa; Jesus has always been the emphasis in my home. But, through all the years of teaching I have shown children how St. Nicholas was a real man, how giving and sharing and loving and hope are real things, and therefore he must exist. Of course Santa is real, just as your beautiful post points out.

    Merry Christmas, dear Linda.

    1. And there’s the lesson I learned from my Santas’ visits: that there always will be a gift. We may not anticipate it, we may not imagine what will come, but the promise always holds.

      Merry Christmas to you, Meredith, and best wishes for this year of coming changes. It’s hard even for me to imagine you no longer in the classroom. I can only imagine how “difficult” and “delightful” will intertwine for you.

  2. I’ve always loved that letter to Virginia from the newspaper editor. And I love the story about your necklace. I can’t believe you still don’t know who gave it you via Santa!

    1. I was especially delighted to find photos of both Virginia and Frances Church. I suppose they’ve been out there all along, but I never thought to go looking.

      Despite being a curious sort by nature, I never really tried to identify that second Santa. From the look of shock on the faces of my dad and his friend, I don’t think they knew. My mother, whose face never could be read, might have been involved. I asked her about it again a couple of years before she died, while we were sharing other memories, but she still professed ignorance. So there it rests: my own bit of proof that Santa does exist. Who knows when he’ll show up next?

  3. I love your memory and the way you wove it into the Virgina Santa Tale. Linda, I hope your holidays are Merry and you hear plenty of sleigh bells tonight.

    1. What’s most wonderful is that, by the time the second Santa showed up, my parents and their friends might have reconsidered what they knew about Santa, too. And that editorial is one of my holiday favorites. It’s a wonderful example of taking a child’s question seriously, and offering an answer that she could understand on deeper and deeper levels as she aged.

      Merry Christmas porch musings to you!

  4. A magical story and a precious memory.

    We just saw Santa arrive in Ajo, apparently his first stop on his way around America. I will share more on the blog. I don’t remember much about Santa as a child but my son did. What fun that was.

    Merry Christmas Linda.

    1. I’m trying to visualize how Santa arrived there. I’m sure the celebrations must have been on the main plaza that you’ve shown, and I’ll look forward to your photos.

      I recently saw a photo showing a multitude of cacti with Santa hats atop all their big arms. It was wonderful. People do find ways to adapt traditional celebrations to their own setting — did you hang a wreath on your door?

      Merry Christmas to you, and best wishes for what’s surely going to be a darned interesting new year.

  5. Wonderful post and it reminds me of the Sun. It shines 365 days per year, whether visible by day or hidden at night, whether it be sunny or hidden by a cloud. In fact no matter where you live in the world we all see the same sun, moon and stars. All sentient beings are born, live and die, some sooner that others, but no matter who we are or where we live, the cycle remains the same.

    1. What an interesting association, and how true it is. If clouds, or the earth’s rotation, or even eclipse, hides the sun, we know it’s there, and look forward to its return. I certainly don’t expect to find Santa literally at my doorstep again (although stranger things have happened, quite honestly), but even in a time when kindness, decency, generosity, and such seem to have disappeared, they haven’t. Most of the time, they’re just hidden for a greater or lesser while; when they appear again, it’s an occasion for great joy.

  6. Lovely memories. And that necklace! What a treasure! Santa always arrived at our house on Christmas Eve, while we kids and Mom were involved in the Christmas program at the Lutheran church. Then in the fourth grade, as my classmates and I sat cross-legged forming a big circle, the teacher blurted out the words that began our daily devotions: “Now everyone here knows there is no such thing as Santa Claus, right?” Sneering and laughing followed, and someone near me mentioned that only babies believed in Santa. I looked at my friends who were all laughing, proclaiming they’d known for a long time. I went along with the giggles and laughs, but inside my gut I felt tricked and betrayed. I felt foolish. I confronted my mom about it after school, but I did not feel any better. I think my siblings all went on to believe in Santa many more years than I had been able to. I still love the tradition of Santa. Life is more fun with a little mystery and surprise.

    1. Like you, I believe life’s a lot more fun with a bit of mystery and surprise, no matter the source. That’s one reason I enjoy being in nature as I do. It’s impossible to predict what will turn up; there’s always something to see, and quite often, it’s wholly unexpected.

      Of course I understand there isn’t a dude in a red suit flying around in a sleigh on Christmas Eve, and I figured that out pretty early. I don’t remember it being a shock, like you experienced, but I do remember a sense of unease: a wish it weren’t so. But I got over that, and eventually came to understand the point the the editorial writer was making to Virginia: truth and facts aren’t always the same thing, and Santa can appear in a variety of guises.

      So here’s to all the gifts of the season, and those who bring them. In the end, it’s the giving and receiving that’s at the heart of it all.

      1. One of my great grands is nine years old and in the fourth grade. She thoroughly believes there is a Santa. I didn’t know she really believed it. She was telling me about something regarding “the real Santa,” I thought she was pulling my leg so I laughed and told her she was a terrific story teller. Then I dropped the matter like a hot potato because I saw she really believed that. I asked her mother about it and was told that they (she and her sisters all believed) and that I was not to tell. I will not, however, as is the experience of Little Sun Dog, I rue the day she might be ridiculed and called a baby and all the other things that go with a child believing in Santa Clause too long. I believe when they are old enough to know fiction from non fiction, it is safe to explain the difference in the “real” Santa and the “spirit” of Santa Clause. My nephew believed until he was older than that. When he found out, he had a meltdown, so I’m cautiously on the side of tell too soon rather than too late. I do love your necklace story. Somebody pulled that off in grand style! (I’ve tried to find you post for today, but I get an oops. Maybe you need to repost.)

        1. Oh! First, an explanation for that “disappearing post.” I accidentally hit the “publish” button rather than the “save draft” button. As I told someone, doing that’s like dropping a screwdriver overboard into the water. You see it happening, but there’s not a thing you can do about it, except go, “Oops!”

          Sometimes I think kids know sooner than we think, but profess belief publicly for the sake of the adults surrounding them who obviously take so much pleasure in the little conceit. I still remember the year I saw an unwrapped toy lying on the glider on our porch from my perch in an upstairs window. When Santa produced the very toy, questions arose. My ever-creative folks told me that elves had left it there to help Santa out — he couldn’t carry everything in his sack, I accepted the explanation, but cautiously. In time, I figured out the reality for myself.

          What’s funny is that every year from about sixth grade on, I thought to myself, “He won’t come this year. I’m too old.” But he always came. Now, every year, his spirit lingers. It’s as real as his physical presence in our living room, and for that, I’m quite grateful.

  7. A great, warm story — and a lovely young lady, dressed up & shaking hands so nicely!
    When I was still a kid, but had figured out the Santa situation, I asked if I could help maintain the story for my younger sister. I hid outside, jingled the bells and used my deepest voice, ho ho ho. My sister sat up in bed, and said, “Why is Robbie out there, pretending to be Santa?” I don’t know how my parents explained things, but she continued to believe for a few years after that.
    Merry Christmas!

    1. As the photo shows, I was so overwhelmed at the time I couldn’t manage to shake hands properly, but at least I managed to do better than stand and stare.

      That’s a great story, about your bell-jingling and ho-ho-ing. I don’t know which is more fun: your willingness to head out into the snow (surely there was snow) or your sister’s immediate recognition that it was you. Your parents obviously came up with a creative explanation, since she kept right on believing, and now we both have some Santa stories to treasure. Merry Christmas to you!

    1. Who cares about bad exposure when you have a treasure like that? Their delight is obvious, and Santa looks like he’s enjoying himself, too.

      I think I see something else in the photo I’d forgotten about: those Christmas stockings made with the red netting that were filled with nuts, candy canes, and other little treats. I remember them being edged with that red and white trim — it’s fun to see that again.

      Thanks for sharing the photo. That’s part of a good holiday: sharing memories.

  8. What a lovely story! I love how the real Santa Claus is St Nicholas. Let me tell you, St Nicholas is one of my most beloved Saints and has pulled me out of hard times a good few times in my life. I have at least 7 icons of him in our home (latest one of him is from what was, in his time, the city of Myra where he was Bishop!). I love this story and the necklace; what a special memory and a happy one! Memories are such treasures for us now!

    1. Your mention of St. Nicholas reminded me of the traditions of a Dutch town near where I grew up. Of course he was very much a part of their celebrations, and St. Nicholas’s Day, with its wooden shoes and special treats, became part of our Christmases, too. You might enjoy reading this good article once the flurry of holiday activities is over. There’s still much to be learned about him.

      A blessed Christmas to you and yours, Elizabeth. I hope your enjoyment is complete.

  9. Santa or Jesus…they both embody generosity of spirit, goodwill towards all people no matter what color or where they were born, thereby teaching the lessons that so many refuse to learn and live by.

    Here’s hoping one person at a time can make this a more compassionate and fearless future as we celebrate the birth of a brave and compassionate man.

    1. Your comment reminded me of a local furniture dealer who’s come up from literally nothing and made a fortune. He’s one of the kindest, most generous, and most civic-minded people I’ve ever come across, and he still goes by the humorous name of “Mattress Mack” (his real name is Jim McIngvale).

      No matter what the need, he’s always on the front lines (as with this Thanksgiving dinner in one of his furniture store parking lots), and he’s constantly adding a little homespun philosophy to his ads. One of my favorites among his slogans is, “If it is to be, it’s up to me,” and that’s nothing more than a restatement of what you said in your comment. There’s no need to wait for others to be generous or compassionate; if we show those qualities ourselves, others may follow.

      It’s the same phenomenon that I’ve noticed in traffic from time to time. If I allow someone to merge, or leave room for someone to enter the flow, more often than you’d think I see someone behind me doing the same. It may be anecdotal evidence, but it’s still encouraging.

  10. What a lovely Christmas story Linda. I asked one of my daughters what she would like in her stocking this Christmas and she said I need nor want nothing, but it would make me happy to have something of yours, and perhaps a story telling me how your spend each Christmas as a child. She was happy with what I popped into a small gold bag. You would like one of the things Linda. In a small red suede bag she found a small gold heart shaped locket with my parents pictures in it. If you remember I have written about receiving it. I know you have one too! Merry Christmas again Linda. May the coming year fill hopes you don’t even know you have.

    1. I certainly do remember your locket, and I remember us sharing our stories about them. It’s wonderful (though not surprising) that your daughter would ask for such a token. I have a friend or two who have been trying to pass special items on to their children, and haven’t yet had any takers.

      It’s nice that your daughter wanted a story, too. If you recorded it rather than writing it, she’d have your voice, too. Voice always is an important feature in story-telling, but it’s important for keeping memories alive, too. I still can remember my mother’s voice, but my dad’s almost has faded away. I can remember what he said, in so many circumstances, but not the tone and timbre of his voice.

      Merry Christmas to you, Kayti, and every good wish for the coming year. If we keep our balance, we can bicycle into it just like your bear.

  11. Beautifully written, Linda.

    I still believe in ‘Papa Noel’. My Great-Gran, who was of French extraction, told me that the simple act of giving a small gift or token, would warm your heart for many days. It is in the giving, and not the receiving, that love is spread at Christmas.

    I hope the love of Christmas warms your heart as you wear your silver and pearl necklace.

    Merry Christmas to you :)

    1. Sandi, your Great-Gran was right. One of the best examples of the pleasure of “token” gifts I can think of is the custom of giving sweets when I was growing up. Both my grandmother and mother — and many of their friends — would spend the weeks before Christmas in the kitchen, making cookies, breads, and so on. Then, they would give the bulk of their work away to teachers, postmen, neighbors, milkmen, shut-ins, nursing staff at the hospital, and so on. Even in years when money was tight, batches of cookies could be stretched quite far, and provide pleasure to giver and recipient alike.

      I smiled at your mention of Papa Noël. Over in Cajun country, in Louisiana, Papa Noël is quite a familiar figure. He travels in a pirogue rather than a sleigh, and he has alligators rather than reindeer, but the spirit and the gift-giving are the same.

      I hope the gifts of the season are overflowing in your life, too! Merry Christmas!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Deb. It was especially nice to remember and find little Virginia’s story again. I’ve not seen it reprinted for a while, and it would be a shame for it to be lost, too.

      I hope your celebrations were wonderful, and that your New Year is filled with beauty and creativity.
      (And goats, of course. What would we do without Bill’s goats?)

      1. The movie misses a few points (or perhaps I haven’t given it justice). Thank you Linda! Those are such lovely thoughts for the New Year and I truly wish them for you as well: )
        And lol, yes of course Bill’s goats. Everybody can use a little Kidding Around; )

  12. That’s final then; Santa is real, even if he’s sometimes a Secret (secretive?) Santa. Was the necklace something you would have asked for or wished for? Not quite as exciting was the delivery to my doorstep, about Easter time, of a big bag of swiss chard. No idea where it came from, or who delivered it, but I kept it and ate it and was very grateful. :)

    1. Your story of the Swiss chard made me laugh. Around here, it’s baskets of zucchini that mysteriously appear on doorsteps. Especially at the height of the season, people are overrun with it, but can’t quite bring themselves to throw it out. So, they share it with everyone they know: secretly, of course. You never ask, “Would you like some zucchini?” because the answer always is something like, “Good grief, no. I’ve got more than I can use as it is.”

      I never would have imagined a necklace such as Santa brought, let alone asked for it. It was a necklace for a woman, not a teenager, and that’s why it’s still being worn. Like Chanel No.5, it’s a classic. Of course, Santa himself is a bit of a classic, so it makes sense that he’d pick an enduring gift!

        1. Well ladies, when and if Santa or any other generous soul deposits Zucchini on your doorstep, or especially if you grow them yourself; here’s a book that one should never be without: http://www.storey.com/books/the-classic-zucchini-cookbook/#
          I bought the original decades ago and this (newer) almost twice the size version is on my “Books to Purchase” list and covers everything from breakfast to dinner with the best Zucchini Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. Seriously, THE BEST, ever! Plus, one block of cream cheese makes a quadruple batch of icing, they freeze beautifully and taste incredible in the dead of Winter: )

            1. Not just zucchini either, but also summer & winter squash and pumpkin!
              In the amount of time I’ve had it, this is by far my most-used cookbook (next to”Joy”; ) and not a loser in the bunch, in all of the recipes I’ve used: )

            2. I don’t know if my reply to Deb will show up in your notifications — I’ve added the recipe for the zucchini chocolate cake below, along with a recipe for zucchini pancakes. As a bonus, I’ve finally gotten the spelling of zucchini a little more firmly in mind.

            3. Thanks for letting me know. I like the look of both recipes. As for zucchini and the spelling thereof, I often use the word courgette because it’s so much easier to remember.

          1. Oh, my. I love carrot cake with cream cheese icing, so zucchini carrot cake would be another winner in my view. I have the most decadent recipe for a zucchini chocolate cake, too. It can be made in a bundt pan or two loaves, which I’ve always done. Small loaves are good, too, because it’s so rich, and a little loaf makes a satisfying gift.

            1. Wow Linda, this sounds amazing! Over the years I’ve tried several different recipes for Zucchini Chocolate Cake, but none have quite measured up… Yours, on the other hand, sounds exactly like what I’ve been searching for! ; )

            1. Oh JOY, oh bliss Linda! I haven’t had a chance to peruse these links yet, but thanks so much! As to possible recipe additions… Mom popped a box of Milk Duds in our stockings this year – which I’d certainly heard of (perhaps on The Price Is Right?; ) but had never actually seen them on this side of the border and – at the risk of repeating myself – boy, oh BOY!🤗

            2. Heard of Milk Duds? Oh, my. Milk Duds were one of the Kids’ Basic Food Groups when I was growing up. Going to the movies meant Slo-Pokes, Junior Mints, and Milk Duds. I haven’t had one for a while, but I might have to indulge!

            3. No, lol, not you having heard of Milk Duds, I meant we Canadians: ). They’re not a chocolate bar/candy that was available up here (just as we have many here that are of British origin and not normally available down in the States; )

  13. You have quite the personal relationship with Santa and Santa had great taste in gifts! Thanks for reprinting the “Yes, Virginia” letter–it always gives me chills. Happy holiday season!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the response to Virginia. It’s everywhere online, but I hadn’t seen it myself for some time, and thought it would be a good addition. It tickled me when I discovered she wrote her letter in September. Clearly, she wanted some clarity before the big day.

      I found the newspaper page where it originally appeared, and had quite a good time reading other letters to the editor on subjects ranging from making the French language illegal in Connecticut to the possibility of a chainless bicycle.

      Santa did have good taste in gifts. I not only have the necklace, I still have the original (and refillable) Chanel No.5 container. They’ve become holiday traditions. I hope your holidays have been happy, and wish you al the best for the coming year.

    1. What a great illustration, GP. Clearly, that mode of transportation has kept Santa in shape — and I love the bells around the toy sack. Is this from a military publication? I can imagine it giving some guys a smile.

      Merry Christmas to you, and every good wish for the New Year. It’s hard to believe the 2017 is ending, but so it is. Onward!

      1. Yes, I got it from international airborne operations.com and i hope it did give a smile or two out there!!
        I thank you for all your well wishes and hopes for the future – may they ALL come true!!

  14. If you see Santa, tell him I finally got over my disappointment for all the things that I asked for as a kid but didn’t get for Christmas.

    Many of those things I came by myself over the years and thereby treasured them more than I would have as a child – and some of those very things, I have passed on to my children and grandchildren and treasured the giving of them far more than the having of them.

    1. It’s odd. I don’t remember those lists for Santa being much of a feature of my childhood Christmases. My parents were more prone to ask, “What do you think Santa will bring you?” than “What do you want Santa to bring you?” It increased the surprise factor, and mitigated disappointment, although I suspect I was giving off clues all the time.

      There certainly is pleasure in passing things on. And yet, if you hadn’t possessed those items, if they hadn’t been yours, they’d have little value to your children and grandchildren. Intrinsic value is one thing: sentimental value is something else. Anyone can go to Nordstrom’s and buy Chanel No.5, but I’m not sure how many have received it from the hand of Santa himself.

    1. No, but when I was writing about it, I was back in 1964-1965, and Iris DeMent was about four years old.

      On the other hand, it is the perfect song for the story. You know how I like to dig and snoop around, but I’ve never had any real desire to do so in the case of the Second Santa. Some things are meant just to be enjoyed.

  15. Perfect story and message for not only this season but also for all of the cynics of the world. We were just having a conversation about the Cynics of the Greek World. Can one do anything charitable without self-interest at the heart of the act? It’s an interesting question to ponder.

    The photo you posted couldn’t help but bring warmth into the hearts of us all.

    We had Santa when I was a little girl. My biggest lie was telling my third grade class that I actually saw his red coat going back UP the chimney. I remember sharing that with Mrs. Belshaw, my teacher.

    1. Here’s another bit of Christmas trivia from long ago. Back then, we had true tinsel on the tree – metal, not the plastic stuff that’s floating around now. Every year, my mother and I would carefully take all that tinsel off and wrap it around cardboard. Then, it would get wrapped again with tinfoil (or, later, with plastic wrap) and put in a box. The next year, we’d take it out and put it on the tree again.

      This went on year after year for decades. Today, I still have some of the tinsel shown in that photo on the tree in my living room.

      I’m not necessarily disposed to understand self-interest as bad. Selfishness is something else, of course. One of our problems is that we’re conflated charity with financial contributions to individuals or groups. It used to be understood more broadly; we could do with a revival of the old practice of putting the most charitable construction on peoples’ words, for example.

      As for your vision of Santa in the chimney, just remember: what comes down, must go up.

  16. When I was in college, I dated a guy who was short, stocky, and bearded (who also rode a Harley) He had very light hair as well. Since I went to college in town and lived at home at the time, when the doorbell plonged, as I was closest, I answered. It was the guy I was dating dressed as Santa. He was earning charity money for a college fraternity as a rent-a-Santa, was in the neighborhood, and decided to stop by in full costume. We had such a good laugh as Santa climbed on his Harley and rode off to his next gig. I can imagine all the drivers had a good laugh, too, as Santa rode by them on a Harley with his bag of toys strapped to the sissy bar. So, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, who rides a Harley in Texas where there is seldom snow on Christmas, and it’s too hot to make the poor reindeer drag a sleigh around.

    1. What wonderful fun. Santa on a Harley’s a vision to contemplate. It certainly could happen anywhere, but there’s something about it that feels particularly Texan. As for those reindeer dragging the sleigh around in the heat, don’t forget that over in Louisiana Papa Noel travels in a pirogue pulled by alligators.

      There was a fellow who lived aboard at a local marina who played Santa at a local shopping mall. He started growing his beard about August, and was in fine fettle by December. He had such fun with it. I suspect your friend did, too. The Santa in A Christmas Story was a bit of a different sort — as were those Santas in Gary Myers’s post. They were a little creepy.

    1. Like most parents (all parents?) mine weren’t perfect, but as time has passed, I’ve become more and more grateful for all they gave me: not in terms of possessions, but in terms of experiences, memories, and values. I wish I’d had my dad longer, but life is what it is, and I was blessed to have my mother for many years. I think of them every year, of course, and they still enrich my celebrations.

      I hope your celebrations were merry and bright. Now, it’s time to start thinking about the New Year, and all of its promise. A happy Christmas to you, and best wishes for 2018!

    1. Thanks, Pit. I looked at your forecast for the New Year just now, and I’m thinking you’re going to be very happy to have those wood piles around. Stay warm, and enjoy the rest of this holiday season!

  17. This editorial always brings a tear to my eye, Linda! And how I love your memories of Santa and the presents that grew as little Linda did. I recall one Santa appearing at our house when my sis and I were kids (I might have been about four). Both of us — having absorbed our cautious parents’ warnings to avoid strangers like the plague! — refused to sit on the old guy’s lap, refused to speak to him, and basically ran shrieking from the room! That might have been the last visit for the jolly elf — and I shudder to wonder what the poor guy thought after that, ha! Merry Christmas, my friend!

    1. It hadn’t occurred to me, but of course you would have a special affection for that historic editorial. Editorial pages used to be so interesting generally; can you imagine someone trying to get that response into print today? I’m not so sure it would happen.

      Your Santa story’s pretty funny. Worry about strangers wasn’t very high on our list, but of course in our little town there weren’t many strangers. The level of trauma you experienced reminds me of the scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphie and his brother go to visit the department store Santa, and it turns into pure chaos.

      I imagine the Santas among us have seen it all — they may be relieved when the season’s over, too!

    1. I wish I had more photos, but we just weren’t a picture-taking family. The ones I do have certainly are fun, though, and this is one of my favorites.

      I hope your holiday’s been great, DM. Merry Christmas to you and yours — and keep on believing!

    1. That’s exactly right, Brig. The Doers-of-Good come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. A lot of them, like Santa, are free range, and come and go as they please. That’s part of the fun — we never know when they’ll show up.

      Merry Christmas to you, and every good wish for the New Year — especially for health, and increased wealth!

    1. When it comes to memories, a grainy black and white can do just as well as any of today’s fabulous photos. Of course, my earliest years were filled with black and white newsreels at the movies and black and white television programming, so it brings back memories in several ways.

      I hope your holiday season’s been wonderful. Now, we’ll trek on into 2018, and see what it has to offer for us, and what we can bring to it!

  18. When my son was eight or nine, he asked what would happen if his sister, who is five years younger, heard that there might not be a Santa. I said that it could severely impact any Santa gifts for him: you never quite know, do you? He said that he didn’t think I needed to worry about it……

    1. I’d wear the necklace more often if I had different employment, but my “work wardrobe” doesn’t allow for jewelry. That makes wearing it even more fun when the occasion arises.

      I hope you’re getting excited — or already are excited — for your new venture. Just think, a week from now you’ll be in your new “place.” I can’t wait to hear about it.

  19. Amazing that you have kept this document. What memories. In P.R. it was more about The Three Kings, although Santa is in there just as well. There was a friend of our family who did dress up for some years and delivered presents, but the bona fide Santa was later revealed to be my dad…

    1. I don’t have as many photographs of my childhood and youth as some, but I have enough to keep a lot of memories alive. It’s always fun to find a way to utilize one.

      In the midwest, the Three Kings weren’t so important. But down here, close to Louisiana where the Feast of the Epiphany is marked by King Cakes and the entire season is a prelude to Lent, there’s much more emphasis. Now that I think about it, two of the three gifts traditionally ascribed to the Magi (gold and frankincense) are echoed in the necklace and perfume that Santa brought me. I think I’ll pass on myrrh for a while, since it’s often associated with burial rites!

  20. What an amazing story, and an amazing community behind it that cares to keep joy alive in the hearts of children and adults both. Here’s to ongoing hope for those who tear back the curtain with song and poetry and art and faith!

    1. I’ve always enjoyed the phrase, “keeping Christmas.” A short sermon with that title was included in a collection of Henry Van Dyke’s work published in 1905, based, no doubt, on the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

      I always laugh at this:

      “If I could work my will,” says Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” But transformation came, and Scrooge promises the Ghost of Christmas Future, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

      The adults I grew up with certainly knew how to keep joy in the heart of a child. God bless them, every one!

  21. Like always, I loved this post. I especially love the part of the second Santa and the necklace. How fun to wear it every year not knowing for sure who it came from. When you mentioned Chanel #5, it brought back memories of my mom. It was her favorite.

    1. It’s interesting how preferences in fragrance change. There were some truly awful ones back in the 1950s and 1960s that have disappeared now (thank goodness!) but, just like the little black dress, Chanel No.5 endures. Of course, I’d enjoy it just for the memories, but it’s nice that I can still wear it without thinking, “Ewwww.”

    1. What a delightful coincidence, that your mother and I enjoyed the same fragrance. And here’s another lovely detail: when the fragrance was developed, two of the base scents were rose and jasmine. Which roses I can’t say, but perhaps one of yours made it into the final formula!

  22. Thanks for this delightful post, Linda! Reductionists may try their hardest, but they will not suceed in crushing out of human perception our awareness of, and need for, that magical Otherworld which children understand more than any of us exists just beyond the sphere of everyday reality. Enjoy the rest of the festive season, and every good wish for 2018.

    1. Your new avatar is lovely, Anne. Perhaps it betokens a movement into a lighter, easier year. After 2017, I think we all would be happy with that.

      I’ve been toying recently with the thought that the developers of “artificial intelligence” may be among the greatest reductionists in our world. It will be interesting to see how developments in that field progress.

      In any event, best wishes for the coming year. May all the surprises it brings be good ones!

      1. Thanks, Linda. It was taken last summer on a walk near the River Forth estuary, where no less than three iconic bridges unite North and South Scotland at Queensferry. And I’m beginning to agree with you re the developers of A.I. I do not know how robots could deal with the Kingdom of Faerie, for a start! Best wishes for 2018 to you and all your wonderful community of readers and commenters …

  23. From earliest memory until well into my own adulthood and certainly my mother’s, she has told me she has trouble sleeping on Christmas Eve because she wants to hear the reindeer hooves on the roof. To this day, I fall asleep thinking about Santa and his sleigh up there, and I laugh out loud every time! It is silliness on steroids, but I still tell my own adult children this every year … the question is whether they are feeling the magic, too?! Loved your story!

    1. And now your story about your mother and her wait for the reindeer has brought back another forgotten piece of my childhood: Gene Autry’s 1953 song, “Up On The Housetop”. I was seven when it was released, and I loved singing along. Think of Autry’s Christmas legacy. He composed “Frosty, The Snowman,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and “Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer,” as well.

      Just hearing those songs again brings back the magic. Of course there’s silliness to it all, but on the other hand — who doesn’t listen just a little more carefully on Christmas Eve? After all, there’s magic enough for all!

    1. I wondered if anyone would notice, Susan. You’re exactly right. In the morning, those curlers would come out, and the Shirley Temple curls would appear. That’s one nice thing about Santa Claus. You don’t have to dress up for his visits, and you don’t have to have your hair properly done. After all, he knows everything about you: the good, the bad, and the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time!

    1. Yes, indeed: seventy-one years and still counting. The mall Santas can be a little scroungy, and the drunken Santas of SantaCon are — well, what they are — but the spirit of St. Nicholas lives on in the real Santa, and it gladdens my heart.

      Best wishes for the coming year!

  24. Linda, as you might expect, I love this story with all my heart and soul. It is so clear that you are the person you are in great part because of the joy and love that was in your family. I love the secret, the smiles, the way the gifts evolved over time and I adore the necklace and that you still wear it each and every day.

    Thanks for reprinting Virigina’s letter, too. It is a classic and a wonder.

    I hope your Christmas was very merry indeed and that the new year brings only good things!

    1. I don’t wear the necklace every day, Jeanie — only now and then, and at Christmas. Jewelry at my work is dangerous; I don’t even wear earrings. My greatest fear would be catching it on something, and watching it go overboard. The chances aren’t high, but they exist.

      Looking back, it is interesting to think about how appropriate the gifts were: “From Rubber Duckie To Chanel” pretty much says it all. But of course, Santa is smart, and he understands us, so he does pretty well when it comes to choosing gifts.

      I’ve often said how impressed I am that you have so many family photos. This post reminded me that even though I have very few, each one is capable of triggering multiple memories. This was a fun post to write — and a side benefit was that I found a few photos I didn’t know I have.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Kayti. From St. Nicholas Day (a result of living among many Dutch people) through Sankta Lucia (celebrated by my Swedish family) and then at Christmas, we were one happy family. I’d put out wooden shoes as well as a stocking, and carry Lucia buns to my grandparents, as well as putting out cookies for Santa. The whole month was a delight.

      I’d meant to post about Sankta Lucia this year, but missed it. You might enjoy the traditional song.

  25. What a lovely tradition to have enjoyed and to recall! What lovely people to cultivate that innocence for so long. My family, a sobersides Calvinistic crew, never really encouraged that. They didn’t pooh-pooh it, though, so we have that. Christmas morning, though, was magical. Although Santa wasn’t a central figure, the gifts were real. I have in-laws who worked hard at cultivating magic, though. They’d get on the roof of their house and imprint reindeer tracks and such. Their kids remember that and other hijinks with great fondness.

    1. Your comment about my family and their friends cultivating innocence reminded me of another example: their keeping the truth about my favorite aunt from me for decades. It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I learned she’d embezzled funds from the Marion County Treasurer’s office, and spent some time in the Iowa womens’ reformatory. By the time I learned the truth, it didn’t make a bit of difference to me. Now that I think about it, it’s been pretty much the same with Santa.

      Fantasy and fun are so important. Even making fun of our traditions can be done in a light-hearted and loving manner. I don’t deny it: “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” is one of my favorites, even if I have to visit YouTube now to get my yearly dose.

      Happy New Year!

  26. My best wishes to you Linda, for a most rewarding year ahead! As they say in the movie industry, a breakout year, a major turning point, careering setting new page in your endeavors. :)

    1. A breakout year would be just fine with me. Of course, I need to get a little more intentional with my projects if that’s going to happen. Of course, it’s a new year, and energy levels are high. We’ll see what happens. In the meantime — my best to you and yours. I hope all’s well, and that you have projects stacked from floor to ceiling.

      1. I’m in Toronto right now spending Christmas with my son and DIL. It’s a rare 2 weeks that I’m absent from visiting my mom at a care home. She’s 98 now. :)

        1. I just was thinking about my mother, who would have turned 100 in March if she still were with us. It was a little startling to think about my mother being 100. That means that I…. Oh, goodness! I’m getting old, too! Enjoy your family time in Toronto — and enjoy Toronto, for that matter.

  27. What a fascinating story, about your mystery Santa and the necklace… One Christmas at my in-laws’, my children had a visit from Santa at their grandparents’ house, and no one ever had any idea who it was. Maybe a neighbor? It was actually the only contact with a Santa Claus that my children ever had!!

    Your story is just one more indication of your rich childhood. Christmas is lovely the way it brings up all these foundational and life-forming memories. Thank you, Linda!

    1. I’m glad the mystery never was solved. Now it’s just “there,” shining in the night like a star. And after all: puzzles are to be solved. Mysteries simply are.

      Neighbors can be wonderfully attentive to children. I grew up next to a couple who would come over every summer and test the warmth of the water in my plastic wading pool. If it felt too cool to them, they would bring over a kettle of hot water and warm it up. They surely would have played Santa, had the need arisen

      You’re right that childhood is foundational. There never is a perfect parent or perfect childhood: traumas and loss come even to the youngest. But if love is there, the foundation will endure.

  28. I have no idea how I missed this post Linda, and others that have followed, but I’ll do my best to rectify the situation!
    Beautiful tales you tell, and I particularly love the story of the mystery parcel. As a child, I once received a book in the post – The Snow Goose – and with no senders address…. it was a mystery. My mother denied any knowledge, and it wasn’t really much in her character to do something like that anyway…. so a mystery it always remained.
    While it’s past time, I think you’d still enjoy these lyrics…..
    http://alldownunder.com/australian-music-songs/six-white-boomers.htm

    1. I saw your comment in your new post about problems with notifications. Other people are grumping about it, too, and, as you know, my comments have been disappearing into spam.

      Certain issues that had been irritating me seem to have been resolved, but not getting notifications of new posts, or not being able to comment, strike at the very heart of blogging. What’s most irritating to me is that absolute lack of response from WordPress. When I tried to post about the problem on the forums, not only did I get a page saying “This Topic Has Been Closed To New Comments,” that page informed me that the last entry had been made 48 years ago. I didn’t realize WordPress was active 70 years ago, but sometimes I miss things.

      Anyway: mystery parcels are much more fun than mystery glitches. Iris DeMent counsels letting the mystery be, and I think that’s often the best course. The memory doesn’t depend on an explanation for its power and pleasure, after all.

      The song about the six white boomers is wonderful. Alligators in Cajun Country, kangaroos in Australia. Why not? Santa can adapt — and he probably enjoys the variety, too!

      1. Gosh I had no idea it was affecting others also. Sad that wp hasn’t been responsive but maybe the gremlins were eating their words as well. Glad you liked the song:-)

  29. How lucky for me that I was finally able to open this post! Several attempts to open/read offline resulted in a blank page when I booted up the computer that night.. or a ‘refresh’ while online resulted in some silly ‘redirect’ note and a white page asking was I sure I wanted to do that…

    And now here I sit in a comfortable chair in mindo, with a quiet slice of time to savor this story – oh what a beautiful one – and the mystery of the necklace warms my heart!

    1. In addition to the various problems that have been cropping up in WordPress lately, your blank pages and redirect notices are a reminder that this “net” we’ve come to depend on isn’t necessarily as sturdy and resilient as we like to believe. The recent news about chip security flaws is another reminder. As a friend who disconnects from the internet completely every weekend says, “Knowing I can survive without it will stand me in good stead when the whole thing blows up.”

      But we’re still in business, sharing our stories, and I’m glad you enjoyed this one. There are little bits of magic everywhere, and this is one of my favorites.

      1. “Knowing I can survive without it will stand me in good stead when the whole thing blows up.” – that made me snort and then chuckle!
        As little as I’m online, I certainly didn’t know about the chip security problems! thanks for that link, which i scanned and will read more thoroughly later.
        it’s time for breakfast – then a full day. may yours smile on you!
        love, lisa

    1. It was magical then, and it’s magical now. It’s one of those memories that has stayed fresh and pleasing through the years — helped along by the necklace and the fragrance, of course. As Winnie-the-Pooh once said, “Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I certainly enjoyed your photos — especially the reindeer. But so much snow! It’s beautiful, but it clearly requires some coping, and some much warmer clothing than I have! The snowman was charming, too. When I think of Santa next Christmas, I’ll think of Finland, too.

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