I always was a believer in miracles. If I concentrated or prayed on something long enough, hard enough, everything always worked out. Santa Claus was a miracle to me; I believed in him with all my heart.
I felt him in my heart when my friend Linda and I would walk hand-in-hand on cold winter nights, gazing at bright stars, singing Christmas carols as the smell of evergreens and apple cider wafted through the music-filled air. I could almost taste his spirit when I sipped on hot cocoa and ate brownies from the neighbors down the street when they offered these treats as gratuity for our carols.
I had heard rumors before that Santa wasn’t real, but I refused to listen to such sacrilegious nonsense. He was real! My parents had said so. My older sister and brother had said so. Santa brought me gifts every Christmas. I wrote him long lists of all the toys I wanted and he seldom disappointed me. He even drank the milk and ate the chocolate chip cookies I set out for him.
Why, I also heard his booming laughter and the jingling of his reindeer’s bells and the patter of their hooves on the roof as they flew off into the midnight sky. No one could ever convince me that Santa wasn’t real.
My conviction held true all the way to third grade (though my mother and sister would love to think I was naïve enough to believe until sixth grade). Then one day David, the class clown who enjoyed using the teacher’s stapler whenever she left the room to entertain the class by stapling the warts on his hands, made an announcement. He was going to help his parents play Santa that Christmas.
I had to stop working on my vocabulary words to find out what his remark meant. “What do you mean ‘play Santa’?”
“Just what I said, stupid.” David had never been particularly nice to me.
“But you can’t do that. Santa might get upset.”
Half the class broke into a fit of laughter. “You mean, you still believe?”
Of course, I still believed. I couldn’t do otherwise. So David and I began a long argument that continued out on to the play ground.
“I bet if you asked your parents, you’d know Santa wasn’t real,” he said as he picked at his warts.
“I bet you ten dollars you’re wrong.” There was no way a gross, mean little boy like David could know what he was talking about.
“Okay. It’s a bet.” He offered his hand, but when I didn’t take it he yelled, “You’re so stupid.” He ran off to irritate some other girl.
We would have shaken on the bet but I didn’t want to touch his warts. I just knew David was wrong. There was no way Santa could not be real.
I went home that day and walked straight back to where my mother was playing Christmas music on her organ (no, they weren’t called keyboards back then).
“Mom, tell me the truth. Is Santa real or are you and Dad really Santa?”
My mother looked at me with sad blue eyes and hesitated. “Why do you want to know?”
I hadn’t expected that response, so I admitted, “I bet David ten dollars Santa’s real.”
My mother looked like she was going to laugh. “Well, since you’re old enough to bet, I guess you’re old enough for the truth. Your father and I are Santa.”
I burst into tears. She took me in her arms and hugged me until I stopped crying. I guess I got over the shock quickly because I don’t remember the news having spoiled any future Christmases. To this day, Christmas is my favorite holiday filled with love and family traditions.
The memories I’ll cherish forever: like the joy I saw in my oldest daughter’s eyes when she was small and awoke one Christmas morning to find the Snuggles bear in bed with her along with a note from Santa or when my youngest daughter discovered with delight a trail of Santa’s sooty footprints throughout the house. Santa was as real to them as he was to me. He brought us all such simple happiness.
I never did pay David his ten dollars. As far as I was concerned Santa was still real. And to this day he is still real to me, at least in spirit; his spirit is alive and well in my heart.