I grew up in a little town on Lake Superior. I never really thought of Ashland as being really far to the north, until I got older. Now that I look at a map, I guess the good part is that we were closer to the North Pole and therefore, Santa stopped there first. At least, that’s what I thought.
When I was a little girl, we never questioned the existence of Santa Claus. Although I never saw him in person, we knew he had been to our house because every Christmas morning, there was a pile of gifts under the tree that were not there the night before. Where else would they come from if not from Santa?
As we got older, we were faced with the common reality, Santa didn’t bring your gifts, your parents or grandparents brought that bounty of gifts. It wasn’t really a big let down, but somehow being a child and waiting for Christmas is more special before you find out where the gifts really come from. i always held onto that little hope that maybe there is really a Santa Claus.
When I got older, I realized that Santa Claus is real, maybe not the man himself, but the spirit. Everyone needs to believe in some little bit of magic in this crazy world of ours and Santa is just the sort of person I believe in. He brings gifts to children and adults and does it magically all in one night. And besides, what’s the harm in giving or getting a gift anonymously? I’ve always signed a few gifts to the kids and my husband, “from Santa”.
A few years ago, the Wisconsin State Journal reprinted that famous column from the New York Sun, “Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus”. The editorial appeared in print on September 21, 1897.
The editorial was in response to a letter from a little girl who was relying on the editor of the New York Sun to tell her if Santa Claus really exists. I’ve always loved that letter and even when I was a kid, I thought it was a good way to explain Santa Claus to someone who isn’t sure of his existence. It would be years later when I would really understand what Santa Claus is really all about. I read the letter and I understood it, Santa will always exist in our hearts and the hearts of others. Yup, I knew what that meant, we should be nice to others, we should be generous and don’t ever tell a kid that Santa doesn’t really exist. I got it.
When my husband Jerry and I started living together, his children Jason and Kelly moved in with us. Eventually we were living in a little apartment in a suburb of Madison. Verona had a good school system and we lived in an apartment building full of kids and close to the elementary school.
There were a lot of kids in the building, mostly young families and there were always kids running in the hallway and playing outside.
As Christmas approached, we decorated our home. We taped up the cards we got in the mail, we hung jingle bells on the door that sounded whenever it was opened and we put up a tree and lights. It wasn’t a very big apartment, but it looked cute and the kids were very excited about Santa coming in a day or so.
When Christmas Eve finally arrived, we were relieved that the shopping was done, the wrapping completed and now just hours from the magic morning. As we tucked the kids into their beds, snow was falling outside. The perfect Christmas Eve night, the kids were so excited we didn’t think they would ever go to sleep.
We decided to go down the hall to our neighbors to have a drink and relax after the kids were in bed. The kids knew where we were and it was just two doors down the hall. We had a nice visit and when we finally said goodnight, Jerry had to go outside to get a present we hidd in the trunk of the car.
So Jerry went outside and got the package and came back in. He was covered with snow, his gray hair, his glasses and his red coat.
As he came into the apartment, the jingle bells rang and although we didn’t know it at the time, Kelly opened her eyes and saw (without the benefit of her glasses) a man with gray hair, a red coat, carrying a present and she heard the jingle bells. We put out the gifts under the tree and went to bed. We found out the next morning just exactly what Kelly saw.
As soon as the sun peeked up over the hill, Kelly got up and ran straight to Jason’s room. Her little legs were moving so fast it looked like she didn’t even touch the carpet.
She just kept squealing over and over again “I SAW HIM!!!!! SANTA CLAUS WAS HERE LAST NIGHT!!! I REALLY SAW HIM”
Jerry and I watched as Kelly told Jason how she heard the bells and saw the red coat and the snow and the packages. Jason was listening as Kelly told him the story over and over “ HE’S REALLY TRUE!!! SANTA WAS HERE!!! I SAW HIM!!!”
Even now I can still see Jason and Kelly’s big brown eyes as they dove into the pile of presents under the tree. Somehow everything seemed more magical that day. The excitement of Christmas was made even better by the Santa Claus sighting of the night before. It was contagious and still makes me smile to this day.
The belief in things we can not see or explain is what helps keep us young at heart. It’s what keeps us believing that things will get better for all of us. It’s what I believe in every morning when I wake up and believe that today will be better than yesterday and tomorrow may be the day that someone figures out what will stop this stupid disease.
What a sad and lonely place this world would be without Santa and without faith.
And that was the day I finally understood what Santa Claus was really all about and what that famous letter and the response was all about. That was the day I saw and felt Santa in my own heart.
So yes Kelly there is still a Santa Claus. He lives in your heart and Jason’s heart and your Dad’s heart and mine.
Merry Christmas everybody
and thanks for listening.