Santa Claus has always been a bit of a controversy in our family. Mom grew up mostly believing in Santa, beathlessly listening for the tap of reindeer hooves on the roof, the freshly-made cookies under the tree, a glass of milk propped faithfully alongside the fragrant plate.
Dad did not. He has, on numerous occasions, expressed the opinion – under his breath – that Santa takes credit for many things that he does not do, and that one does not see Santa shelling out good money for presents.
Therefore, though we kids joked about receiving presents from Santa, no bones were made about the fact that the presents were actually from Mom and Dad. We were the type of kids that when we opened our mouths around Christmas time, grownups gasped, children cried, and parents placed defensive hands over their innocent’s ears.
One of Dad’s favorite stories to tell is the time we went to our local library, just a few days before Christmas. While checking out our books, the sweet librarian decided to make a little light conversation.
“So, darling,” she chirped to my then five year old sister, Hannah, “what is Santa bringing you this year?”
Without changing her expression, Hannah expressed her belief that there was no Santa Claus, Mom and Dad brought the presents, and that a lot of lying went down around Christmas.
The poor librarian’s mouth formed a large O. Mortified, we hustled our young cynic out the door, but on the way out, Hannah paused to stare reflectively at the wreckage behind us.
“I think she still believed in Santa,” she whispered in a tone that could be heard across the entire library.
So, with our past background, we never really believed any of our children would trust in the existence of Santa Claus.
Then again, Ems has always surprised us.
Driving through our Festival of Lights, we were oohing and ahing over beautiful scenes, a lovely manger scene done all in white, Frosty the Snowman whirling, a water tube around his waist (don’t ask me – I haven’t the foggiest), and then…
We came upon Santa Claus. He was sitting by a booth, where deceived cars ahead of us were throwing in donations. Dad moaned, but even the most hardened cynic can’t refuse a donation to Santa Claus, so he reluctantly pulled out his wallet.
As Dad regretfully threw in his money, Santa Claus ho ho’ed and waved at the kiddies, zeroing in on two year old Em.
Eyes a-twinkle, glorious white beard streaming down his chest, he called to her, “You be good now!”
Em giggled, and smiled coyly.
Dad groaned and started to drive away. But Santa Claus had the last word.
“I’ll see you soon!” he bellowed after our retreating van.
Em’s eyes widened, Dad sighed, and the rest of us howled.
As we drove away, there was a reigning feeling of “something about to happen”, a breathless waiting, as we stared at Ems reflective face.
She said finally, “I yike Santa Claus.”
A little more thought.
“He’s my best friend,” she declared firmly. Dad began a weak protest, but she proclaimed over his voice that she “yiked” Santa’s elves too.
Not yet silenced, Dad began his yearly spiel about Santa not being real, that he, Dad, spent good money on gifts for ungrateful children who believed in a humbug’s existence, but he was interrupted by an inflexible Em.
“Him IS real.” she said sternly.
“I saw him.”
Two year old logic – even the Grinch can’t argue against that. (Cindy Lou Who…you go, girl.)