Interesting that two of my closest buds do not believe in Santa Claus but I love them unconditionally regardless. Here is a Christmas Eve story for you…
When I was a very small boy my parents and I drove up to Reno, Nevada from California to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my Grandma. As with any young kid the magic of Christmas was very real and this was long before the commercialization of the holiday that we have today. My Mom instilled in me that Santa Claus was always very real and to never give up that belief, if I so chose. On this particular Christmas Eve it was quite stormy and I remember, being an only child, sitting by the Christmas tree by myself. I gazed at the tree with all the lights sparkling and the gifts all wrapped in their pretty splendor. Pondering which one’s might be mine and what I could get. All of a sudden I heard a noise on the roof. Startled, I ran into the kitchen to where the adults were and tugged on my Mom’s sweater, looking up at her, “Mom, there was a noise on the roof! I’m scared!”
She leaned down to me and smiled but assertively said, “Oh honey, that has GOT to be Santa and the reindeer landing! He must have had trouble with the weather and needed to land early! Hurry, you have GOT to be asleep before he can deliver your gifts!” I ran to the bedroom where I slept and leaped into bed and as my Mom tucked me in I said, “Mom, the milk and cookies for Santa Claus!” She calmly smiled and kissed me on my forehead and said, “Honey, don’t worry your Dad and I will take care of it. Now you need to get to sleep.” I quickly did (somehow) and the next morning I bolted NOT for the Christmas tree but to the fireplace. To my joy I found a plate of some eaten cookies and a half-filled glass of milk. I squealed with delight!
The next few years went on as I got older and my friends began to tease me relentlessly that Santa Claus was not real. He IS real and DOES exist. I asked my mom for confirmation on this and she said, “Never ever stop believing because Mike, he is real.” This continued in my heart for the next 40 years and I stood my ground to this day on that belief. Christmas would always be magical and he WOULD always come and deliver gifts and toys. It evolved through years with me being single. Then a wonderful period of time with having two of the most two special little boys of a girlfriend for several years. But always to this day….a Christmas Eve tradition. Looking for Santa Claus to arrive and getting to bed before he got here.
This year Phoenix and I will do the same as we have for the past nine years. I will give you the dialogue from any year’s past, so please enjoy:
Me, ”Phoenix! We need to get outside to wait for Santa!”
Him, “What?! Are you going to throw my ball for me?”
Me, “No silly. SANTA CLAUS! Tonight is the night!’
Him, “Oh cool! You better get bundled up. I love this night. Did you look on the computer to see where he is at?”
You see, these days we have NORAD tracking him on the Internet so that helps a bit. I put it right here for you… http://www.noradsanta.org/en/
Me, “Yes, he just left Utah, but we still need to see him and reindeer in the sky first.”
Phoenix, “Yep, that’s the best part!”
Then Phoenix paused, “But Dad, how does he get around the world so fast?”
Me, “Ah, that’s the neatest part. For Santa Claus a second is a month, a minute a year, and year is a millennium.”
Phoenix, “What is that in dog years?”
We gave each other a double-take look at each other.
Phoenix again, “I’m just messin’ with ya, Dad.”
I put on my best winter clothing and grabbed a lawn chair and a hot drink (the good stuff). And Phoenix sat down next to me on my right side and I petted him. We looked up into the sky looking at all the brilliant bright stars. I would tell him of all my Christmas stories of years gone by. Family, friends, joy, the magic and most of all the meaning of Christmas to me. Which is the spirit of giving and not of material things. And of love and kindness and the celebration of all that we have with us and around us.
Phoenix then looked over at me in the chair and said, “I like when you tell me your stories, Dad.”
Me, “Well, they are all true. But the BEST thing about Christmas to me most of all is that it’s about the children!”
Phoenix, slightly alarmed, quickly glanced at me, “Ahem, and Golden Retriever’s, right Dad?”
Me, “Yes, and Golden Retrievers. And Labradors and kitties and all beings on this Earth, kiddo.”
Phoenix, “Even the cat that teases me?”
Me, “Yep, even that cat.”
Phoenix, sighing with love, “Well…ok. He’s a good cat.”
I went on to tell him more stories and how Santa always came to deliver gifts and toys to the good boys and girls of the world. That it’s NOT about what Santa can give us but what we can give to another. And a gift doesn’t have to come in a material form. It can come in many forms…love and another kindness to another, charity, volunteering, and sometimes even just listening and being there for someone.
Phoenix, “Wow! All those things are Santa Claus?”
Me, “Yes, all those things are Santa. Well, sort of.”
Him, “Ohhh…so that’s why we go help those people like we do. And also how we donate our money?”
Me, “Christmas to me is 365 days a year, Phoenix. Santa Claus pulls off the real magical stuff but not always in the form we wish for. When and where we least expect it.”
Phoenix,” So, if I wisch fur you to ween da lottery but instead you git a date with Kate Beckinsale dat iz Santa?”
Me, “Darnit! You were licking up that drink weren’t you? It’s NOT water!”
Phoenix, “Sowee… *hiccup*!”
I continued on for a while and the fresh air sobered him up he suddenly interrupted me and began pawing at me, “Dad! Look!”
Phoenix, looking up into the stars, intently said, “I think I see something. Over there!”
I squinted into the dark sky filled with bright lights of the heavens and saw what he did,” I’m not sure…”
Him, “Well? Do you think it’s Santa?”
Me, “It looks like something moving in a position to land, honey. I think you’re right. We better hurry to bed!”
Phoenix, “Done!” And he dashed away and I could hear him bolt into the house and into his crate at the foot of my bed.”
I picked up and crawled into bed to call it a night. Before turning off the light on my night stand I looked at him, “You gotta sleep or he won’t come, Phoenix…”
Phoenix groaned with anxious frustration and pretending to sleep peeking through one eye at me, “Ok, Dad…”
I turned the light off and Phoenix barked!! “Dad! The milk and cookies!!”
Me, “Arrgh! Good call!” I went into the kitchen and gathered the cookies and milk and set them on the hearth.
Then I came back to bed and told my kid, “Got it…”
Phoenix, “What would you do without me?”
Me, “I would be lost. I love you, baby.”
Phoenix, “I love you too. Now shut off the light.”
We fell asleep…somehow.
The next morning we awoke and the cookies and milk were untouched on the hearth *sigh*
Phoenix looked at the hearth then looked at me with the saddest look and hanging his head in despair, “I guess I wasn’t a good boy.”
Me assertively just like my Mom would have said, “No way! You are the best, good boy ever!”
Phoenix, “Ya, but….”
Knock, knock on the door…
I opened the door and it was my next door neighbor, Keith, “Hey, my wife and I caught someone walking away from your house last night but he just vanished. I know we keep an eye on other but it looks like they left you something.”
I hadn’t noticed it but I looked down and it was a basket with dog treats and toys at the doorstep.
I thanked him, grabbed the basket, closed the door and showed Phoenix.
Phoenix said, “Well, what IS it??”
I was completely baffled, “It’s a bunch of treats and toys. And there’s only a card that has ‘Merry Christmas Phoenix’ on it?”
Him, “Hey, that’s ME!”
I said, “Yep!”
I unwrapped the basket and gave Phoenix one of the toys and he bolted out into his backyard to play with it.
Then I walked over to the neighbor’s and asked Keith with a big smile, “Did YOU guys do that for him?”
Keith was surprised, “Nope, wasn’t us.”
I walked over to my Grandma and Elizabeth’s house and explained. Then asked, “Did YOU guys do that for him?”
They all said, “Nope, wasn’t us.”
I never, ever found out how they got there but Phoenix did come back into the house with his toy.
I started to tell him, “Honey, I don’t know how…”
And he cut me off and looked at me smiling, “Dad…it was Santa!”
Me with total realization that He had visited us, “Yes it was, honey!”
My mom passed away far too early this last May. She was the ultimate in Christmas and Santa Claus. To always believe in the love and kindness in life. And to never forget the magic that is not only Christmas, not only Santa Claus, but life itself. And something I’ve always told those around me – you are limited only by your imagination.
Thanks Mom….I love you and miss you…and I have never doubted for a minute…