Monday, November 30, 2009

Hand-Delivered by Santa Himself

Stevie, 19 mos., Debbie, 4-1/2, Mikie, 6 ~ February 1962

Today's Memory Jogger: "For how long did you believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy? How did you feel when you learned the "adult truth" about each of them?  Do you still retain some of that magic feeling as an adult?"

I still believe in Santa Claus, because there really IS a Santa Claus, sheesh, everyone knows that!  Many people just won't admit it because they are afraid of being laughed at (which they will be, and I know because I'm laughed at all the time but I don't care, I know what I know). The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, of course, are just made up, like leprechauns, magic carpets, and genies in lamps.  But Santa Claus has always existed, and always will.

I remember very well my first encounter with Santa, and I'm talking the genuine dude, from the North Pole, in his high black boots and red fur-lined coat, not one of the many "helpers" who impersonate him at malls and department stores.  I'm pretty sure this is also my very earliest Christmas memory, of any kind.

It happened very, very early on Christmas morning, 1962, in Hermosa Beach, California.  (Since he spends so much time at the cold North Pole Santa really really likes California because the weather is so dang nice.)

1220-24th Street ~ Hermosa Beach, CA. (photo taken May 1964)

At that time my family lived on 24th Street, in a three bedroom, 2-story house that's no longer there today (I know because I went looking for it about 10 years ago). The house's second story was an attic converted into two bedrooms with a connecting door. One room (which was my older brother Mike's) was slightly larger than the other and included the opening to the stairs which led down to the den. The attic bedrooms had low, slanted ceilings. On one side the ceiling slanted clear to the floor, on the other only partway where it met a wall about half the height of a normal wall. My dad could only stand all the way up in the center of these rooms. Each room had one window set into the outer wall at its far end. In my room, which I shared first with my baby brother, Stevie, then later with baby Denise, this window looked out onto the flight path for airplanes arriving at LAX. I spent many hours when I was supposed to be sleeping, standing in that window behind the curtains, watching those lights in the sky at first very small and far away, and then increasingly larger and brighter as they followed their set path to the airport.

I was probably doing just that on this particular Christmas Eve, when I was five-and-a-half, since I'd have been too excited to asleep. Sometimes my brother Mike would watch the lights with me, but he was nearly seven years old and already knew how to read, so it's more likely he was in his own room using a flashlight to read a book. Stevie was about two-and-a-half, sleeping in a crib at the foot of my bed, with a cloth diaper tied to one ankle. By the time he was a year old Stevie had learned to climb out of his crib. No matter how many times he was put to bed he'd climb right back out again until, in despair, my mom took a cloth diaper and tied one end to his ankle and one end to the crib bars. After a night or two of howling Stevie accepted his confinement and simply went to sleep. After awhile, all my mom had to do was tie one end of the diaper to his ankle, leaving the other end free and, just like a horse whose reins are simply draped over the hitching post, Stevie still thought he was held fast!

So I'd have stood alone in the window that Christmas Eve. I watched the lights closely, sure I'd eventually see a lone red light among them, Rudolph's nose of course, as Santa made his approach to my part of the country. I never did though and, finally tired, I climbed down and back into my bed where I quickly fell asleep. But then, much later, when the sky was just barely beginning to show the light of the new day, I heard The Footsteps.

Heavy footsteps. Unmistakably the sound of heavy boots clomping across my bedroom floor and into my brother's room. I'm quite sure my heart simply stopped beating for a minute or two while I tried to decide whether or not to open my eyes and get a peek at the big man. I knew I was not supposed to catch Santa in the act of leaving gifts or he'd take everything straight back to the North Pole and put my name on the naughty list! I heard some rustling noises, and then the crackling of paper and then, was that the sound of footsteps treading the stairs?

I sat bolt upright in my bed and opened my eyes wide. In the early morning light I could see that my room was empty, but I was sure I caught the briefest glimpse of a flickering shadow on the wall at the head of the stairs. Then it was gone. My left hand touched paper and there, at my side, was the stocking I'd hung on the mantle the night before, now bursting with toys and a candy cane poking out the top.

With a cry of excitement I grabbed it up. From my brother's room I heard the sound of paper tearing so I knew he was also awake. My feet hit the floor and I ran to Mike's bed where he was ripping open a bag of candy. In his lap was a happy scattering of gaily wrapped little packages, candy, nuts, and an orange.

"Santa was just here!" I yelled, jumping onto Mike's bed, my stocking clutched in my arms.

"I know," he said, cramming chocolate into his mouth.

"You saw him?" I asked.

Mike shrugged, chewing, and began unwrapping yet another piece of candy, "Sure."

I was incredulous. "But we aren't supposed to see him! He'll take everything back!"

"You aren't supposed to see him," Mike said, "I'm older."

In those days, when I was five-and-a-half, that explained everything.

It HAD been Santa! Right there in our rooms, Santa Claus himself, personally delivering our stockings to our beds! I could barely contain my excitement, wondering if at any second I'd hear reindeer hooves on the roof just above my head.

From back in my room I heard the bouncing and squeak of the springs in Stevie's crib and his little voice, "Ma?"

Suddenly Mike tossed back his blankets, scattering candy wrappers, nuts, and small packages to the floor. He'd just remembered that bigger and better treasures awaited downstairs.

"Come on!" he shouted. "Let's go see what's under the tree!"

So, as soon as I'd lifted Stevie from his crib and set him on his feet, I grabbed up my stocking and ran to catch up with my big brother.

FOR NEXT WEEK:  "What is your favorite animal, and why?"

1 comment:

Jeri said...

Hi Deb, Enjoyed your memory of Christmas. Now I know why you kids always got up so early on Christmas morning! It was Santa's fault! Love, Mom