Last Thursday morning, I sat in front of my TV watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as the marching bands, floats and balloons passed by Herald Square on a bright sunny day in New York City. Festooned, I love that word, across the facade of the store in big golden letters was the word “Believe!” Of course, that word pays homage to the classic movie “Miracle on 34th Street” starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and a very young Natalie Wood as Susan Walker who believes in Santa Claus.
Belief in Santa is the driving theme of that movie and keeping that belief alive becomes one of the many interwoven themes that makes this time of year very special. This is that time of year when all those “know it all” kids try to convince those that are slightly younger and more innocent that Santa Clause does not exist. I can still remember that trauma of that event when it came to my life. I was six or seven, just starting my education when the older kids down the block took my brother and me aside to give us the cold hard facts of life. I went into instant denial, “Who puts the toys under our tree then, Smarty-pants?” was my instinctive retort. Of course they had the crushing response that my parents secretly went to the store, bought the presents, craftily hid them in the tops of their closets and laid them under the tree after we had gone to bed.
No WAY! I was going to prove them wrong. I was going to stay awake late on Christmas Eve and catch Santa in the act. I had made up my mind. I talked it over with my brother and he agreed that we would do this together so we would have each other as a witness. We were bound and determined. It didn’t matter that we had to be up early the next morning so I could sing in the church choir at the 8:30 Mass. This was important, we would do this.
So as soon as we hit the beds that night, my brother and I kept talking to each other, plotting how good it would be to see Santa in the flesh right in our living room. Once or twice, my father came down the hall to tell us to hush up and go to sleep, or Santa would never come. So we lay there quietly still bound and determined to catch Santa. Every 15 minutes or so, either Mom or Dad would quietly come down the hall to check on us. It seemed that this went on for hours but, the next thing we knew, morning sunlight was streaming in our bedroom windows, catching the occasional speck of dust and making it shine like a snowflake.
MORNING SUN! Oh no! We fell asleep both of us. Did we miss Santa? It was a rule in our house that on Christmas Day we could not go into the living room until our parents had awakened. We were dying to know! Should we sneak the back way around the house, through the kitchen and dining room and check it out? What would happen if we were caught? Better not risk it. We lay there, tingling with anticipation until at last, we could hear Mom and Dad stirring in their bedroom and it was time to go check out what was under the Christmas tree. Sure enough, Santa had come and gone while we slumbered, there was even a small speck of telltale soot on the face of the fireplace where he gently lay a soiled glove as he ducked under the mantle in preparation for the magic finger along the nose, Santa’s "up button" on the Christmas elevator that only he can ride back to the roof.
So did we get our irrefutable proof that Santa was real? No! Did we still believe in Santa? Absolutely! This belief becomes stronger each and every year as I see the look of joy and anticipation on the faces of the very young. It is reaffirmed every time I hear a Christmas Carol, or see relatives hug or see someone help another whose luck is down. Santa Claus lives in each and every one of us, especially this time of year. Oh MY!