Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Here Comes Santa---Pause?


Back in the ancient times magic persisted longer. The Kid clung to a belief in the jolly ol' fat man in white whiskers much longer than children do today. But then, what was there to disturb the fantasy? Radio was old, although less old than he then thought, and TV was just appearing as metal wire trees atop a few scattered homes. There was no insistent 24-hour cable full of faux-reality and talking heads, no Internet where you could find anything a depraved heart might desire. We escaped such daily battering where such rumors that your parents were that man behind the curtain could fester.

The Kid even persisted in defence of the North Pole Chief Elf when mean kids at school would snicker at his naivete. Well, why wouldn't he? He had seen Santa one Christmas Eve.

Well, in the spirit of disclosure, not exactly seen, but heard him.  He was laying in bed, wide-awake as most kids were in the wee hours of that longest interminable night of the year. It was very still and dark when a whoosh encircled the house outside. Yes, a whoosh like when a jet swoops off the runway (although not so loud) and The Kid was sitting bolt upright straining now. He could hear the thud upon the roof, the slight clatter of a pawing hoof. What more proof did one need?

He slid under the cover and pretended sleep all the way to sunrise and then he woke up thinking, "Gee, I must have fallen asleep after all. I never actually heard St. Nicholas enter the house." 

Oh, he had entered though. There around the tree were the glistening, glittering glut of his young desires.

That was when he lived out in isolation deep back in a swamp. He had proof of the Easter Bunny out there, too. Easter came early one of those years while the ground was still covered with fresh snow and when he ventured out on Easter Sunday he saw the tracks. There were rabbit tracks across the yard and they came right up to the dining room window, which must have been where the Easter Bunny entered to leave the basket of goodies upon the table.

He moved back into town at New Year's time of 1950. He was 8 then. His parents and he lived with his grandparents for perhaps a year or so and then his folks were able to rent a home across the street. His grandparents lived at 424 and now his parents and he were at 417. 

He got an electric train on the first Christmas at 417 and it was setup beneath the tree in the dining room. Santa had come through again. He had wanted the train so badly, and it had come with all kinds of neat accessories. By the next Christmas he was 11 and still telling that guy what he wanted, which generally was more train stuff: a cattle car with moving cows, Plasticville this-and-that building, but also perhaps a microscope and chemistry set and...He was good at making long lists.

One of his longest friends, going back as far as he could remember, was the girl across the street. Her parents had had her late. Her mother and his grandmother were close friends, being about the same advanced age (probably as ancient as 56 at that time). The girl was what they called a Tomboy in those days, that is, she could keep up with the guys in everything, despite her size. She and The Kid were the same age, but she was tiny next to him and looked much younger. (That is her and The Kid in the photo.)

She was a redhead, as he had been at birth. Her hair stayed that color. By grade school The Kid's had turned a dark brown that showed up black in most photographs. (Ah, the days when he had dark hair. Ah, the days he had hair!)

They spent a fair amount of time together before Junior High. 

Now his father was a long-distance truck driver seldom home. His mother was working as a sales clerk at Newberrys, a Five 'n' Dime Store downtown. The Kid usually came home from school to an empty house. No one worried about that, after all, his grandparents were just a couple doorsteps away and his grandmother was always there.

It was near Christmas and Iva and The Kid had walked home from school together. The day was chill. They went into his home to play in warmth. Well, there they were, her and him, all alone in the house and no one would be home for at least two hours. You know what that led to.

No, not that. What is wrong with you people. They were eleven year-olds in the 'fifties.

It led to snooping for Christmas presents.

And he found a bonanza of unwrapped gifts in the closet of the spare bedroom.  Oh, wow, things he wanted plus surprises. What a Christmas this would be. Look what his folks were giving him, all these toys, not the usual socks and couple of shirts and a pair of pants that would see him clothed another year, but toys. He was going to be rich, the envy of every boy and girl when you combined this with what Santa would bring. And the girl was as shocked and awed as he.

How slow the days dripped by, how even extra long that Christmas Eve, how very much earlier he bounded downstairs on Christmas morn steeped in greed.  And there was the bounty Santa had brought shining in the Christmas Tree lights and...wait a minute here. What is wrong with the guy?  He brought the the same things his folks had stashed in the spare room closet. How could such a mix up occur? There were the packages from his mom and dad, all wrapped neatly to the side. He tore into the first and it was a shirt, then came another shirt and a pair of pants and finally the annual supply of socks.

He guessed his parents picked up his vibes that now he knew.  Santa didn't come again after that year. The toys seemed to shrink in quantity, too. Now the baubles were about equal with the shirts and pants and socks. In fact, there was a third shirt and extra socks.  He didn't even have to chuck aside the perennial unwanted orange in the toe of his Christmas stocking anymore, for the stocking wasn't hung now.

The Kid wouldn't say the joy of Christmas was lost. It wasn't. But some of the excitement was gone. When his wife and he finally had children, who came late just like the neighbor girl had come late for her parents, they didn't do the Santa thing. His children knew where the gifts came from and they actually appreciated them more. He saw no less merriment or excitement in them than any other child at Christmas or in himself as a child who looked to Santa for fulfilment. The difference was this anticipation of the Day has never faded from them and they have been a family who loves being a family sharing the joys together.  Sorry, Santa, you haven't been missed.

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