Santa sat down for a chat
Santa reveals - "They're not elves"
(This is my annual Christmas Story for Joanne. This year, she agreed to share it with others. And, this year it's a true story. Not kidding. I really mean that.)
I had an intense dream the other night. More than a dream, because it wasn’t only real. I think I made a new friend.
St. Nicholas sat down with me as if we’d made an appointment. Yes, the bulbous, boisterous man himself. He thanked me for inviting him to an interview to straighten out a few things. Before I could relay that I’d forgotten about doing such a thing, besides not having any contact information for St. Nick, we pulled out two chairs at my kitchen table and sat down.
He handed me a cup of hot chocolate, spiced with an amount of bourbon that he assured me would nicely deal with the sugar spike — a dangerous effect of my diabetes.
“Go on,” he told me. “Santa Claus never lies.”
I tasted cinnamon, a berry of some kind, and a thick, silvery slather of whipped cream — all caressing, if I can say so boldly, the most chocolaty liquid known to man’s taste buds.
“Where should we start?” he asked me.
My mouth couldn’t form a sentence. So many suppositions and assumptions and chocolate were already in the way of my dusty reporting skills.
“You are Santa Claus?” I finally asked.
“That’s a good place to start,” he said. He was dressed in red from the top of his hat down to his shins, bright white fur running in circles around his hat, his collar, his waist, his wrists, and just above embroidered black boots.
“Uh …” I started.
“Let me,” he said, apparently thinking I was going to coach him along. I don’t know what was more preposterous. Me peppering Santa with questions, or Santa Claus answering any questions at all.
I took notes during the dream, and they are right here in this interview. You could insist this must be only a dream. I won’t argue with you. He was, however, very convincing.
Santa gave me the rundown on his beginnings, a village priest until being named a bishop of a Greek section of Turkey, which included Myra where he served, and Lycia where he was born. He died in 343 A.D. The conversation covered all of the past two millenniums with events from his perch in heaven. Increasingly each year, he appeared in small villages all over Asia Minor. Next, he added Eastern Europe, closely expanding into the frosty neighborhoods of the Scandinavian hinterlands. Eventually, by the 17th Century, he’d conquered the globe.
Most stories about him are true, except for the elves.
“They’re volunteers, children in heaven eager to visit their homelands and to sing, lifting up the poor, the ill, and the lost.”
“And the deal with delivering presents?” I finally chipped in.
“Oh, that’s never really been what we do. It’s not a bad thing, mind you. It’s just not what I’ve been all about.”
“Pardon me?” I asked.
“I’m a reminder of the mystery of eternal life with God, and the active involvement of saints and angels in people’s everyday lives. Especially heaven’s children interacting with children down here. You, surely, know that?” he asked.
No, I had no idea.
“It does make sense, though,” I added. “Why you? Why aren’t others (saints, I meant to say) who do things like you?”
He looked at me dumbstruck. “St. Anthony?” He said, his arms spread out, aghast at my question.
“Oh, of course,” I said.
“Dear God, John,” he continued. “Mother Mary, St. Teresa of Avila, and your own Padre Pio. I thought you knew about them.” He explained how all of them were able to be in several places at the same time. “It’s rather common.”
“My apologies,” I said quickly to his furrowed brows, afraid I was going to lose him. Or get bopped on the head. “You’re absolutely right. It’s just that you are so proficient, so available, and in so many places at the same time.”
He glared at me. Kris Kringle had gone silent. I felt certain he would fade away and leave me there in my stupidity.
Leaning back, he took a long breath, and then bent forward laughing loudly, slapping his knees, and hollering, “It’s OK, kids, come on out!”
Children of all sizes, shapes, and nationalities appeared from behind him. He stood up, jumping and laughing along with them all. I was overwhelmed. Several of them rushed at me, hugged me, and pulled on my arms. They were gentle but unabashed, bouncing around, running through the entire house, picking up things, and sliding across the tile floor. Everything you could imagine children doing.
They located the several nerf guns we have stored, and the puzzles, and the legos. In no time at all, at least 100 children took over the house. Several began baking in the kitchen. They made cookies because I could hear them yelling in several languages — “Let’s make cookies!!!!”
Three or four of them at a time took turns holding me. I patted their heads, squeezed them back when they squeezed me. I kissed each of them on the forehead.
“My wife should see this,” I shouted to Santa when he finally looked over at me and let the children be.
“Oh, she has,” he said to me. “Many times. We’ve only just decided to let you in on this wonderful thing.”
I fell to my knees, my unbelief gone and my defenses completely down. “Dear God,” I said. “How many others have you met with?”
“They are too many to count,” he said. “No matter. We usually only appear to people who have already taken us into their hearts. It’s a personal experience.”
My wife had piles of wrapping paper stacked, along with ribbons, leftover from her Christmas present marathon over the past month. The children began wrapping all sorts of items in our house — everything that they could pick up and hold in their hands. Ribbon bits and clippings of colored paper flew around like confetti in the air.
Our tree was still up. They gingerly placed each wrapped present underneath it, packed so thick and the pile so wide you could no longer see the table under the tree or the two chairs to the left and the right.
They sang Christmas songs, lovely melodious sounds. Violins in some of their hands, and trumpets, saxophone, xylophones, drums, and clarinets.
“You should get a piano,” Santa Claus said to me. “Lots of the children play piano.”
I shook my head in agreement. “I’ll have to get right on that,” I said, looking around for a proper place to put a piano. I was enamored, sucked into the aura of children celebrating. I noticed too the children dancing four at a time on top of the living room table. “And maybe a dance floor,” I added.
Santa raised his arms into the air and shouted for the children to open all the presents. “It’s time!” he shouted.
In less than a minute, every child had a present. Their names were handwritten on the packages. There was one for me, too. They began opening them up. The presents included the items they’d picked up from the house. Pieces of the Bethlehem creche, our blender from the kitchen, pictures of the family from the counter, board games from the cabinet. Everything they opened was something we already had.
They held up all the presents at the same time and looked at me. My present was opened, and it was the pad where I’d been taking notes of the interview with St. Nick.
“For you!” they shouted. Christmas was three days ago. Still, they yelled “Merry Christmas!!!” while they ran around the house like squirrels chasing each other up a Spruce tree. They put every gift they opened back where they found it.
I stood amidst torn wrapping paper, loose ribbons, and laughing children when they finished. I was out of breath.
“Well, time to go,” said Santa. Then in a whoosh of chaos, the children fell, rolled, and ran behind Santa, slowly disappearing from view. I almost cried. I came this close.
“What a rush,” I finally got out. “That’s incredible.”
“Now, don’t tell anybody what you saw,” Santa said, lifting one finger at me, looking through his glasses with both eyes.
I stared back at him and cocked my head. “I’m afraid it’s too late for that,” I said.
His laughter filled the house. He lifted his hands and all the wrapping paper and ribbons rolled back onto their tubes and into the bags that held them. Like nothing had ever happened.
Then he winked at me and was gone.
I catch my breath every time I tell that story. Dagnabbed if it didn’t really happen. It was so very, very real.