EMPTY NEST by Curt Swarm

Christmas magic


I was eight and just beginning to comprehend that there might not be a Santa Claus.  It was my older sister that put the tectonic shock in my head.  “It's Mom and Dad, stupid,” she told me while brushing her doll's hair.  “They're Santa Claus.”

I was shaken to the roots of my foundation.  We were poor.  There was no doubt about it.  The realization that our parents were laying out scarce money for us kids' Christmas presents caused such guilt feelings in me that I was half sick and couldn't sleep.  I broke down and spilled my guts to Mom.  Trembling, I asked, “Are you Santa Claus?”    

“Oh, honey,” she said.  “No.  We're not Santa Clause.  Where did you get that idea?”

“Angie,” I tattled. 

“Angie?  I'll fix her wagon.  Of course there's a Santa Claus.  There's no way we could afford those presents.  If Santa didn't bring them, who would?”

She had a point.  My fear and guilt were abated, at least temporarily. 

It was supposed to be a brown Christmas.  There was no snow in the forecast.  I had a little concern about Santa's sleigh being able to slide across dry roofs and barren ground.

It was a marvelous Christmas.  Angie and I came tumbling down the stairs at five in the morning to a lighted tree, stockings stuffed with over-sized fruit, nuts and candy; and presents galore.  There was a note from Santa by the little lunch we left him, in hand writing that looked strangely like our mother's, thanking us for the “delicious food.” 

I remember receiving a battery operated machine gun, a paint-by-number set, and the most treasured gift of all—a present I would pore over for years until the cover wore off—the book, “The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe” by Danial Defoe.  It's the first book I remember reading all by myself, and it took me to far away places—tropical islands, unending oceans, and a native friend named, Friday, who was (gulp) a cannibal.  This book may be the single biggest reason I'm a story teller today. 

My oldest brother was home on leave from the Army, and he told me that my machine gun could blow holes in the side of a helicopter as big as his fist.  He held up his huge, freckled fist to show me the size.  I believed him. 

While home, my brother gave his 1950 Ford to my parents because he was going over seas and wouldn't need it.  They were to take over the payments, which was a burden and a blessing at the same time.  I was learning so much about life.

On Christmas morning, my mother called me to the door.  “Still think there's no Santa Clause?” she asked.  She pointed outside through the large glass window in the door.  Miracle upon miracles, it had snowed during the night!  What's more, there were sleigh tracks across the yard with hoof prints in the middle of the tracks.  That did it.  I was a believer!  There was no doubt about the existence of Santa Claus now!

 Years later, while in college, I asked my mother about the sleigh tracks.  She laughed and confessed that ice had fallen off overhead power lines, making perfect parallel marks in the snow, and the hoof prints were from wind blown chunks of falling slush.  Well, I'll be.

 When my kids were little, on Christmas morning, I was able to call them to the window overlooking the yard, and show them sleigh tracks in the newly fallen snow.  (Once again, it wasn't supposed to be a white Christmas.)  There were two unmistakable parallel lines in the snow—sleigh tracks!  Of course, I didn't point out the overhead power lines.

My kids believed! 

Christmas Magic. 

Curt Swarm, editorial, opinion, Christmas, Empty Nest, Pen City Current, Sunday,


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