Sleigh Tracks - Empty Nest by Curt Swarm


Christmas has always been a happy time for me.  I'm sure it's because, as a child, our parents, mostly our mother, made sure it was happy.  Later in life, as an adult, I was surprised to learn that there are bah-humbug people who see Christmas as depressing, sad and materialistic.  They just want the holidays to be over ASAP.  I think these people might have had unhappy Christmases as children—coal in their stockings, that sort of thing.   
When I was a kid, we were big believers in Santa Claus: that jolly, bearded fellow in red, driving a sleigh pulled by reindeer, landing on roof tops and sliding down chimneys.  It made no difference that we didn't have a chimney.  My sister and I would leave a snack out for Santa.  Somehow the note that Santa left, in handwriting that looked a lot like our mother's, didn't raise a red flag.
I was shocked to my eyeteeth when my sister said, “There is no Santa Claus, stupid.  It's Mom and Dad.”  This news was devastating, not so much that it shattered my belief in the jolly red fellow, but because it meant that our parents were laying out precious money for us kids that we did not have.  We were poor, and as kids, we knew it, and felt it.  If our parents were spending hard earned money on presents, well it was news that was just too hard for me to bear.      
With tears running down my face, I approached Mom, asking if she and Dad were Santa Claus.  “Oh, honey, no.  Where did you get that idea?” 
I told her who told me.  Somehow, Mom convinced me that Santa Claus was real.  For proof she offered up the fact that she and Dad couldn't afford all those gifts, so it had to be Santa.  It made sense.  I was convinced for another year.  (I think my sister got in some real big trouble.)
On Christmas morning we were having a ball opening gifts and gorging ourselves on chocolate, nuts, hard candy and oversize fruit.  Mom called me to the window.  We'd had a fresh snow during the night, a snow that wasn't predicted.  It was supposed to be a “brown” Christmas.  (Christmas magic?)  Anywho, she was pointing out into the yard where there were two, distinct parallel lines in the snow.  Sleigh tracks?  Not only were there sleigh tracks, but toward the “front end” of those tracks were unmistakable hoof prints.  Reindeer?  Not to be duped, I looked closely for tell-tale human foot prints leading out to and away from the sleigh tracks.  Had Dad or my brother sneaked out and drawn that pattern in the snow?  There were no other tracks. 
“Still don't believe in Santa Claus?” Mother asked?
I was a 100% convinced!
It wasn't until years later, when I was in college, that I asked Mom about those “sleigh tracks.”
She laughed, and held her hand over her mouth, like she was still afraid to tell me.  There were overhead power lines, she said.  The fresh snow had accumulated on the power lines, forming ice.  As it warmed up, the ice dropped off, leaving parallel lines in the snow. 
“What about the reindeer tracks?” I asked.
She laughed again.  The wind had blown chunks of ice helter-skelter around in the snow.  They looked like tracks.
“Well, I'll be danged,” I said.
Years later, as an adult and father, my two kids were on the fence about Santa Claus.  On Christmas morning, I was able to take them to the window overlooking our backyard and show them sleigh tracks in the unexpected fresh snow.  I didn't whisper a word about the overhead power lines.  Merry Christmas!
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com, or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com

Curt Swarm, editorial, opinion, Pen City Current, commentary, Empty Nest, Mt. Pleasant,


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