Archive for Monday, December 8, 1997

S MAGIC WORTH BELIEVING

December 8, 1997

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I believe in Christmas magic by Marsha Henry Goff

When I was a child and older kids told me that there was no Santa Claus, I never had a single doubt about his existence. Why? Because I had indisputable proof that he was real. I routinely asked Santa for presents I knew my parents couldn't afford and Santa, bless him, always delivered!

Even when I awoke late one Christmas Eve and found the blue two-wheeler bike I requested from Santa beside the tree while Mom, Dad and a neighboring couple drank coffee in the kitchen, my faith wasn't shaken.

They "heard a noise," my parents said, "the tinkling of sleigh bells," and the four of them "hid and watched Santa bring in the presents." It sounded reasonable -- after all, there was the bike that my parents freely admitted they couldn't afford -- but a tiny seed of doubt must have been planted because by the next Christmas, I had joined the ranks of nonbelievers.

However, because I had younger sisters, I continued to receive presents from Santa Claus until I was in junior high school. I still use my last gift from Santa, a bookcase that has scrawled on the back: To Marsha Lou Henry From Santa Claus. (Apparently Santa didn't want to confuse me with the many other Marshas to whom he delivered gifts.)

When Dad told my youngest sister, Vicki, the truth about Santa, it was traumatic for all of us. Vicki's eyes brimmed with tears and our folks felt pretty lousy about the whole thing. Then Dad gave Vicki the car keys and told her to go look in the trunk. When she came in carrying the gift she had asked Santa for, she was grinning from ear to ear and said, "I thought that was your way of telling me I wasn't going to get my tether-ball!"

Mom has a Santa story that always makes me want to cry. The youngest of 12 children, she and her sister crept downstairs to check their stockings near dawn of a long-ago Christmas Day.

The stockings were empty because their teen-age brother had taken the meager but carefully hoarded money Grandma had given him to buy presents for his siblings and spent it instead on a gift for his girlfriend. Mom and Aunt Bernice went back to bed crying, "Mean old Santa Claus! We were good and he didn't give us any presents! Santa's a blankety-blank!"

And their young brother suffered a similar disappointment when five older brothers answered his Santa request for a horse by filling his stocking with horse pellets (for want of a better word).

But did it shake his belief in Santa? Nope, his cup was always half full. "Santa left me a horse," he explained, "but it got away."

My niece Debby encountered a department store Santa walking through the mall. Had she been older than 6, the fact that Santa was smoking a cigarette might have been a tip-off that he wasn't the genuine article. But, arms outstretched to give him a hug, she ran up to him, saying, "Oh Santa! I love you!" And Santa replied, "Not now, kid, I'm on my break!"

Despite those unhappy stories, I personally think allowing children to believe in Santa is a good thing because -- while it lasts -- a child's belief in Santa Claus is a magical time for both child and parent.

All too soon, however, the time came to tell Ray Jr. -- five years older than his brother Greg -- that there was no Santa. I told Ray that the news must be delivered with the greatest sensitivity. So, while the four of us were shopping, Ray took Ray Jr. aside and said, "OK, now you and I are going to go buy the talking Larry Lion that Santa is going to give to Greg."

Even now, I wish that Santa Claus was real. And while my intellect tells me his existence is impossible, in my heart I still believe that -- in some far corner of the universe -- reindeer fly a sleigh of two-wheelers, bookcases and talking Larry Lions through the Christmas sky as their jolly, bewhiskered driver calls "On Dasher, on Dancer, on ..."

If you mentally added the name Prancer to that sentence, I think that you, too, are a believer wannabe! Merry Christmas!

Marsha Henry Goff is a free-lance writer in Lawrence. Her e-mail address is mhgink@ljworld.com.

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