Friday, December 9, 2011

Dad was The Real Santa Claus

I remember the time the real truth about Santa hit me. And, I say, hit me, for a very good reason. It was a childhood revelation with a gigantic impact. Indulge me a moment to explain. A few days before Christmas Santa always showed up at the American Legion in Riverview. Why would Santa come to the legion? I didn't know and as a kid I didn't really care. I was just happy that he came. So, every Christmas the Galloway kids went to the legion Christmas party. There was an endless supply of soda pop and little bags of chips. We all knew that a big moment was going to come, we just didn't know exactly when.

With a huge belly laugh Ole Saint Nick would announce his arrival. Somehow he appeared, almost out of nowhere. All of us kids would laugh and giggle and scurry around trying to get close. A really big chair was waiting for the jolly gift giver, up near the Christmas tree. With almost continuous belly laughs he would sit down and us kids would scurry into a line. No cuts in line were allowed, nor even thought of, Santa would certainly see such a serious naughty.

One by one all of the waiting kids would get up on Santa's lap and the most serious question in the entire universe would be asked; Have you been good for your mom and dad? I don't know about any of my friends, but I always answered yes. Deep inside I was hoping Santa wasn't God, and knew very well all of the things I did wrong. Like, tell my brother, Tim, he was going to hell for killing my frog. I did pay for that sin with a well placed bar of soap, coming from my mother. I guess he wasn't God because Christmas morning I was always happy.

Talk about having ants in your pants, waiting in line was as bad a waiting to get the winter dose of Cod Liver Oil, also distributed by mom. When it was finally my turn I got up on Santa's lap and after a couple of belly laughs he asked the all important question. My rather sheepish yes brought another belly laugh. And then it happened, the revelation of all time. My dad was the Real Santa, I could tell. It wasn't his laugh or anything like that, it was the ring on his finger. I recognized the ring. Wow, what a secret I was now carrying around in my adolescent brain. My dad, the Real Santa. No other kid in the universe could say that. But, for  a while I would have to keep the secret.

Many years later I had the opportunity to be the Real Santa. We were living in Niles and my good friend, Larry Clymer, wasn't able to visit the kids like he always did for the Optimist Christmas party. I agreed to attempt to fill the role. The first problem was the outfit. Larry was about 5'8" and I was 6'4". Well with some elf magic the suit fit. the next problem was the Ho, Ho, Ho and the deep belly laugh. I didn't know if I could pull that one off. I practiced the laugh and the all too familiar, Ho Ho. Just before my entrance to the waiting children I was in the bathroom, one last practice and out the door. As I reached for the door it opened, a very small hand from the other side had given it a tug. Much to my surprise, and I'm sure to his, I was standing in front of the son of the district court judge. Little John was in the first grade. His dark brown eyes seemed to glow as he looked at me. Santa, Santa, are you the real Santa? With a perfect belly laugh and a much practiced Ho, Ho, Ho, I told him I was and in fact that I knew his name and his dad.

The story is true and a short time later little John was killed in a tragic accident. I cherish the memory of being the real Santa for a bright eyed little boy that Christmas. I hope and pray that his dad and family continue to remember his bright smile and awe filled eyes.

What about you? What do people see in you? I'm not talking about the real Santa. I'm talking about the real Jesus Christ. The real Saint Nicholas was always about the real Jesus. That is why he gave and lived, so others would see Christ in him. May our Christmas gift to the world be, Christ alive in us.