Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 6: Santa Claus

This post is number 6 in a series of 24 for the 2011 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

On the 19th day of Christmas,
I have many happy memories
of visiting and being Santa Claus.

1) Did you ever send a letter to Santa Claus?

I don't think I ever did send a letter.

2) Did you ever visit Santa and "make a list?"

We visited Santa Claus every year down at the Marston's Department Store in downtown San Diego where my grandfather worked for 55 years. I think we "made a list" sometimes, especially as we got older and the wanted gifts became more complex. My recollection of visiting Santa is one of awe - this really big fat person in a red suit with a long white beard who flies around in a sleigh pulled by reindeer who goes down chimneys to leave gifts for children - I didn't question this for a long time (being a pretty smart kid, I guess).

3) Do you still believe in Santa Claus?

They say that in the first part of your life, you BELIEVE IN Santa Claus. In the second part of your life, you DON'T BELIEVE IN in Santa Claus. In the third part of your life, you ARE Santa Claus, and in the last part of your life, you LOOK LIKE Santa Claus. In my case, I have all four of these attributes ... still.

The magic of Santa Claus in a child's eyes is priceless. Everybody FIGURES OUT that SC is a figment of imagination - why do we fool our children like that? I love giving gifts to my wife, children and grandchildren. I've had a beard for 33 years, been practicing my "ho-ho-ho's" forever, but am working on reducing the belly. I still believe ... irrational, isn't it? I love going to the shopping center, and sitting on a bench near Santa's little hut and watching the little ones go up and talk to Santa. He waved at me on the escalator the other day - he knew! I've thought about being a "store Santa," but doubt if I ever will.

4) When did you find out "the truth" about Santa Claus?

We lived on the second story of a two-story house at 2119 30th Street in San Diego from the time I was 4 until I left home in 1968 at age 24. The house did not have a fireplace, so my brother Stan and I could never figure out how Santa Claus could bring the presents under the tree. Did he come in the window? Did dad leave a key or leave the door unlocked?

My maternal grandparents, Lyle and Emily Carringer (“Gram and Gramps”), built a beautiful home on Point Loma in 1951, and Christmas Eves were spent there for many years – and it had a fireplace! Our stockings were hung there in hopes that Saint Nick would fill them to the brim. Before bedtime, my grandmother would lead us in Christmas carols while we lay in bed – it was a wonderful way to fall asleep, and is one of my most cherished memories of her (my eyes tear up every time I think of this!).

Santa was always good to us, probably because, in retrospect, we were usually good boys – mischievous but not criminal, loud but not abusive, whirlwinds but not destructive. We usually received toys that were all the rage of the day, plus the usual boring clothes, and fruit, candy and small toys in our stockings. The most memorable gifts were the "good" toys, of course. BB guns and Davy Crockett coonskin caps in 1954, Flexible Flyers (sleds on wheels) in 1955, bicycles in 1956.

Of course, Santa Claus isn’t mysterious forever. The Point Loma house had a two car garage that my grandfather had filled with generations of stuff – it was a wonderful place to hide, explore and search. We found the bicycles in the garage before Christmas in 1956, but didn’t tell anybody else. Sure enough, on Christmas morning they appeared by the fireplace and Christmas tree marked “from Santa Claus.” Aha! So, we knew, but being rather smart astronauts we didn’t tell the folks – why kill the golden goose?

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