Just the word "December" would make your skin tingle. Anticipation for "the day" grew exponentially every single slow day in the classroom. My mother would begin to tell us to "make a list" so that we could go tell Santa Claus what we would like to possibly have. We went to the same Santa Claus at the Haywood Mall. He was the real Santa Claus, because only he had a real beard. He has to have a real beard, or else he was a fake. Waiting in line to tell this "stranger" about our dreams and hopes of the perfect gift would make your stomach cramp, and your knees would turn to jello. This was THE GUY!! The guy who could do all those cool things. THE GUY who had all those magic reindeer, and he wants to hear from me! Oh my gosh! He wants to hear what I have to say, and what I would want for Christmas. How cool is this?!!! It took what seemed like HOURS to get through the line to see him, but when we arrived, minutes seemed like seconds sitting in his lap. You could barely remember a word, and you had to waste precious time with him to pose for a photo. Your mind would go blank. You would stutter, spit, and just constantly think about anything other than vomiting on this nice mans beautiful, velvet red suit. You would give him a few gift ideas, and then it was your brothers turn, all while our mother kept a close ear to the conversation. So much to say, so little time.
First you had to knock out all of the other family things before the "big night." First a party with Dad's friends at work, a Hester reunion in a Church, a Ervin reunion in another Church, and a Christmas Eve reunion at Grandmas house. Finally, the night had arrived!!! We would watch the news, and now and again they would give us updates on where HE was! "He's coming, he's coming!" How exciting! Our mother would let us stay up unusually late, 10:00 pm or so. Before bed, we would lay out cookies and milk, because he must be hungry and thirsty from hauling around all those presents. We left a carrot or two for Rudolph, because he needed his strength too. And off to bed we would go! Yeah, like sleep was really going to happen! We lay there with anticipation, and listened to every crick and crack the house could make, until our bodies and minds could take no more. Sometimes if we REALLY couldn't sleep, we would get up and peek into the living room, trying to time exactly when he would make an appearance. We never caught him, ever!! We were always too early, or too late. But when we were too late, we peaked at all the presents! They were everywhere! Each present was wrapped in the same Santa Claus paper, each with the same style bow. That's how we knew it was really from him, and not just a mom and dad present to us. Only HE used that kind of paper. We would try to guess what they were by the sizes of the boxes, but never seemed to get it quite right. And then we went back to bed, for sleep, right? NOT! We lay there again, until our minds and bodies could take no more, and FINALLY went to sleep, only to then awaken at 5 or 6 am and wake everybody up, because HE had come!! HE had come!! The day was finally here!
All of our presents had each been perfectly wrapped, with the same bow perfectly placed on each present. And look, he even took the time to eat 1 and a half of our cookies, drink a little milk, and took a carrot to Rudolph!! He really came! And now to the presents. He got us everything! Everything that we could have ever wanted! Every single item that we wanted, or could have possibly dreamed about having, was here, right here in front of us! We were the luckiest kids on the planet! Not only did we get visited by Santa, he REALLY listened to us that day at the mall when we went to see him, even though we didn't think the conversation went so well and there was tons of kids in line before and after us. He understood we were nervous that day, and really was watching us to see if we were naughty or nice. I mean, of course he was, he's Santa!
We played with our toys all day. We took a small nap in the middle of the day, and we were forced to stop for a bite to eat. The entire process was just purely amazing, from beginning to end. The entire month went by like molasses, but that day seemed to just fly by even though you so desperately wanted it to stop. Dad was at home and not at work. Mom was home and happy because we were all at home and the shopping season had officially ended. My brother and I were home and NOT at school. Our grandparents made their rounds that day to all the grandchildren, and they stopped by to say hello too! That day was officially the best, ever, yearly. If there was such a thing as magic, it had happened at the Franks house!
I was about 11-12-13-ish when I finally realized that Santa was "fake", and that moment in time meant more to me than any of the happiness those previous Christmas celebrations had brought. That was the year that I found out Santa Claus wore a nightgown. That was the year that I found out what was really going on.
My mother would painstakingly withdraw information from two little kids in great detail and document it throughout the month of December to secretly purchase later. Do you know how hard that is with a child's imagination?? Especially ours! My father would work all the hours he could at the shop so that he could provide the very best Christmas possible for his family, thinking little about himself in the process. Exhausted from all the shopping and holiday reunions, they would then set the alarm for early in the morning Christmas Day, go get the gifts from the hiding spot (to this day I still don't know where that is) and wrap each and every present, and place them neatly under the tree, while remembering to take a bite of chocolate chip cookie, swallow a bit of milk, and hide a carrot. After hitting the bed around 3 or 4, they would then be awaken by 2 kids around 5 or 6 am, making noise as they went towards the Christmas Tree in the living room, laughing, giggling, and attempting to whisper. They would then get up, and play dumb, so that we could enjoy the excitement and magic of being visited by the one and only, Santa Claus. And they did this yearly, time after time, year after year. Learning that Santa wore a nightgown was the equivalent to the scene in The Wizard of Oz with the man behind the curtain, but instead of pure disappointment, I was left with pure amazement. The fact that they did this all these years, and pulled it off, is just unbelievable. The fact that they were responsible for so much happiness, and joy, still baffles me. And all those years that I wanted so desperately to go "See Santa Claus" and I just couldn't wait to sit in the lap of the man wearing the big red velvet suit, I was already sitting next to him, and she was listening to every word I had to say, silently. She cared about my happiness more than any fictional character ever could. She wanted to make sure that her kids had the best Christmas ever, yearly, and that I would remember it always. But all those memories have faded to a blur, and are experienced only through VHS these days.
But the day I found out Santa wore a nightgown, now that day, I will remember vividly forever.
Thank-you, Mom and Dad, for allowing this lucky kid to be visited by Santa Claus. My wish every Christmas, until the end of my days, is that every kid in this world could be so lucky, and I love you both for what you did for my brother and me. Thanks Santa!
If I did a good job, how about flipping some coins for a coke or two?
Thank-you so much!