I’ll never forget that moment. I was six-years-old. It was just days before Christmas when my parents broke the news…
“Marla, we have a confession to make. Daddy and I are the ones who give you gifts at Christmas time. There is no Santa Claus.”
I was devastated. Christmas wasn’t the same after that. However, something happened one night, seven years later, that totally changed my holiday outlook. It was Christmas Eve…
I shut off the bulb that lit our Nativity scene and went upstairs to bed. My sleep was startled by the sound of a loud “Thud!” I ran downstairs to see what happened. There he lay face down, his red coat covered in soot from the fireplace.
“No way! Santa, is that you?”
I thought he was dead. I could see the headlines. Santa found dead at the home of Marla Grabel. Thirteen-year-old girl responsible for millions of children not receiving their Christmas gifts. This was not going to help my 7th grade social status.
“Santa, wake up!”
I shook him as hard as I could. Boy, he sure was a big guy! How he managed to even get down our chimney was beyond me.
“Oh my! What happened? Did I pass out? I was barely able to squeeze through that chimney! No more Double Quarter Pounders with Cheese for me!”
He looked up at me. His white beard contained traces of ash. I put out my hand to help him up as he attempted to get off the ground.
“Thank you, Young Lady.” He forced himself up onto his two big legs. His coat was unbuttoned, and you could see his bowl full of jelly sticking out beneath his white undershirt. Whoever dubbed it a “bowl” was being kind. It was more like a giant vat full of jelly with hair on top. He pulled down his shirt and adjusted his pants.
“Stupid thong! I should have stuck with boxers,” he mumbled.
“WHAT?” I asked.
“Oh, uh, nothing Dear. Santa is just having a slight wardrobe malfunction is all. Don’t mind me.” The color of his face matched his red coat and pants. I was distracted by the sound of a woman singing.
“Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you're here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on”
I went over to the fireplace and picked up a phone. I wiped it off and started giggling.
“Celine Dion ringtone, huh?” By this time his face was the color of a lobster.
“Give me that!” He snatched the phone from my hand and looked at the screen. “I got a text from Mrs. Claus. She wants me to pick up eggs and the latest issue of Vogue on my way home tonight.” He stuck the phone in his coat pocket and began pulling packages out of his sack and placing them beneath the tree.
“I haven’t been leaving any milk and cookies for you because mom and dad told me you weren’t real. I figured why bother, ya know?”
He plopped down his bag and walked over to me. He looked down at me with a smile.
“Marla, do you want to know a secret?”
“Your parents are wise. There comes a point when you must learn the truth, and as the Good Book says, the truth will set you free.” He walked over to our Nativity scene and turned on the bulb sitting above the manger. A tear trickled down his cheek as he took off his hat and held it close to his heart. He looked down at the figurine of Baby Jesus lying in the manger and then looked up at the ceiling.
“Thank you Father that it is not about me. Thank you that I am not the reason for this blessed season. Thank you that you are why we celebrate this wonderful holiday. Let all of these children know that it started with the Greatest Gift given on that special night in Bethlehem.”
Santa kissed the top of my head, grabbed his bag, and shot back up the chimney. I was left standing in silence. I woke up…
Was this a dream? Did my parents lie to me about Santa not existing? I ran downstairs and stood frozen in front of the Nativity scene. The bulb, still brightly lit, beamed down on the Reason for the Season.
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