As often happens, children grow to a certain age and are hesitant to believe that a man comes down their chimney and rewards them for their behavior. For me, believing was never a problem.
Our grandfather was retired and when the opportunity, and more importantly the need, came for a man of his age and temperament to play the role of Santa Claus around the holidays, he took it. He explained to my brothers and me that he was a helper for the real Santa. He told us that there were just too many children and too many places for one person, regardless how magical, to get all of the work done. He told us not to share the secret. He told us not to tell our friends or classmates as this was a special secret that only a few were permitted to know. And with that, we watched as our grandfather would don a great red suit and hat, paint his cheeks a little rosier, his eyebrows a little whiter and firmly grasp his bells to jingle as he walked from Santa’s secret room to the platform where children anxiously awaited his arrival; leaving his other hand free to wave vigorously as mall walkers slowed or stopped to inspect the twinkle in his eye – a twinkle that only Santa could have.
Listening to each child whisper their secret wishes after hoisting them to his knee, patiently reassuring the fearful ones as nervous parents looked on that everything was okay and smiling, though the beard blocked his grin from view, between endless and genuine laughs, like only Santa could.
He was good, for goodness sake. And really would shake like a bowl full of jelly. Most importantly of all, when the children, hundreds each week for hours every day, would hug him, he hugged each one of them back with crimson velvety arms that surrounded many all at once just the same as he enveloped only one at a time. Hugs like only Santa could give.
I’ve seen where the packages under the tree come from. I’ve foregone cookies and milk on the 24th of December.
But, I believe in Santa Claus.
I can hear him in the laughter that we share with friends and family. I see him in the smiles on the faces of children and adults with happiness unbridled. I feel Santa’s embrace in the arms of loved ones, quick to grab on, but not to let go.
I can hear Santa. I can see him and feel him. He is real.
That is Santa, and the year through I believe in him.