2006-12-21 / Sam Bari

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand

Santa! Is that you?
By Sam Bari

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
The year after my father told me that Santa had to solicit help from parents and grandparents all over the world because he didn’t have time on Christmas Eve to stop at every house on the planet to deliver gifts, something phenomenal happened. The jolly old elf stopped at our house to visit my dad.

I guess I was about 7 or 8 years old at the time, and even though I didn’t expect Santa to personally stop by, it was still the night before Christmas, and I couldn’t sleep. We had to be in bed by 8:30 or thereabouts, which I thought was much too early, especially on Christmas Eve.

Anyway, I was tossing and turning trying to fall asleep when I heard voices downstairs. Two men were talking. I was waiting for mom and dad to turn in for the night so I could sneak down to the living room and see if the Erector Set I wanted was under the tree.

The men kept talking and curiosity got the best of me, so I slowly crept out of my room and down the stairs to see who was there. The voices were coming from the kitchen, at the back of the house. I had to climb halfway down the staircase before I could lean over the railing and see down the hall into the kitchen. I did just that, and almost fell over the banister to the floor below when I saw the man sitting at the kitchen table.

It was Santa Claus — in the flesh. His red coat was hanging over the back of the chair, but he was wearing the pants, the black boots and the hat. And he had a white beard and a big round belly, just like the storybook said. He was eating the ham and cheese sandwich my little sister wanted to make for him in case he was hungry when he arrived from the North Pole.

Dad told me never to tell anyone that Santa didn’t visit every house on Christmas Eve — especially not my sisters. If I said anything, kids would stop believing in Santa, and we couldn’t have that. I felt so grown up when he told me, so I didn’t say a word. I just smiled and helped her make the sandwich. Now Santa was sitting right there in the kitchen eating it with my dad. I just stared. I couldn’t move. Then disaster happened.

He looked up in my direction and saw me. I was so mesmerized by the sight of Santa sitting at our kitchen table that I was frozen to the spot where I was standing. Our eyes locked, and he winked at me. I was sure I was doomed.

“Looks like we have company,” he said with a smile.

“Now I wonder who that could be,” I heard my dad say.

“Well, don’t just stand there, young fella,” Santa said. “Come on down and say hello.”

I couldn’t believe it. Santa was talking to me. Somehow, I made my legs move and stumbled into the kitchen.

“Santa! I-I-Is it really you?” I stuttered and stammered.

“Well, if it isn’t, I’m eating his sandwich,” Santa said laughing. “Make sure and thank your little sister for me. She was considerate to think I might be hungry. And thank you, too. I understand you helped her make it.”

“I helped a little. She’s not tall enough to see over the table yet, so she needed a hand,” I replied. Then he gave me a hug.

“Dad told me that you didn’t have time to visit every house on the planet in one night. How come you’re here?” I asked.

“He’s right. I don’t have time to visit every house. But your dad and I are old friends. I was a little early, so I stopped to pay him a visit. I usually come by after kids like you are asleep.”

“Dad — you never told me you knew Santa,” I said.

“Of course I know Santa,” he said. “We’ve been friends for years.” I couldn’t believe my ears. I thought I was dreaming, but I wasn’t. He was real, and he was sitting in our kitchen.

“Santa, I don’t know if you’re going to stop at my friend Brian’s house. But if you do, he lives two doors down. He’s worried that you won’t come because they don’t have a fireplace with a chimney. He left a note on the front door telling you that their back door is open.”

“Don’t worry about a thing. If their lights are on, I’ll stop by and visit,” Santa said. You’re a good boy for thinking of your friend. Now, I think you better get up to bed. There might be something under that tree with your name on it when you get up in the morning.”

I thanked him and went up to bed. When I got to the top of the stairs I heard my mom say, “Thanks for bringing the Erector Set, we just ran out of time.”

“No problem,” Santa replied. “Glad to do it. I don’t know how much longer I can do this though. I’m gettin’ old.”

“You’ll never quit,” my mom said. “The children would be so disappointed if you weren’t at the store every year.”

“You’re right,” Santa said. “I would miss them too. Merry Christmas everybody.” And he left.

Santa did stop and visit Brian. He ate cookies with his mom and dad and went to his room to wish him a Merry Christmas. Brian and I have been telling this story ever since. It was the year of the perfect Christmas. As far as we’re concerned, anybody that doesn’t believe in Santa Claus lives in a system we can’t understand.

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