2008-12-24 / Sam Bari

The undeniable Mr. Claus

You can't beat a system you can't understand
By Sam Bari

Tonight is an important night to every boy and girl around the world. 'Tis the night before Christmas when Santa flies his sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer. They are stopping at every house where good children live so that Santa can leave toys under the tree as gifts for those who were well behaved.

For the last two years, I have written Christmas columns that told the story of my relationship with Santa Claus when I was a boy. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe the story began when I was 6 or 7 years old. Anyway, I was in the second grade.

It was Christmas Eve, and as usual, I couldn't sleep. I heard men's voices on the first floor, so I decided to sneak down the stairs to see who was there. If I leaned over the railing, I could look into the kitchen where a man was talking to my father. I leaned over the railing all right, and just about fell head first onto the floor below.

Sitting at the kitchen table, his red coat and big black belt hanging over the chair behind him, was Santa Claus, eating a ham sandwich I helped my little sister make before we went to bed. The jolly old elf was staring right at me. I was caught in the act, red-handed. I couldn't escape, and I thought my life was ruined forever.

But, no. Santa was a kind old soul and he invited me in to say hello. I was speechless. My dad and Santa were friends. I had no idea. After he finished his sandwich, he wished us a goodnight, and then stopped at my friend Brian's house a couple of doors down. He even went up to his room to wish him a Merry Christmas.

Last year, I wrote about the consequences of that Christmas. When we returned to school in January, Brian and I told everyone that we met Santa Claus, and of course, nobody believed us. We were teased and taunted all year long. However, we were vindicated the following Christmas when I took my little sister to see the old elf, and he recognized me by name. He even said that he would try to stop by and visit on Christmas Eve if he had the time.

The kids that taunted us all year long about our so-called "fabricated story" were waiting in line to see Santa when he called me by name. This time when Brian and I returned to school, we were treated like rock stars. We had proved that Santa personally visited us at our houses. The few moments of fame were almost worth the year of ridicule, but I don't think I would do it again.

Then, the following fall when I returned to school after summer vacation, a couple of the big kids started taunting us about meeting Santa Claus again. But this time, it was different. They said Santa wasn't real and that the Santa we met was just a friend of my father's who was dressed up as Santa. They made us angry, but Brian and I didn't say anything because we knew better. Besides, some of the big kids could get pretty mean.

They still teased us unmercifully and told the little kids that Santa was just a fairy tale. They made a few of them cry. Brian and I told them not to listen to the big kids, because Santa had come to our houses and brought us presents. We knew he was real because we met him face-to-face and he remembered our names.

I think we made most of them feel a little better, but I could tell that a few had doubts. They were not totally convinced that we were telling the truth.

Nonetheless, I had noticed one significant thing about those big kids. A few of them had tried to tell us that Santa wasn't real the year before. After their flagrant claims, I noticed that the presents they received on Christmas morning were different from ours. They didn't get any toys.

Instead, they got clothes, and new book bags for school, and other practical things from their parents. But none of them got any toys from Santa. I told Brian about this and he said he noticed it too. Anyone who stops believing in Santa doesn't get any more presents from the old elf. He stops bringing toys to those who don't believe.

We told the little kids about this, and they agreed. They said they would never stop believing because they didn't want to stop getting toys. They said they would always love Santa.

Well . . . after all these years, I still get toys at Christmas. If you can't believe in Santa Claus, there isn't much hope for anything good in this system we can't understand.

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