2010-12-16 / Sam Bari

How ya doin’, Santa?

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

A couple of years ago, about this time, I wrote the story of how I met Santa Claus right in my own kitchen. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe I was about 6-years old.

It was Christmas Eve, and I couldn’t sleep. I heard men talking on the first floor, so I sneaked down the stairs to see who was there. If I leaned over the railing, I could look into the kitchen where the voices were coming from.

A man was talking to my father. I leaned over the railing, and there was a man all right. When I saw him I 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 had helped my little sister make before we went to bed. The jolly old elf was staring right at me. I was caught, and I thought my life was ruined.

But Santa was a kind old soul and he said, “How ya doin’, sport? Why don’t you come down and say hello?” I was speechless. My dad knew Santa Claus. After he finished his sandwich, Santa stopped at my friend Brian’s house a couple of doors down. He even went to his room to wish him a Merry Christmas.

Nothing could have been more exciting. As far as Brian and I were concerned, our lives were perfect. Santa came to our houses on Christmas Eve and visited us personally. I didn’t think anything could be cooler than that.

Anyway, the following year, I went with my little sister to see Santa at the department store, and Santa remembered me.

He said, “How ya doin’, sport? Good to see you again.” Then he looked at my little sister and said, “I bet this is the best ham sandwich maker in the whole world? Thanks so much for thinkin’ of me last year. By the time I got to your house I was mighty hungry.”

She was thrilled – so was I. All the kids standing in that line heard our conversation, and they knew that we had a personal relationship with Santa.

Nevertheless, Santa reminded me of a good friend of my dad’s. His name was Mr. Vogel. He was retired. He lived with his wife on a farm just outside of town. During the summer, we would visit him and he’d let us pick peaches from his orchard.

That summer when we went to visit, I remembered how much he looked like Santa. He had white hair, a white beard, and a big round belly. I couldn’t help but suspect that his resemblance to Santa was more than coincidental.

I decided to check him out. I knew that Santa was an elf. If Mr. Vogel was an elf, then he would have pointed ears. Unfortunately, his hair was too long, so I couldn’t see them, but I still had suspicions.

While my mom and dad were picking peaches, I went exploring. Mr. Vogel had a big barn about a hundred yards behind his house. I went to the barn to look around.

Hanging on a wall inside the barn, were a bunch of leather harnesses, halters, and reins. It was tack for horses and carriages. One long set of reins captured my attention. It was different from the rest. Round silver bells were spaced about a foot apart along its entire length.

The only reins that had silver bells that I knew about were attached to a very special sleigh. That sleigh belonged to Santa.

The tack hung on a wall next to large double doors secured by a big padlock. I wondered what was behind those doors. I tried looking through the cracks between the boards, but they were too close together.

I walked along the wall and found a knothole that gave me the view I needed. What I saw through that knothole made my heart skip a beat.

Sitting in the middle of the locked room was a big green sleigh with hand carved gold trim. Every year before Christmas, the same sleigh, filled with gifts, sat in the middle of Santa Land at the local department store.

Was Mr. Vogel Santa Claus? Find out next week. Read Part II of “How ya doin’, Santa?” It’s quite a story about living in a system we can’t understand.

First part of a two-part series

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