The night was bitter cold, and gently falling snow was beginning to stick to the window panes. Inside, my house was warm and cozy. What an absolutely perfect night to decorate our Christmas tree!
My husband, a young CPA, was abroad so it was just my three sons and me. Being alone so much, I had become pretty good at doing things by myself, but that year I learned that putting up a live tree was not one of them. So, earlier in the day, my father and Uncle John had helped me get my giant tree into the house. I did not realize at the time how, in later years, I would treasure that memory—two men who loved me, and sometimes “fought” over helping me, were working together, trimming branches and getting the thick tree trunk to fit in the stand.
After they had left, it was time for us to decorate. Michael, who was only one, was sitting on the rug, his eyes aglow while staring at the huge Christmas tree that was overflowing with sparkling, brightly colored lights. Our collie, Holly, was protectively lying at his feet. Four-year-old Bobby was, as usual, his “disruptive” little self, causing all kinds of mischief. Tommy, at 6, was my “big boy” and only helper.
Holiday music filled the house, dinner was in the oven, ornaments were scattered all over. All was right in my world … except for Bobby, who was being very uncooperative. And all my threats, cajoling and time-outs were not working.
Finally, in desperation, I played my last card: “Santa is watching, and there will be no presents for you under the tree if you are not a good little boy!” I knew that the threat of a toyless Christmas would not work with my “yeah, right!” kid, but I used it anyway, primarily as a delaying tactic that would buy me some precious time. I knew that in his quest to prove me wrong, my curly-haired son would look out each and every window.
Engrossed as I was in trimming the tree with Tommy, I didn’t realize how much time had gone by. Was Bobby amazingly behaving himself? I was almost afraid to find out. But there he was, intently staring out the dining room window absolutely mesmerized. “Look, Mommy … you were right! He’s here … Santa Claus is watching me!” In disbelief, I looked out the window, too. And there on our front lawn, much to my amazement and delight, was the big guy himself, waving to cars and passersby, his big red sack filled to overflowing with toys and presents.
I gathered my boys close to me, and while we stood hand in hand in the doorway, Santa walked right in. He knew all of our names, and what we wanted for Christmas. His jolly “Ho ho ho!” reverberated throughout the house. He even stressed to Bobby that he had better be good next year or there would be no toys for him!
A few minutes later, we sadly watched Santa leave, disappearing into the now swirling snow.
For weeks, I asked all my neighbors, but no one else had seen Santa that night. For several years, my boys and I optimistically looked out our windows hoping to see our mysterious visitor one more time.
As my sons got older, they forgot about Santa’s magical visit. But, for me, it always remained a cherished memory.
Many years later, as I shared a glass of wine with my next-door neighbor Eddie, I finally found out the truth: “No, Maria, you were not seeing things. It was me. I was 19 then and practicing. The next day I was going to Nassau Community Medical Center to bring toys to the children.” Those words solved the mystery and assured me that I was not crazy. Still, deep down, I wish that I had never heard them.
Perhaps the little girl inside of me still wants to believe in the magic of that cold, snowy night.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!