It’s that time of year when everywhere you look there’s a Santa in a store, mall or town. Each looks a little different, but most have a red suit and white beard and seem happy to see children. But which one is the REAL Santa Claus? Oh, we know he’s out there. We’ve seen the movie Santa Claus and we know how it works. Santa’s not afraid to ask for help…after all, he is a man…a magical man, yes…but none the less…a mere mortal. So out of all these “helpers”, which is the real Santa Claus my children asked me one year.
They were both at the age where their friends were beginning to question the reality of St. Nick. I thought long and hard before I gave them an answer. I’ll be honest…it wasn’t the greatest answer but it seemed to satsify them for the moment. What did I say? I said in my most authoritative and knowledgable manner, “That the real Santa Claus will know things about you that only you will know. He will remember your last year’s gift and can tell straight off if you have been bad or good. He won’t even have to ask you like his helpers do. And yes, he will have a real beard and rosy cheeks and a tummy that will jiggle like a bowl full of jelly. But he might not wear a red suit because Santa is a person and he likes to change things up abit. I thought I did a pretty good job telling them about the real Santa…especially since I myself had not had the pleasure of meeting him all these years.
“Have you ever met him mommy?” my daughter asked all excited?
“Oh no, not me. I’ve tried to find him…but I think I only met his helpers.” My daughter smiled and seemed to have sympathy for me. Of course I laughed, but deep down inside I felt a little sad that I hadn’t met him in all my forty plus years.
The following year we planned a trip to Oklahoma to visit my parents for Christmas. It was an usual occasion, as we rarely left our home during the holidays. The kids were excited to see their grandparents, and the drive from Key West, Florida to Edmond, Oklahoma was long. When we arrived at my parent’s home we found it quite festive. The house was lit from the yard up to the top of the roof. Every inch of the house was decked out in Christmas decorations.The kids were so excited that it made my husband and I laugh.
It wasn’t long before we were sitting around the table talking about our plans for Christmas Eve and Day when the topic of Santa came up. I’ll never forget it, the look on my children’s face when my mom shared a secret.
She said, “I’m going to take you to see the real Santa Claus!” Oh boy, I thought. I sure hope he wasn’t one of Santa’s helpers because I’m sure my children would tell their grandmother the truth!
“Are you sure he’s real?” my son asked eagerly.
“Oh yes, I’m certain. He comes every year around this time at this one particular mall. Then he leaves and his helpers fill in.” I gave my mother a look of caution, but she ignored me and smiled at the kids.
“Can we go tomorrow?” my daughter asked.
“Of course! We don’t want to miss him!” Grandma said excitedly.
That night as the kids went to bed all they could do was to talk about Santa…finding the real Santa.
The mall was huge…but the kids didn’t seem to mind that we walked seventeen football fields to find the “real” Santa Claus. We found him in the dead center of the mall in a mock Christmas Village all set up for photos and visits. The line was not long and so we quietly waited until it was our turn. I could see it in their eyes…the excitement and pure joy of meeting St. Nick in person. My son tugged on my sleeve, and so I lowered myself down to hear his whisper.
“He’s wearing different clothes…”
I looked up and took note of my son’s observation. “You’re right!” I replied with a smile on my face.
The children in front of us did not take long talking with Santa. They posed for a picture, told him what they wanted, took their candy cane and off they went. But when my children eagerly approached the jolly man something magical happened. Instead of taking one child at a time, he asked them both to sit upon his lap. Now I will say that what happened next was perhaps hard to believe…I’ve tried to rationalize it all but still…. well… let me tell you what happened…
The children gingerly sat upon the old man’s lap as he gleefully said he was so happy that they had traveled so far to see him. He asked my son how long it had taken.
“Two days,” my son piped up.
“All the way from Key West!” my daughter beamed.
“Well, I’ll be. I thought that was you standing in line…but I thought how could it be when you live so far away. I bet you are here visiting your grandparents!” Santa said smiling.
The kids were stunned. “Did you like the Barbie I brought you last year?” he asked my daughter.
“Uh huh!” she answered.
“I hope you don’t mind that it was one of Barbie’s friends.”
“No… I love her. She was different than all my friends,” my little girl giggled.
“And you,” he said to my son.”How’s the sports coming along?” My third grader’s eye grew huge.
“Great sir. Thanks for the new bat last year.”
I stood off to the side as I watched and listened to Santa talk with my children a good ten minutes. The line grew but he didn’t seem to notice. They talked about how they had always wanted to find him…that who knew that Oklahoma would have the real Santa. They thanked him for always finding them since they moved every two years. If ever there was a time to have a camcorder…it was then. Finally realizing they were taking too much of Santa’s time, they took a picture, gave him a hug and promised to leave out apple juice and cookies for him…since milk was just too heavy to drink in Key West.
OH MY GOSH….the excitement was just too much…too much for all of us. We could hardly get through the little bit of shopping we had to do without talking about finding the real Santa. After several hours we managed to work our way back to our car, passing above Santa on the second floor. That’s when we heard him…
“Samantha and Tanner!” he bellowed.
The children ran to the rail of the second floor and waved down to him.
“Don’t forget to leave me some apple juice and some fresh water for my reindeer next year…they will be hot down in Key West!”
“We will!” They both hollered back with excitement.
His eyes twinkle up at them as he waved so long. WE had found the real Santa Claus… Oh my Gosh!!! Oh My Gosh!
That night as I and my husband said good night to the kids, my son hugged me hard and thanked me for bringing them to Oklahoma.
“Mom,” he said. “He really was everything you said he would be.”
I really didn’t know what to say.
“Mommy,” my little girl’s voice excitedly said. “He knew what Barbie I got and knew about Tanner and sports.”
“He knew we traveled far to find him,” my son added.
“And…He already knew you were both good children!” I said smiling. “Now go to bed. He’s watching and will be here in a few days.” They quickly closed their eyes and pretended to sleep. But they were too excited to sleep and we heard them whispering to each other long after we had left their room.
On Christmas morning the children arose to find that their favorite man in red had come and gone. They had left Santa a note with apple juice and cookies and he left them one back…
See you next year in Key West or wherever your daddy takes you next…I promise! Santa
Lying next to his note was the picture of the three of them… They had done the impossible… they had found the real Santa Claus and would never forget that very special day.