To start at the beginning Read:
My mother came from a very large family. She was the second of nine children, Paula, Katherine, Steven Margaret, Nancy, Mary, Theresa, Paul and Clay. The order may not be correct, but my mom was second in a long line of children. My mother came into the living room and sat next to me on the couch. Tears were running down her face. She told me the phone call was from one of my aunts. My uncle Steve had killed himself in my grandfather’s home.
At eighteen I had only known death two times before. When I was seven or eight my next door neighbor died in a motorcycle accident and when I was about twelve my uncle died in a car accident. I didn’t understand death on those occasions. At eighteen, I was entering a new part of life, exploring new areas, meeting new people, learning new things. I considered myself an adult, but I still didn’t understand death. The glow of Christmas faded to a tiny glimmer of memory. I could almost see it disappear, fading and flickering like a candle, until it was snuffed out. My mother got up from the couch to talk to my father and make the travel arrangements to Texas. It didn’t feel right to be sitting on the couch, watching the tree glimmer and twinkle under the lights. I had to get out of the house. Pate’, put his head under my palm and sniffed at my knee.
Outside, I attached the leash to Pate’s collar. He jumped around and sniffed at the bushes, eager to get going. We started up the long driveway to the street ahead. We lived in a rural area outside the city. There were no streetlights to comfort you, but the Stars overhead lent the night a soft glow. We walked towards a sliver of moon. Every once in awhile I’d stop and talk to Pate’, sit down with him and give him a hug. He would lick the tears from my face. It was very cold out, and after about a half hour I was tired and ready to head back home. I started to turn the dog around and stopped. I heard something. A light jingle of bells. I looked at the houses closest to me, trying to see if someone was playing Christmas music, but each house was dark and silent, nobody home. I heard it again, the very soft sound of bells jingling. I was on a very dark street, and could easily tell we were alone. With Pate’ sitting next to me I looked up at the stars. I saw something moving through the sky. There was a soft shimmer of lights and the sound of bells jingling grew louder. My heart started to quickly thump in time with the bells jingling. It was a sleigh overhead, it’s passage through the sky lit by starlight. My grip on the leash grew tight and Pate’ grew restless. I made him sit down, I turned his head up to the sky, too. “Look”, I said to the dog, “Look, Pate’, it’s Santa Claus!” I could hear my blood racing.”It’s Santa!” I sat there, on a quiet street, lit only by starlight, and watched Santa and his sleigh race high over my head. I stayed there until I couldn’t hear the bells jingling any longer. I strained my eyes up into the darkness until they grew tired and I couldn’t even see the stars overhead. The dog strained at the leash. I sighed and started the walk towards home. Is it true? Could I really have seen Santa? I believed I did. The walk back to my house was very different than the walk away from it had been. I saw Santa Claus. He really exists. There was joy in my step as I quickly walked home.
When I got back home, I went to my mom and gave her a big hug. She was packing up her suitcase. “Mom, everything is going to be ok.” I just held her. I couldn’t tell her that I saw Santa in the sky overhead. I couldn’t tell her that I really believed. This was something that we were supposed to give up in childhood. As adults, we can’t believe in Santa. It is a fairy tale, a myth, a story given to children, to give them hope that, yes, there is something, someone greater in the world, to make at least that one day brighter. I was eighteen years old and I believed in Santa Claus. It did make that one day brighter.
Early the next morning, I read the paper as I ate cereal. I read that every year a man flies a little two seater plane out of the local airport trailing a sleigh and reindeer behind him. For a moment my heart dropped. My hand, with a spoonful of cereal, stilled. OK, here is the logical reason behind what I saw last night. I raised the spoon to my mouth, and took the bite of cereal. I put the paper away. Seeing Santa Claus last night meant the world to me. I chose to believe.