The home I lived in a as a child had no fireplace and that always worried me at Christmas time. I was assured that that would be no problem for Santa; he would simply enter through the front door. This explanation seemed sensible to me and I easily accepted it. Hadn’t Santa always found me? I would just make sure the front door was unlocked on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas I was ten I longed for two things: a muff and a sled. My heart was set on a white fur muff I had seen in the store window. The fur was the softest and purest I had ever seen and there was a doll’s face with eyes that blinked open and shut on the front of the muff. The inside was white satin, and a white cord would go around my neck. For weeks I dreamed about that muff.
The second thing I wanted was a sled. I wanted to fly down the hill with those flashing red runners skimming swiftly along on the hard packed snow, the cold wind blowing in my face making my eyes water and my nose run. I was told maybe I shouldn’t count on the sled. I didn’t ask why.
On December 24, the snow began falling early in the day. By the time family members had all gathered in the evening for the traditional Christmas Eve celebration, many inches had accumulated and the snow continued to fall. During the gift exchange, I did get my beautiful muff, but there was no sled. I told myself the muff was plenty.
Every year at the end of the Christmas celebration, Uncle John would say, “I think I hear sleigh bells,” but this year there really was a noise on the front porch. I ran to the window. Leaning against the railing was a shiny sled with red runners, and it had my name on it. Footprints in the snow led from the sidewalk to the porch and back down.
I grabbed a coat and went outdoors. The footprints were clearly visible in the fresh snow. I turned right at the sidewalk, and although I could see no one about, the tracks were easy to follow. I went to the corner of the street where the tracks intermingled and got lost there with other pedestrian prints. The night was quiet and still. I could see no people outdoors anywhere. I walked back home looking over my shoulder many times, trying to piece everything together.
I was overjoyed with the sled, but the adults were truly bewildered. No one had an explanation, and no one had left the house. All whispered that it was not their doing. But none of this was a mystery to me.
At future Christmas gatherings, the talk always got around to the year I was ten and an unknown visitor came to the house. The adults held steadfastly to the claim they didn’t know the benefactor. To me, however, it was always very simple. Santa brought me a sled that special Christmas I was ten. Since then, when someone asks if I believe in Santa Claus, my answer is the same.
“Oh, yes. Indeed I do”
For, you see, I saw his footprints in the snow.
Mercedes Horton, OLLI member since 1991