Friday, December 10, 2010


This Christmas story involves a big bear and my little brother Ben.

It was Christmas Eve, and I was an eight-year-old lying half asleep in my upstairs bedroom. Dad had not yet returned from a late B&O railroad run, and Mom was sitting quietly downstairs waiting up for him.

Suddenly I heard an intriguing and powerful sound from the street below.
I rolled over and peered out the window and discovered the source---the idling engine of a big red fire truck, being unloaded by fire men! I watched as they helped my mother carry packages into the house.

After the fire men left, I sneaked down to the basement where I knew my mother had gone with the packages. "Shhh!... Don't wake the others," she whispered. "It's
the Painesville Children's Santa Run. O
ur family was apparently on their toy list this year."

My mother was aware that I had prematurely stumbled upon "the truth about Santa," and she didn't shoo me upstairs. I watched as she added the brightly wrapped packages to the rather spare number of gifts she and dad had already bought, wrapped and hidden.

I told her that one of the toys I had seen being carried into our house was a toy panda bear, too big to wrap.
Mom reached out and put the bear in my arms, and that bear seemed as big as the girl who was holding it. I noticed the bear had a key, and I carefully wound it and heard the fine tones of the Brahms Lullaby. I loved it!

"The tag on this bear is marked for a girl 8 years old',
" Mom said. "That's you!" I knew I'd have to wait until morning to take possession of the bear, and I set it aside to help my mother finish the task of hiding the gifts.

When we had barely finished, we heard feet on the steps and we rushed to hide beneath the stairs.
From our hiding place, I could see the big dark eyes of my little brother Ben, busily poking around. "Now where did that big b'ar go?" he said aloud to himself several times. "I saw that big b'ar... " He finally gave up and trudged up the stairs and back to his bed.

I suddenly knew where that big bear should go, regardless of the words on the tag. Whether or not she agreed, Mom didn't say; she left the choice to me. And so, in the morning, the bear ended up in the hands of my little brother.

On Christmas morning, my mother seemed very concerned about Ben having seen the fire-engine that delivered the toys. What would he tell the rest of the children?

I heard her tell them,
"These came by fire engine last night," and then she hesitated. Before she could say more, I jumped in with an explanation of my own: "Santa ran out of time and needed help from the firemen," I told them. "Everyone knows that Santa calls the police or the fire men when he needs extra help."

Was I telling the truth, I wondered. Deep down I felt that I was. It seems that I hadn't completely abandoned my belief in old Santa.

I don't remember what toy I received in place of that bear.
But I do remember feeling that, unique among my siblings, I had received a suitable gift of my own from the night before. I had experienced the excitement of seeing that big red fire engine---so enormous it seemed to dwarf its surroundings; I had witnessed the happy laughter of the fire men as they unloaded the gifts; I could not have felt more like Christmas if I had walked downstairs that night and come face to face with Saint Nick himself.

And on Christmas morning, I also achieved a special new status as Mom's co-conspirator, she and I working together as keepers of the Christmas secrets and protectors of the Christmas magic.

And now this 70-year-old grandmother will tell you "the truth about Santa," as I see it today:

On one day
a year, at the very least, Santa is real. You can trust me on that.