Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Grandma & Santa Claus

12/23/09 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Dear Readers,
Years ago I started a tradition of featuring an old-fashioned, feel-good holiday story in this space during Christmas week. This year’s story comes courtesy of an unknown author via a friend of mine. I’m passing it on as my Christmas present to you. May it warm your heart and cause you to be Santa to someone who needs you. The setting is small town America, about 1950. Our narrator is an eight-year-old youngster. He begins

I was just a kid when I had my Christmas adventure with Grandma. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her one December day. Before I left, my big sister had dropped the bomb: “There is no Santa Claus,” she jeered. “Even dummies know that!”

I immediately fled to my grandmother because I knew she would be straight with me. Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. She always told the truth and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her “world-famous” cinnamon buns. (I knew they were world-famous because she said so.)

Grandma was home and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me.

“No Santa Claus?” she snorted. “Ridiculous! Don’t you believe it! That rumor has been going around for years and it makes me mad; just plain mad!

“Now, put on your coat and let’s go.” “Go? Go where, Grandma?” I asked. I hadn’t even finished my second of her world-famous cinnamon buns.

‘Where’ turned out to be Kerby’s General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of everything. As we walked through the store’s door, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days.

“Take this money,” she said, “and buy something for someone who needs it. I’ll wait for you in the car. The she turned and walked out of Kerby’s.

I was only eight years old. I’d often gone shopping with my mother but I had never shopped for anything all by myself. The store. Seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.

For a few moments, I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, and the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock’s grade-two class.

Bobby Decker didn’t have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note telling the teacher that he had a cough. All of us kids knew that Bobby Decker didn’t have a cough; he didn’t have a good coat!

I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat! I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm. He would like that.

“Is this a Christmas present for someone?” the lady behind the counter asked kindly as I laid my ten dollars down. “Yes, ma’am,” I replied shyly. “It’s for Bobby.”

The nice lady smiled at me as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn’t get any change but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again and wished me a “Merry Christmas.”

That evening when Grandma helped me wrap the coat, a little tag fell out and she tucked it in her Bible. We wrapped the coat up real pretty with paper and ribbons and wrote, “To Bobby, from Santa Claus,” on a gift tag.

Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker’s house. She explained as we went, that I was now and forever, officially, one of Santa’s helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby’s house and we got out of the car. She and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then she gave me a nudge. “All right, Santa Claus,” she whispered, “get going.”

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open.

Finally the door opened and there stood Bobby. Fifty years haven’t dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma in Bobby Decker’s bushes.

That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were — ridiculous! Santa was alive and well. We were on his team. And to prove it, I still have Grandma’s Bible with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

Well, that’s it for this year, folks. As we pray for peace on earth and good will around the world, let’s also be thankful for all of Santa’s helpers out there — whatever your age may be. Merry Christmas and God Bless you all!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 
Read her weekly columns in the Cottage Grove Sentinel

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