A handwritten letter arrived today from a mom, reminding me that we had met more than 30 years ago at the Jackson County Courthouse.
I was there to interview John O’Flaherty, who was in charge of the reassessment of properties. She was his administrative secretary.
But Wanda Shockey’s letter wasn’t about the county or any old days stuff. Hers was an appeal to publish what her son had written about Christmas and Santa a long time ago. Her son’s story was enclosed.
I couldn’t say no — especially this time of year — ’Tis the season:
“I Saw Santa Claus, I Really Did”
It seems like yesterday and yet I can’t even remember exactly how old I was. It was in the early 1960s, a magical time, when Christmas meant toys and candy and family dinners of turkey and dressing. It was a simple time when imagination was more important than video games and televised images of holiday cheer. It was the time of downtown, Macy’s Jones and Emery Bird Thayer. It was a time to not only believe in Santa Claus but to understand he was real.
In my childhood home, there is a place we called the sun room. It was a grand room, where you could play on the coldest of winter’s days and still be warmed by the sun as it shone through the many windows. Or on a clear, dark night you could look into the sky and count the stars upon which to wish.
I don’t remember my wishes on that Christmas Eve so many years ago (I am sure they were of toys and candy and turkey). But that night, as the hour of my bedtime fast approached, as I sat somewhere between dreams and reality looking into the night, I saw him. In all his jolly glory, he was there and he was just as you would imagine. All dressed in red with a white beard, he was riding across the sky in his sleigh pulled by eight reindeer (sorry, no Rudolph), leaving a trail of stardust in his wake. He was real. He was there. He was Santa Claus.
It was pure bliss. Heaven could not be any better than this, and I knew at that moment that all my Christmas dreams and wishes would come true. You know what? They did.
The home of my childhood is still my home. I still sit in that grand sun room and bask in the winter sun or look into the night and count the stars. The toys I received so many years ago have long since broken and been thrown away, and my dentist has become rich because of all the candy I ate.
The magic has been replaced by the mundane routine of adult life, and downtown long since faded into relative obscurity (only to be reborn in recent years). Yet, if I look into the night, and if I try real hard, I still see ol’ Santa. He is still there. He is still real.
For a brief moment, I am a child again, and Christmas holds all my hopes and dreams just as it should. All is right.
— Joseph Shockey