It’s that time of year when memories of past Christmas seasons come floating back through the ether.
I was always quite suspicious of Santa Claus.
It just seemed to be a lot to believe – North Pole, elves and the fact he gave out all of the presents around the world in just one night.
I wasn’t a particularly smart-ass kid, but seeing Santa at Sears in West Springfield and then at Bradley’s seemed just wrong to me.
Our home at 104 Navajo Rd. in Springfield didn’t have a fireplace and chimney. There was a flue and an incinerator – remember incinerators? They’d burn up almost anything – and I couldn’t buy my parents’ assertions that Santa slid through the incinerator.
And when they offered the explanation that he came through a window, just like some cat burglar, I pretty much wrote old Saint Nick off.
The “crisis” of my teetering belief – hey, as long as I received presents, I was just as happy – was stabilized though one night when there was a knock on the front door.
Now, no one used the front door. Everyone used the side door through the breezeway, so I assumed this was someone we didn’t know.
I vaguely remember a man in a uniform and one of my parents taking an envelope from him. It was a telegram.
A telegram?! I only saw telegrams in the movies. This story took place 1960 or ’61. At that time, long-distance phone calls were still a relative rarity and telegrams were still a means to communicate quickly. However, for most people they were reserved for important and often bad news. Telegrams were official and important. You didn’t mess with a telegram.
And this telegram was addressed to my brother and me and it was from Santa!
Now, my young mind had difficulty processing all of this. We had received a telegram, a real Western Union telegram, and it was from Santa. There was some progression of logic that ended with the conclusion that Santa was real.
Wow. The doubting Thomas was silenced quite a bit. Perhaps Santa was real. After all who would send the telegram to us if he didn’t exist?
You see how trusting I am? It’s no wonder I voted for Mitt Romney for governor.
It never occurred to me that my parents had sent the telegram to us to shore up our fading belief. It worked until the next spring when there was a telegram from the Easter Bunny. That blew it. I had never believed in a six-foot rabbit distributing hardboiled eggs and candy throughout the land.
Western Union had fractured its credibility with me, too.
But those relative few moments when I thought Santa could be real were nice to savor.
When I was on the late and lamented WREB way back over 20 years ago, I was the fattest guy on the station. I’m now the fattest guy at this newspaper office. Some stuff doesn’t change.
Both Jonathan Evans and Rom Chimelis, with whom I shared the daily talk duties, were slender. Therefore, when the annual Santa Claus broadcast came up, guess which one got to don the suit?
Yup, I got to represent Saint Nick quite a few years including a gig as the official Holyoke Santa.
Now, I was a traditionalist. I didn’t say or do anything to tarnish Santa’s reputation to get a cheap laugh. And I tried hard not to scare the parade of pre-schoolers who were brought to a downtown bank from where we broadcast for a day.
Santa is one of the ultimate authority figures. His judgment would determine what kind of a holiday you had – that’s pretty big in the world of kids.
The most memorable request came from a little girl no older than four. When I asked her on the air what she wanted, she replied quickly and confidently, “Diamonds.”
And when I served as Santa for the Paper City, I was put to the test: my wife decided to bring our then wee tyke nephew Andrew to see Santa.
Talk about stress – I really didn’t want to mess up this kid’s mind when he recognized his uncle.
But thanks to a superior Santa outfit – Holyoke didn’t cut any corners – Andrew declared to my wife Mary that he had visited the “real” Santa.
I wonder if he remembers?
© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs