I still believe in Santa Claus. Which is why I re-post this story each year. It's a lovely read for those who wish to indulge in a bit of fantasy, but with the caveat that it's actually based on an event that happened to me when I was eight years old - an experience I still wonder about. Enjoy..
THE MAGIC PROMISE…
©2005 Linda Borland~Fitzgerald
Content to snuggle deep into my chair by the blazing fire on that snowy Christmas Eve, I found myself sinking into a state of absolute bliss. It had been a day of completion and new beginnings for me. The penetrating heat from the wood-fire was beginning to wrap itself around my chilled bones, dulling my senses and the welcomed, smoky essence emanating from the nearby pot of Lapsang Souchong tea, served to hasten an escalating need to nap.
So it was from beneath heavy eyelids that my attention was drawn to the descending twilight outside the leaded window. A lone chickadee bounced between the mountain ash tree and the feeder, hurrying to get its’ fill of oily, black sunflower seeds. Suddenly, a flash of brilliant light lit up the room, startling me right out of my chair and sending the pot of tea crashing to the floor.
“Oh, this can’t be what I think it is!” I said out loud, reflecting on a faint memory as I hurried to the window.
The fast expanding indigo of the evening sky allowed just enough light to discern the waning shadows of the tall pines lining the perimeter of the yard. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to get outside, where I would be able to satisfy my fertile imagination. Trying to get traction from wool socks on a polished, wood floor is always a challenge when your not in a hurry. But, with perseverance, motivated by the promise of magic, I managed to propel myself along, sliding from chair to table until arriving in front of the the breezeway door. I flung it open, stumbling out onto the frozen deck and made my way to the furthermost railing. Pausing briefly to look just above the tall pines at the edge of the yard, I was able to discern the familiar silhouette.
Faded memories suddenly flooded my head and I was alive with remembering. My eyes followed closely as a trail of twinkling lights traveled across the moonlit sky into the open field beyond my house. Not stopping to waste one precious moment, I began running barefoot across the snow encrusted field towards my childhood. I knew what this was.
I waved vigorously at the dazzling spectacle already beginning to retreat into the night sky.
“Santa Claus! It’s me…Linda! You came back!” I sobbed, nearly choking on the words, hoping my voice would somehow reach him. Santa Claus had returned just as he had promised that long ago, Christmas morning when I was eight years old.
My father had just moved us to a very isolated part of Northern Ontario and I was very worried that Santa Claus wouldn’t be able to find us. I had only asked for one thing in my letter to Santa this year. A brand new pair of white ice-skates. You might say my request was more like a desperate plea but only because my parents had explained that they just couldn’t afford extras this year. So, facing the diminishing chances of finding my hearts desire beneath the tree, I remained hopeful that Santa would provide.
As my big sister, Anne and I lay awake in our shared bed that Christmas Eve, we giggled in anticipation of what the morning might bring. We had left Santa the requisite glass of milk along with a few of Mom’s oatmeal cookies and a ‘thank-you’ note for the gifts he would bring. Eventually, the veil of sleep began to descend upon me while my childish mind was still trying to work out how Santa would ever find us here.
As last thoughts drifted across my minds’ eye, a distant sound of jingling bells brought me to an immediate state of hyper-vigilance. Now wide awake, I nudged my sister who quickly shushed me. She had heard it too.
“Do you think it’s Santa?” I whispered directly into her ear, risking an elbow in my side.
“Shhhhhhhhhhhh!” She responded, jabbing me as anticipated. “Will he come down the chimney on the wood stove?” I was holding my breath waiting for her response.
“We don’t have a chimney for him to come down.” She replied after a pause of consideration.
“Oh, no!” I gasped louder than I intended.
“Shhhhhhh, stop chattering.”
“Were those footsteps on the roof? I asked - inside my head this time. Lying perfectly still and listening hard, I tried to avoid the approaching Sandman.
My eyes flew open. Christmas morning had arrived, although the morning light wasn’t even breaking through our bedroom window. Despite the Sandman’s remaining hold and the odds against those skates being under the tree, I remained lighthearted and childishly optimistic as I slipped out of bed, over my sleeping sister. Tiptoeing through our small house, I moved towards the living room where the Christmas tree stood shimmering with tinsel, tinfoil icicles, popcorn strings and paper garlands. The angel tree-topper drooped one wing towards me.
I quickly scanned the small mound of presents beneath the tree, but not one of them held the promise of gleaming, silver blades. I decided to wake my sister but as I passed the kitchen and glanced at the plate that now held only crumbs, I spotted Santa’s ‘thank-you” note leaning against the empty glass of milk, like always. In view of my huge disappointment, I told myself that I wasn’t particularly interested in reading Santa’s ‘Ho-Ho-Ho’s’ this Christmas morning, although I found myself somehow holding it in my hands. It read..
By the time I received your lovely letter, all of the ice-skates in my workshop had been
spoken for. I am truly sorry, but…..”
There was more but my tears came quickly, blurring my vision, making it impossible to read the rest. Just then, I heard an unfamiliar noise from outside. We lived miles from our nearest neighbour, so it would be very unusual to hear someone out and about so early and especially on Christmas morning. I let Santa’s note drop onto the kitchen table and moved cautiously towards the window, which looked out onto a large, flat field.
Wiping the tears from my eyes with the back of my hand, I tried hard to focus on what I thought I saw. Was I dreaming this? But, there in the gray, dawning light stood - Santa Claus.
As a moment that I recognized as one never to be forgotten, my mind registered the coat of flowing folds of crimson touching the tops of his worn but shiny, black boots. In spite of the heavy, fur-trimmed hood that covered his head, I glimpsed his full, white beard, visible through the clouds of steamy vapor escaping his mouth to float around his head like a halo.
Santa was busily feeding his reindeer inside a three-sided shelter of snow - much like the ones my father would build for us every winter. In all of my eight years I had never doubted the existence of Santa Claus, but I was overwhelmed with the realization that he was actually standing in my very own yard, and I began to tremble with the pure joy of it.
“This is so much better than ice-skates.” I whispered into the empty kitchen.
As I continued to watch in awe, Santa began to harness the surprisingly, small reindeer to a gleaming, black sleigh and then climbed inside with his voluminous, empty sack slung over his shoulder. Then, with a slight nod of his head that seemed to signal the tiny creatures to move forward, they paused at the entrance to the shelter and to my utter delight, Santa turned and looked right at me. Smiling, he lifted his arm and waved it broadly, back and forth. I moved closer, my nose pressed firmly against the glass and waved back to him, with all the enthusiasm I could find in my small arms. I was laughing and crying as Santa and his reindeer lifted magically into the crisp, morning sky. Then, while circling slowly in the direction of the north star, Santa turned once again to look back at me, but now he was pointing emphatically to the shelter. One final wave of his arm and they flew off into the lightening sky.
Thinking his gesture towards the shelter meant that he had forgotten something, I flew out the back door dressed only in flannel pajamas, not bothering to stop for boots. I ran as fast as I could towards the snowy refuge, completely oblivious to the ice and snow under my bare feet. As I came through the opening, I saw immediately what Santa had wanted me to find. Lying against the far wall were a pair of ice-skates. Even in the grey, morning light I could see that they weren’t new but it didn’t matter a bit - not one bit. I gathered up the imperfect gift. The once white boots were badly scarred and the blades needed the rust removed. They had been well used for sure, but no matter. I knew they were special. And, I had seen Santa Claus!
The family had gathered at the kitchen window, watching as I ran back into the house shrieking with delight. Mom put me in front of the open, oven door of our old, wood-stove and began rubbing my frozen, bare feet vigorously in her hands. My father picked up Santa’s letter from the table where I’d dropped it and began to read it out loud.
Santa explained that because we were his very, last stop before heading home, he and his team of reindeer would take a much-needed rest here. He thanked my father for preparing the temporary shelter, and for providing oats and water for his sky-weary companions. I thought I would burst wide open with pride. But, there was one more message in that note - just for me. Santa instructed me to look for a note tucked down inside the toe of the right skate. The note recounted how the ice-skates came to be mine. It was a story I would repeat many times to disbelieving friends.
Santa told Mrs. Claus of his concern that there hadn’t been any new ice-skates left in the workshop by the time he had received my letter. He sensed the importance of my request and that in some inexplicable way, these skates would one day inspire me to do something extra-ordinary with my life. Mrs. Clause knew from experience that Santa was usually right about these things, so she sat to quietly considered the problem. Startling Santa out of a catnap in front of a roaring fire, Mrs. Claus exclaimed that she knew what to do. She knew where to find a pair of ice skates! We all giggled as he described how he flew out of his chair when she suddenly shouted,
Mrs. Claus ran from the room and Santa did his best to keep up with her.
They wound their way through a myriad of hallways through the large wing of the old house, stopping in front of the heavy, cellar door. She chattered excitedly as she slid the rusty bolt back and pulled the door open on neglected, creaking hinges.
“Remember these?” she asked, reaching inside to a hook where a pair of dusty, rusting skates hung. Beaming, she reminded Santa that these skates once belonged to their very, own little girl who had outgrown them many, many years ago.
“Yes, of course,” replied Santa nodding vigorously, recalling he day he had placed them on that hook, oh so long ago.
"So that is how you came to have such a pair of skates. Mrs. Claus and I believe that with a some tender care, you will be able to enjoy them as much as our little girl did."
The last line of the letter read….
“~ Go out and illuminate the world in your own unique way and when you have done what you were meant to do in this lifetime, I will come to you again to mark that occasion!”
Your ‘forever’ friend, Santa Claus..”
Many years have passed and tragically, the letter along with the precious ice-skates were lost in one of our many moves. More importantly and significantly however, Santa had kept his long-ago promise to return, signaling the occasion of having found my life’s purpose.
This year had been both difficult and fulfilling, full of change and challenge.
Today, my daughter had gone off in search of her own magic. It also marked the day I had finally fulfilled a lifelong dream by mailing my first manuscript to a publisher. Then, just before curling up in front of the fire with that anticipated cup of tea, I’d been praying that my daughter’s pursuit of happiness would be successful and relatively effortless. Perhaps there was truth to the old adage that a ‘mother’s prayer’ sends up a shimmer into the ethers. And, that it had somehow cast this enchanted soul earthbound, once more, to fulfill a long ago promise to a little girl whose longing for a pair of shiny new skates, made true, every child's dream of meeting Santa Claus.