This is a recollection of something true.
It did happen.
I think every kid remembers the age they stop believing in
the magic of Santa Claus. As it happens, what I remember more clearly, is the night that there was irrevocable proof of his existence.
The story starts out normally enough; we were living in
Quebec at the time. I was around 9 or 10. The age isn't important here. I was more or less at the age of understanding that the man in red wasn't all he seemed to be. The winters are cold in Quebec. This one was no exception. Our breath plumed out in white puffy clouds as we trundled out of the house in our snowsuits to visit some friends of the family.
Christmases were quieter then. We had no family around us save for us four: Mom, Dad, my brother, and I. This particular year we went visiting, seeking the company of friends. It was a fun time. There was laughter and good food and warmth. We were reluctant to leave, when the time came. But leave we did.
We arrived at our home tired but happy. As was usual, Dad opened the side door, and my brother went barreling in. What was unusual is that he almost barreled into someone. He came running back to the door saying, "Dad, Paul's here!" Paul, being the friend that we had just left, could not possibly have been there. Acting quickly, our parents rushed us next door, and with our neighbor, went running back to the house, carrying, if I do recall, a couple of shovels. I don't really know what they meant to do; I think they were just reacting.
This is where the story takes on a little sad note. We were, of course, robbed. Every last present was taken, their ripped up wrappings left behind. My mother's jewelry box. Other items I can't recall now. The house was a mess. They even messed up our tree. The police were called, of course, and investigated the scene. When they finally deemed it safe for us to return, the first thing we noticed was that on the table were two mangled gifts, left behind.
One was a Christmas angel my brother had made in school; the other, little poinsettia rings, made by me, also at school. I think I cried then. They were surprise gifts for our mom.
Exhausted and frightened, we crawled into our parents bed, and slept as best we could. I don't think either of my parents did.
That was the evening of the 23rd of December.
The next night, as always, we attended mass and gave thanks to God that at least we were safe. No one was hurt. But we still felt violated, empty. Christmas was no longer something to enjoy, but would be a day to reflect.
We slept fitfully. For the first time I can remember, the hall light was left on.
The next morning, my brother and I woke up early. We walked quietly down the stairs to play.
You cannot imagine the looks of wonder and delight on our faces when we saw our tree, perfectly intact, and underneath, such gifts! Everything we asked for, and more. How could it be? We wondered. Our parents were with us from the moment of the robbery until now. They could not possibly have gone out to get us anything else. Besides, they couldn't afford to.
Santa! He came! He really came!
It wasn't until years later that the truth was revealed. Our neighbor, feeling badly for us, gathered up funds from his peers, neighbors, whoever he could, went out, and got us these things. He only had a day to do this, but he did, for us. He kept it a secret even from my parents, and brought it all on the night of Christmas Eve, while my brother and I were sleeping.
Miracles do happen. They happen every day, through the work of those around us. The fundamental importance of this lesson was not lost on me: Santa Claus does exist. He isn't a person. He is a feeling. He is the spirit of why Christmas is important to us.
He IS real.