just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to
visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There
is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"
My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to
her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I
knew Grandma 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 Grandma said so. It had to be true.
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 believe it. That
rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad,
plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go."
"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my
second world-famous, cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be
Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a
little bit of just about everything. As we walked through
its doors, 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." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.
I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my
mother, but never had I 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, 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 for recess during the winter.
His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he
had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have
a cough, and he didn't have a 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, and 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," I
replied shyly. "It's .... for Bobby." The nice lady smiled at
me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag
and wished me a Merry Christmas.
That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas
paper and ribbons (a little tag fell out of the coat, and
Grandma tucked it in her Bible) and wrote, "To Bobby, From
Santa Claus" on it -- Grandma said that Santa always
insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to BobbyDecker's
house, explaining 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 she and
I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk.
Then Grandma 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 doorbell 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 it did, 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, and we were on his team.
I still have the Bible, with the tag tucked inside: $19.95.
"He who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree."