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The Year My Dad Saved the Magic of Christmas

I received a phone call from a cousin I don’t see nearly often enough a few days ago. We were reminiscing about Christmases from our childhood, and he reminded me of something I’d nearly forgotten. He reminded me that after we ate a wonderful Christmas dinner at our grandparents’ house, we would all pile into family vehicles and make the short trip to my great-grandmother’s house.

Granny Roca lived a few minutes away from my grandparents’ farm. She and Grandpa Laurie owned and operated an old fashioned general store. They sold everything from pencils to gas. I loved visiting that old store with the wood floor and glass display cases. I especially loved the antique Coca-Cola cooler that sat just inside the front door.

Granny Roca and Grandpa Laurie closed the store early on Christmas so all of their numerous descendants could crowd into their small house and enjoy wholesome family togetherness. It was during one of those celebrations that my dad went above and beyond the call of duty to preserve the magic of Christmas for us kids.

Uncle Gary, who was my great-uncle, decided it was time all the kids learned the truth about Santa Claus. Most of us weren’t even old enough to attend school yet. He chose to impart this worldly knowledge onto us as we were gathered around the Christmas tree anxiously awaiting our annual visit from Santa. We were good kids, and Santa always took time to visit us in person.

Uncle Gary told us that Santa didn’t exist and my dad was the one who always dressed up in the suit. He went so far as to gather all of the children at the bottom of the staircase as Dad went upstairs to take a short after dinner nap. My dad saw what he was doing, but decided to outsmart him instead of losing his temper or ruining our Christmas.

While Uncle Gary argued with us about how Santa couldn’t possibly be real, he kept us at the foot of the stairs where we would be sure to see anyone who came up or down. I was nearly to the point of losing my Christmas spirit and crying when I heard jingle bells outside the front door. In the next moment the door opened and Santa Claus himself came into the house with his magic bag of toys.

My cousins and I all told Santa what Uncle Gary had told us. Santa simply said, “Ho, ho, ho. Uncle Gary is getting nothing for Christmas but a very small piece of coal. Don’t you listen to him or people like him. Don’t ever let anyone ruin your Christmas spirit.”

Santa gave us each a wrapped gift and an apple before telling us that Rudolph was anxious for them to be on their way. He wished us all a Merry Christmas. Then he leveled an intense glare at Uncle Gary and told him that he’d be speaking with him later.

I recently asked my mom how Dad managed to get from the second floor bedroom to the front porch in full Santa gear without any help. She told me that he climbed out the window and onto the roof. He then traversed the roof to the front porch where he climbed down one of the support beams. No one helped him do that. The adults were all inside trying to convince Uncle Gary to stop ruining our Christmas while Dad was trying out his super hero moves.

I don’t know if he climbed back up the same way he got down or if he found a ladder, but Dad emerged from the upstairs bedroom a short time after Santa left. He stretched and told us all how much he’d enjoyed his nap.

Dad dressed up as Santa every year there were little kids around. He did so much more that year, though. My dad preserved the wonder and magic of Christmas for eight little kids. He risked life and limb by climbing onto a snow-covered roof with a bag full of toys instead of letting our uncle ruin our Christmas. My dad was Santa.

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