Titches was a leading Department Store in my hometown of Dallas, Texas and they annually transformed their entire auditorium into a magical setting featuring tons of fake snow, giant gingerbread houses, a miniature train upon which I could ride with other children and of course, Santa’s house where I would meet the big man himself. I recall shivering with excitement as I saw that his bright blue eyes were the same colour as my own.
Some 35 years later, I arrived at a shopping centre and discovered that Santa was wearing a worn costume with cigarette burns in the trousers, his nicotine stained finger nails and tobacco smell far from the best representation of the classic Clement Moore image of Santa in The Night Before Christmas.
The marketing director appealed to me for immediate help and I offered to not only find her a new and better Santa but to also create a training programme that I immediately entitled The University of the North Pole. The course was such a success that radio and television producers scrambled to develop stories about our novel idea and each year, a local radio station would invite me to appear on the air as “Santa Goldblatt” to speak to local children about their hopes and dreams.
One year, sat upon our five year old son’s bed, I explained that he should listen to the radio because Santa would be calling him by name. I then tuned the radio to the correct station, kissed him good night, and secretly slipped away to become Santa.
As soon as I was dressed and had sneaked out the front door, I glanced at my watch and realised I was one hour early. Therefore, I wondered how I might use this extra time as Santa to brighten the lives of others? I remembered a little boy who lived up our lane whose parents sadly had separated a few weeks earlier. I marched up to his front door and saw him peeking at me me through his front window. Then I knocked loudly upon his front door and when he opened it, I did not wait for an invitation and instead marched into his living room and sat upon his father’s now empty chair.
Pulling the five year old lad onto my knee I looked him in the eye and said in a whisper “Matt, do you know you are the luckiest little boy in the world?” Matt shook his wee head from side to side. I then explained that far greater than the toys I might place under his tree was the love that his parents had for him. “Matt, you are the luckiest little boy in all the world because your parents love you with all their hearts.”
He looked up at me and smiled and then I noticed his mother staring with amazement from her kitchen and she was holding a tissue to her cheek to catch her falling tears. I quickly excused myself by announcing “Matt, I must now go back to the North Pole. However, I have decided that because you are the luckiest little boy in the world I shall be coming to your house first this Christmas eve and therefore you must be in bed by 6pm.” His mother later reported to me that he was in bed by 4pm!
During my radio show appearance, our son actually phoned in to speak to Santa. When I returned home I tip – toed past his door and then heard the patter of little feet followed by a strong pull upon the white fur trim of my red Santa jacket. I turned to see what was the matter and my wee boy looked up at me in anger and shouted “You lied to me! You are Santa!”
I then sat down in my chair and pulled him onto my knee and carefully explained “This red suit and white beard has nothing to do with being Santa. Santa is a feeling you may have in your heart every day. It is a chance to show love and kindness to others.”
He did not believe one word. However, in early January I was repairing a light fixture upon my front porch when our neighbour Matt came running up our steps. I asked him if he had enjoyed Christmas and he proudly announced: “Santa came to my house a week early! He told me that I am the luckiest little boy in the world!”
Then our son came onto the front porch and I worried he might spill the beans about his father playing Santa. However, to my surprise, our son took his place standing behind Matt and, as our neighbour continued to share his enthusiasm about meeting Santa, raised his tiny chin and with his piercing blue eyes looked into my own blue eyes. He winked at me and in one gesture, he let me know what Santa truly was.
Therefore, during these dark winter months and dark times due to an unrelenting pandemic, I know that the editor of the New York City Sun newspaper was correct when he responded to the letter from little Virginia O’Hanlon who simply asked “Does Santa Claus exist?” In 1897, the veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church responded: “A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”
To find Santa this festive season, look within yourself for happy memories and look outwith yourself for other lives that you may help brighten. Have a happy festive season and a healthy and good new year.