Why I believe in Santa Claus

By Dale Wilson

When I was a lad of 5 or 6  we lived in Water Valley, Mississippi.  My earliest years were spent living out in the county on gravel roads; miles from town. Dad; a welder, worked 90 miles away; in Memphis.  He was gone during the week.  Usually he’d leave us on Sunday night and return (usually) on Friday night.  Water Valley was his home town.

Raising a brood of young hellions was tough on mom.  We had electricity but few other amenities. Water came from a well; pulled up in a torpedo-shaped well-bucket attached to a rope,  looped through a pulley.  At the time I was too small to draw water so that job was left to the older boys.  Laundry was an all day affair ending with the clothes hanging on a clothes line stretched between two Oak trees. In winter they froze on the line.

Finally mom convinced dad it was time to move into town so we could have running water, indoor toilets and nearby neighbors.

Now, for the first time in my life we actually lived inside the city limits of this small Delta town of perhaps 10,000 population.  It was a hard-scrabble town.  There was a textile factory where mom and 50 or 60 other women spent long days sewing blue jeans.  The only other available work was farming and cutting pulp-wood.  Dad would have none of this so he  landed a good-paying job as a boiler-maker in Memphis.

Having six brothers older than me, the notion of “Santa Claus” was pretty much debunked by the older brothers who “knew better.”

That is until Christmas Eve of ‘59.

Back then the local stores did a lot of “lay-away” sales where parents would purchase gifts; over time.  Like in-house financing only they kept the goods until paid for.  Parents secretly put kids’ Christmas presents on lay-away at the end of harvest season and made small weekly payments until, hopefully, paying them off in time for Christmas.

On this particular Christmas Eve dad was late getting home.  Mom was depending on him to rescue our presents from lay-away.  Dad didn’t make it.  Perhaps he got distracted by the revelry of the season, made a few extra stops at taverns along the way.

I could tell mom was in a somber mood; watching the clock and listening for the car door to slam signaling dad’s arrival.  It’s getting late now and dad’s not home.

I was playing with a small toy car in the hall-way leading to the front door.  It’s approaching bed time.

Suddenly, a commotion at the front door.  We didn’t get much “company” after dark so it was unusual and a bit frightening.  It sounded like someone was coming in–without knocking.

I ran to tell mom.  She was back in the kitchen putting icing on a coconut cake “for Santa”.  Tradition was to leave refreshments by the hearth on Christmas Eve.

She thought I was kidding–we kidded her a lot.  She was getting wise to us now after raising all those kids.

Finally I was able to implore her to come and see who’s at the door.  When she opened the door–no one was there–but, lo and behold our entire stash of lay-away items were neatly stacked on the front porch.  

I asked “Where’d all that come from?”  With a tear glistening in the corner of her eye she  said “Santa Claus.”  Now I’m really confused because all the older boys had convinced me there was no Santa Claus yet, here is living proof.  I wanted to believe.

The plastic fire engine, complete with fireman’s hat and badge, that I’d been drooling over–for months–at Larson’s Store was there.  Along with it a football, a baseball mitt, roller skates, winter coats; a veritable mountain of gifts befitting a house full of boys at Christmas.  Lay-away arrived; even without paying it off.

Someone at Larson’s store, in the midst of their busiest night of the year, took time to consider our gifts–still sitting in lay-away.  They must have known that dad wasn’t going to make it home in time to pay out the balance.

In the finest example of the Christmas Spirit, the manager sent someone over with our gifts–just before closing time.  Santa made it to the Wilson’s household;  in the “Nick” of time.

When I think back on this cherished memory I am reminded; Santa lives in the hearts of those like the manager at Larson’s.  I believe “Santa” lives in the hearts of those who look out for others less fortunate.  Santa lives in the smile of a child, the clasp of an aged hand, and in the warm embrace of family, gathering at Christmas.

Long live Santa.

%d bloggers like this: