sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

December 13, 2021

virtual advent tour 2021: day 13
posted by soe 6:00 am

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Last week, you got posts from my mom. Today and tomorrow, you get a story from my dad:

The Night I Subbed for Jolly Old St. Nicholas
(Part 1)

Back when I was still in high school, just not that extra year, an important event took place at our house (read: apartment in the housing project). Our house was visited by the one and only Santa Claus.

Only three of us were there at the time – Mom, my baby sister Dorothy (then known as Dolly) and yours truly, then know as Skip (or Skipper). Oddly enough, Dort, then Dolly, and I are the only two members of the family who were given nicknames – well, if you leave out Mom and Dad. I digress, but I would like to point out that having a nickname was sometimes a sore point for someone who really longed to be a Bobby or just plain Bob – but that would have been Dad, who never really complained about anything, never mind having the name Bob. And he did tack on my new name on the way home from the hospital when he said, “How’s my little Skipper today?” I was born in Bridgeport, CT, and my dad just over the town line in Stratford, and supposedly his family lived on a boat. Oops, digressed again.

One afternoon, in the apartment in the Village – Father Panik, if it matters or Yellow Mill at the time, in the interest of being complete and factual … It was not only near the Christmas holiday, but it was a weekday afternoon and I’m not sure why I wasn’t in school, other than to keep this story alive, when there came a knock on the door. I opened it and what to my surprise was a little old sleigh driver, so loudly and quick that I almost missed his jolly, “Ho, Ho, Ho! Where’s that little Dolly? (About age 2 at the time. I would have been 15 and you may recall that Harding, my alma mater, observed a split session, which explains my presence.)

“Where is she?” he asked again. In other times, Mom and I would have been have been quick with a joke or to light up your smoke, but we were both a little dumb-founded because Dolly was right there, eyes as big as saucers, mouth agape doing a little dance. But we had only sent Santa our letters and never included photos, which to my way of thinking would have made his job just a little easier, but explains why he failed to identify her. Further, it would have been almost a year since he last saw her. Mom and I courteously pointed her out.

“Well,” he exclaimed and he was a little loud about it. She didn’t say anything, eyes still bugged, mouth opened a little wider, but pretty silent, considering.

He continued: “Come sit on Santa’s lap and tell me what you would like me to bring you when I next come back.” Dolly was still in silent mode as Santa pulled out a kitchen chair, plopped down and easily lifted her onto his lap. She was still silent. Beside trying to think who was sitting in our kitchen chair, I was busy sending mind signals: “new car! … new baseball glove! … new record player! … RECORDS!” He spoke not a word to me, but went straight to his work.

“Would you like me to bring you a nice dolly of your own? Or some candy? Here, I have some candy canes for you and a couple of popcorn balls. You could hang these on the tree if you want.” Santa didn’t pause; he went straight to his work. No dialogue, but big smiles were exchanged between Santa and Dolly. Then, laying his finger aside of his nose, he spoke directly to her, “Well, I’ve got to get back to the North Pole. I just wanted you to know that I definitely will be here to visit you and the rest of the family on Christmas Eve. Now, I’ve got to run. The reindeer don’t like making day trips, and they want to get home. Come give me a big hug and make sure you stay a good little girl. She is a good little girl, isn’t she, Mom?”

Mom was a little flustered, but knew enough to take full advantage of this situation, “She’s usually pretty good, Santa, but she doesn’t always want to go to bed when she’s supposed to.” I grimaced a little, but I remembered my Mom ratted me out to my fourth-grade teacher who complained about my art work. Mom had agreed that my other sister, then in kindergarten, had done better drawings than I. And this was during the afternoon when everyone in class was present and listening. But, she was consistent. Ma. Come On.

“Well, Dolly, we can’t have that, can we?” I was busy sending thought messages – “New Glove. Some 45s?” I thought about telling him that I went to bed better than she, but Mom was giving me one of those looks.

“I want you to promise me that you will be a good little girl and go to bed when you’re supposed to.” Dolly remained silent, but nodded up and down and clutched her candy tightly behind her back. “Well, okay. But you be really good.”

And giving a nod, he rose and out the door he went. I couldn’t see the sleigh into which I guess he sprang, but I think I heard a whistle and then everything went quiet.

Dort didn’t cooperate with us. She was so excited and made sure to keep the candy and popcorn balls away from us. Mom and I just stared at each other. While my sister went to figure out how to hang a popcorn ball on a Christmas tree, Mom whispered in a stilted, quiet tone: “Do you know who that was?” she asked.

“No,” I half-whispered back. “Do you?” She just shook her head slowly and sat quietly while she replayed the events in her mind. I drew a blank; moms never do: What about Raffi? My best friend in high school was a shortish dark-haired guy who spoke with a moderate accent he picked up while growing up in Ponce, Puerto Rico. I’m sure he’d have played Santa if he thought of it first, but hey …

For the next week we thought about it and queried the other members of the family, who were rightfully miffed that they had missed out on one of life’s cool treats. And then Mom got the inkling. The bogus Santa was a close friend of my Uncle Billy. Hey, big family, lots of uncles and aunts, many just slightly older than I. Billy was one of the wayfarers who clandestinely spent time sharing life in our 4-room apartment. Actually, he was the one who later joined the Navy and brought back to that selfsame apartment nine of his closest buddies. Ah, those weren’t the days. So, the Santa who came to our house was none other than Dickie Hill. If you have never run across him, you missed out. That day, in itself was a nice part of life, but it’s not what I am writing about this wonderful Christmas season.

[To find out what my Dear Old Dad is writing about, you’ll have to stop back tomorrow!]

Category: christmas/holiday season. There is/are 1 Comment.

season’s greetings, twilight, and stress-free doubleheader
posted by soe 1:36 am

I realize in the midst of this week’s Virtual Advent Tour posts that I somehow missed a Three Beautiful Things post on Thursday. Whoops! Here are three beautiful things from last week:

1. Christmas cards have started arriving.

2. Rudi’s flight was very early out of Dulles, but it meant I got to see a lovely rosy glow as I was driving back to D.C.

3. My volleyball team’s opponent forfeited this week, but one of the earlier teams stayed to play us. Then half of us stayed to help out another team that was short-handed. It was a good way to spend a Thursday night.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world lately?

Category: three beautiful things. There is/are Comments Off on season’s greetings, twilight, and stress-free doubleheader.