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broodings from the burrow

December 14, 2021

virtual advent tour 2021: day 14
posted by soe 6:00 am

Virtual Advent Tour 2021 badge -- 400 px

As you probably expected, behind today’s calendar door we have the conclusion of Dad’s story. If you missed yesterday’s post, start there first.

The Night I Subbed for Jolly Old St. Nicholas
(Part 2)

I kept Dickie Hill in my mind just as my sister kept Santa in her heart. I always thought that it could be special to play the Santa role to someone else. And it’s always that element of mystery — who was that bearded man? All of the important pieces in my life began to fall into place, albeit slowly. First, I got my driver’s license. A few years later I bought a car — a 1954 Mercury. I thought it was just the greatest car to drive. It was fun. During my last year in high school I got a job working at the American Trucklease and learned how to drive a stick (but just in first gear; the other gears came later. The Merc was an automatic trans. No problems.) And while working at the truck leasing/rental outlet I came into contact with companies that sold –- in bulk -– candy canes and popcorn balls.

Life moves on. I leave the Trucklease and a couple of jobs down the road I get a job working as a general laborer for the Bridgeport Brass. One of the people who gets a job about the same time is a guy named James. He gets a job running some kind of big machine that manufactures a brass product. Within a few months a big layoff comes and he loses his job. I get moved into a job learning how to run a Brown and Sharpe Screw machine, making the plugs that hold the air inside of your auto tire. James comes back to work at the Brass Company and we resume our friendship. He is married, and he and his wife have a two-year old boy, Jimmie. Dickie Hill comes back to life in my mind.

The next December I decide to go for it. I go to the stores that sold candy canes and popcorn balls. I order a big carton of each and hope that Jimmie likes candy and popcorn. By this time I gain one more brother who happens to be about two, although not until a couple of years after he was born. I don’t tip my Mom about the plan. I rent a Santa Claus suit and beard. Then comes Christmas Eve. My girlfriend at the time has a family function to which I am not invited, but I can pick her up later in the evening so the two of us can go to Christmas Eve services. You may be developing the same thoughts I was at the time. I need to get started early enough on Christmas Eve so the kids aren’t in bed asleep by the time I show up. Talk about mystery and suspense, eh?

I have found out where James and his family live, but my first stop while I’m waiting for time to go by is at the house of a family friend. I tell her my plans. She tells me that I need some make–up help. She proceeds to cut out eyebrow-size pieces of cotton batting. At one time you could buy little blue boxes of rolled cotton. Never thought of that, but my make-up person does. Also uses some of it to fix up the lame beard which accompanies the suit, and makes sure the string at the back of my head stays there. Change into my outfit that comes with make believe boot tops and a hat with a good sized tassel and a big black belt. I get dressed, hop into the Mercury which I’m now calling Dasher and proceed to drive across town to James’s house. Some people see Santa driving Dasher, toot their horns and wave. I turn on the interior light of the car and wave back. I get to James’s.

I have not told James I was coming or mentioned my plan to him. I ring the bell and I’m surmising that some people may be surprised to see a white Santa in a Black neighborhood at 7 o’clock. James answers the door. He has a strange look on his face, not one of recognition. I roar, “Ho. Ho. Ho. Merry Christmas. Is Jimmie still awake? Santa wants to wish him a Merry Christmas before the youngster has to go to bed for the night.” James still doesn’t recognize me, and is letting things roll along slowly while he tries to figure out what is going on. He lets me in the house and we climb the stairs. Jimmie shows up with his mom, who is quite surprised to find Santa calling this Christmas Eve.

“Merry Christmas!” I bellow while Jimmie’s eyes widen, his mouth drops open and he hides behind his mom. He says nothing.

“Jimmie, I’m surprised you are still awake and up. Be sure you’re asleep when I come back later so I can leave some presents. Come up and sit on my knee. Tell me, have you’ve been a good little boy and always obey your Mommy and Daddy?” He says nothing but slowly shakes his head up and down and sticks his thumb in his mouth.

I look at James who looks at me closely. I’m mentally checking my outfit to make sure nothing is slipping, nothing is showing. A look of recognition comes into his eyes and is quickly paired with the widest smile you could ever see. Me, I’m making sure that the tears in my eyes don’t begin to fall and I’m holding on to my share of the conversation with Jimmie. Mom, her face beginning to ease signals James to the kitchen doorway where a great smile adds to her face. I chat with Jimmie for another minute or so, gain his promise to get to bed and sleep as soon as I leave. I bid everyone goodnight and climb down the stairs to an awaiting Dasher. James follows me, that fantastic smile still running across his face.

“I couldn’t figure out who it was,” he says and taps my shoulder. With a roar of “Happy Christmas to All and to All a good night!” Dasher and I take our leave.

We drive across another part of town where I park up the block in front of the local firehouse, get out and wander down the hill a couple of houses. I roar a Christmas greeting and throw a popcorn ball at the door which slowly opens. My mom stands in the doorway and calls for my newest brother Frank to come see who is here. I am just SO afraid that the little ones might recognize me so I continue to roar my greetings and avoid approaching the darkish doorway. I am so nervous about blowing my cover that I want to hurry and get out. I shout to Frank to be sure to be asleep when I come back and I’ll be bringing him that something special that he is looking forward to. Hope I’m right. Wish loud Merry Christmases again. Toss in a couple more Ho. Ho. Ho’s. and leave. I hoped that Frankie felt the warmth, instead of my fear of discovery. Later, I learn that it turned out fine. Hey, anytime Santa shows up at your front door ….

Back to the car, interior light back on, wave to the horn tooters. I breathe easier. Maybe one more I think. But then again I wasn’t sure I knew any other little kids. I remember Dina, someone who had belonged to our church’s youth group with me. Dina had recently become a single parent mom and lived about a mile way. Dasher is soon on his way.

I get to Dina’s house where I discover that everyone other than Dina and her baby have headed to church for the Evening Worship. I whisper my Ho Ho Ho message to the baby and give Dina a Christmas hug. In return, I get a great kiss on the bearded cheek and a couple of spritz cookies. As I am leaving, I express surprise that everyone has already gone. She reminds me that the service would be starting in a half hour. My conscience reminds me that my girlfriend will be acting the role of Mary in the pageant and I decide I’d better get a move on.

My girl was surprised that I was so late; her family was happy to point out my lack of a timely arrival. But everything worked out. I got Mary to the make-believe Bethlehem stable on time for the service. Everyone exchanged good holiday greetings and I had time to change myself back into a regular person and Dasher back into a Mercury.

I still think about Dickie Hill and the night I got to play Santa. Can’t help smiling and occasionally shed a tear or two. Those candy canes and popcorn balls lasted for years.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Ho. Ho. Ho. Yep, I still got it.

Thanks for sharing this sweet story, Dad. I’d heard some of it over the years, but parts of it were new.

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

top ten books on my winter tbr list
posted by soe 5:08 am

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday post from That Artsy Reader Girl is a seasonal favorite. Which ten books do I hope to read this winter, now that it’s nearly arrived?

  1. What If It’s Us? by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (The sequel is out.)
  2. Serendipity, edited by Marissa Meyer (a collection of YA romance stories just in time for Valentine’s Day)
  3. An Impossible Imposter by Deanna Raybourn (the next book in the Veronica Speedwell series)
  4. The Great Troll War by Jasper Fforde (the final book in the Last Dragonslayer series isn’t available in the U.S., so I’ll have to track down a copy from the U.K.)
  5. Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman
  6. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
  7. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders (I waited to start the copy I’d checked out from the library until it was due, but I liked the first essay that I read.)
  8. The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith
  9. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
  10. The Maid by Nita Prose

How about you? Are there any books you’re particularly looking forward to reading this winter?

Category: books. There is/are 9 Comments.