Santa Claus lived
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 by Ron Cruger
2013 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
         When I was six years old Santa Claus brought me some flannel pajamas, a Charlie McCarthy puppet, a farm scene coloring book and a box of Crayolas. Relatives gave me gifts of underwear, a knitted cap, an illustrated book about American Indians and three striped polo shirts.
          I had never given much thought to who Santa Claus was. As a six year old I only cared that he arrived on time and that he left me some good toys and things.
          I never really cared much for getting underwear, caps or polo shirts for Christmas. My dreams were to get things like toys or bicycles or kits that I could build things from. I wanted things that I could plug in and operate. To be honest, getting clothes for Christmas was always a disappointment when I was a kid. Oddly enough, a handful of decades later and my desires haven’t changed much.
           Well, anyway, a year had passed, so now I was a seven year old. Christmas was only a few days away. I had started to get excited about the prospect of what Santa would bring me on Christmas morning. I didn’t have visions of sugar plums or fairies dancing in my head. I knew exactly what I wanted.
          I had always loved radio. As a kid I grew up listening to the Lone Ranger, the Shadow, Captain Midnight, Superman, I Love a Mystery, Lux Radio Theatre, Jack Benny and a host of other programs that entertained me before there was television.
          I listened to the radio in the morning, after school, before dinner and as I lay in bed before sleep overtook me. I was intrigued by the magic of the pictures that formed in my imagination.
          What I wanted for Christmas was something I had seen during a visit to the large department store on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx with my mother. From the time I saw it I wanted it. I felt that Christmas and my entire future happiness depended on whether or not I received an “Authentic Radio Sound Effects Kit” for Christmas.
          In the department store with my mother, I wanted to impress her with my intense childhood desire to own the “Sound Effects Kit.” I stood and stared at the kit on the counter in the toy section. As the time to leave the store arrived my mother took my hand and pulled. I stood my ground, making sure she realized what had held my interest. I kept my head turned towards the “Sound Effects Kit” as she yanked my arm and gently dragged me from the store.
          Christmas was only two days away and I didn’t want to take the chance of mom or dad not notifying Santa Claus of my desire for the “Sound Effects Kit.” I didn’t have any contact with Santa, but I was sure in my seven year old mind that mom or dad was able to communicate with him. After all, how was he to know what to bring to me and all the other children of the world? I was betting that my folks were the ones that slipped the hints to Santa – that’s how Santa knew what to deliver on Christmas morning. I had no personal contact with Santa Claus. I believed in him, but I had never met or even seen him. I was sure that mom and dad had a relationship with the man in the red suit. They had to!
           You see, I still believed in Santa Claus. And in this, my seventh year, it was vitally important that Santa understand what I wanted to receive on Christmas morning.
          The two days until Christmas morning passed like frozen molasses. I almost died waiting. On Christmas Eve friends and neighbors dropped by for a glass or two of eggnog. I couldn’t stand the anticipation. I thought that the evening and early morning hours would pass more quickly if I went to sleep early, so at 6 p.m. Christmas Eve I was under the covers, waiting for sleep to bring me to the morning and hopefully to my “Authentic Sound Effects Kit.”
          I woke up at 9 p.m. and lay in bed until I fell back asleep at 11:30 p.m. My mind raced, thinking about whether or not mom and dad had alerted Santa Claus of my request. At 2 a.m. I again awoke. I tossed and turned and thought, “What if Santa only brings me pajamas?”

          The hours passed so dreadfully slow. Finally, it was 5 a.m. Christmas day. I went to my parent’s bedroom to announce, “It’s Christmas morning, let’s go downstairs and see what Santa left.” My dad opened one eye, looked at the “Big Ben” clock on the nightstand and told me, “Son, we have to wait until at least 7:30 a.m. to see what Santa left.”
          I stormed back to my room and jumped on my bed and buried my head under the pillow – frustrated, almost to tears.
          Each minute took 20-minutes to pass. Finally, the time came. I ran to my parent’s bedroom and barked, “It’s time, it’s time.”
          Dragging their bodies from their bed, mom and dad put on their robes and slippers and inertly walked downstairs behind me as I vaulted downward to the Christmas tree.
          The three of us sat on the carpet near the tree. Dad handed mom a gift to open. Mom handed dad a gift. I was ready to explode.
          Then dad handed me a large box, wrapped with Christmassy paper. I tore the wrapping off and discovered inside the box a large book, “The History of American Indians.” I felt my little heart stop beating. Then another round of giving. A box for mom from dad. A gift for dad from mom.
          Then mom and dad placed their gifts on the carpet and dad, with a big, contented smile looked at me and handed me the big box from under the tree.
          I wildly tore off the wrapping, ripped off the cover and stared downward. A set of Civil War soldiers. 25 from the South, 25 from the North. All dressed in either blue or grey. Nice. A nice gift.
          I felt that I might not live to see my eighth year. What childish heartache I felt. Looking back, I now realize how spoiled and self-indulgent I was. After all, I was an only child and would remain as one for the next 4 years, until my sister was born.
          Mom looked at dad, dad looked at mom. Mom said, “Oh, go ahead, give it to him, he’s dying!”
          Dad reached behind the lower branches of the large Christmas tree and pulled out a sizable, decorated box. In unison mom and dad said, “Merry Christmas, son.”
          The wrapping flew off, the cover ripped off. There it was, the “Authentic Radio Sound Effects Kit.” I felt as though my smile would tear my face apart. Inside was the crinkly paper, that when rustled sounded like a blazing fire. Little shoes that pounded on a wooden palette and sounded like someone running. A small piece of tin that when bent just right and flexed sounded like thunder. A small cap pistol and a supply of caps to make gunfire sounds. It was all there, including a 32-page instruction booklet titled, “How to be a professional radio sound effects man.”
          Mom and dad watched me play with my new gift. They stopped opening their own gifts and watched me enjoy myself. I was lost in my reverie. I’m not sure if I have ever been as happy with a gift since that Christmas morning so many years ago.
          After about an hour of playing with my sound effects kit I returned to the real world.
          My mother hugged me and said, “Santa was good to you, wasn’t he?” Dad added, “That Santa, he sure knew what you wanted, didn’t he?”
          I answered, “You told him what I wanted, didn’t you.”
          Mom said, “Santa’s magic. He knows what good little boys want for Christmas.”
          That was Christmas on my seventh year. The next year my cousin told me that there really wasn’t a Santa Claus. I went to my mom and dad and asked them if there was a real Santa Claus. They both sat down with me and explained that Santa Claus was only a spirit - a way to feel about Christmas. “No, there really wasn’t a real Santa Claus.” I sat listening to them and cried.
           My seventh Christmas was the last fantasy Christmas I’ve ever had. It was the one that Santa brought me my “Authentic Radio Sound Effects Kit.”
          It was the last time that the magic of Santa Claus touched me. Since then nothing has ever been the same. Since then everything has become…so real.