I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit my Grandma on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"
My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns. Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything.
She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus!" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go" "Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked.
"Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through it doors, Grandma handed me twenty dollars. That was a bundle in those days "Take this money and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.
I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. Suddenly I thought of Bobbie Decker. He sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobbie Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out for recess during the winter. I fingered the twenty-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobbie Decker a coat. I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.
That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons, and write, "To Bobbie, From Santa Claus" on it - Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobbie Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers. Grandma parked down the street from Bobbie's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going." I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. From there we watched Bobbie come to the door and pick up his present from "Santa."
Forty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my grandma, in Bobbie Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team."
I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.
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