A CHRISTMAS DREAM?
Grandma’s house was made out of stone and sat perched on a hilltop accessed by a dirt road. You could sit on the screened-in porch in the summer and watch the cars go by on Route 151 at the foot of the hill. In the summer you could hike down the hill, go out to the highway, take a left and be at Coffey’s store in about five minutes time to purchase an orange and vanilla popsicle on a hot summer’s day.
In the winter time, at Christmas, this stone house on the hill became a land of enchantment. It nearly always snowed and was so cold that the outside water pump froze and real icicles pointed their daggers downward along the gutters. The house had a metal roof and was an orchestral symphony when freezing rain pounded the shingles during an ice storm.
Inside, the entire house smelled of wood burning in the wood stove in the kitchen and sitting room. The sitting room was where everyone gathered of an evening to talk about their day or just listen anxiously as stories of past Christmases were told once again. Always, just before Christmas my uncle would appear at the door in his Santa outfit to gather Christmas lists from me, my sister, brother and cousins. We could hardly wait for that special night. It was almost as good as Christmas morning.
Soon we would tire and climb the steep steps to our upstairs bedroom which consisted of two double beds, a dresser and mirror and, of course, a chamber pot. That cold metal beneath your little back end in the middle of the night was enough encouragement to wait until morning if at all possible. Occasionally accidents did happen, but nothing was ever mentioned about them. The next night there would be dry clean sheets again.
When morning came, everyone would arise at the break of day. There were chores to be done, cookies to be baked and for us kids, anticipation of the coming of Santa. It seemed that we ate all day long. If it wasn’t fresh cookies, it was hard candy, peanut butter fudge, marzipan, nuts, fresh tangerines, apples or oranges. Oh how good everything tasted!
Then there was that one magical Christmas … the Christmas when I saw the real Santa Claus. I had a bad cold and was allowed to sleep in a downstairs bedroom with my grandma. It was Christmas Eve and I was rubbed from my waist up with Vick’s Vaporub. I had a huge red kerchief tied around my neck to keep out, I don’t know what … drafts I guess. Everyone was asleep but me. I needed to find the potty.
I arose in the middle of the night or the wee small hours of the morning, tiptoed past my grandma’s dresser with the silver hand mirror and the blue bottles of Evening in Paris and pulled open the door that I thought was the way to the potty. Much to my surprise, there in my peripheral vision was a long white beard and long white hair topped off with a red pointed cap trimmed in white. I was so excited I didn’t make it to the potty! I ran back to my grandma’s bed, climbed into bed and under the covers and prayed that Santa hadn’t seen me for we all knew that if Santa saw anyone peeking, there would be no presents for anyone.
I could hardly sleep all night long. The Vick’s had long lost its effect and I couldn’t breathe through my nose. Grandma snored and I was terrified that I, personally, had ruined everyone’s Christmas.
The next morning I awoke with the strong smell of bacon being fried in the kitchen and Christmas carols playing on my grandma’s Victrola. I had to change my nightgown before bursting out into the living room to find no presents under the tree.
That door leading from grandma’s bedroom to the living room weighed a ton that morning. I closed one eye and slowly surveyed the room with the other. My first target was the dish of cookies we left for Santa. They were gone! Someone had eaten the cookies. There was hope! Next, my eye landed on something with long golden hair. Could it be? It was! The new doll I wanted so badly. You could actually comb and style her hair ten different ways. And there was … no it couldn’t be. A Red Flyer wagon! I hadn’t told anyone about that wish and there it was!
I ran through the house screaming, “He came, he came! Santa came and I saw Him!” Grandma, my sister and brother and mom looked at each other and then at me.
“Now you know, Alice Mae, that Santa doesn’t leave presents if anyone is peeking!” My mom spoke with incredulity and surprise in her voice. She looked at the others, encouraging them to echo their agreement. They did, all heads nodding up and down.
“But I know I saw him, and he still left me presents,” I insisted.
“It was just a dream … just a dream in a little girl's wishful head,” humored grandma.
“Maybe so,” I said, but in my own heart I knew. There really was a Santa Claus.
Word Count: 882
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