He was the mysterious figure in red that sat in the shadows of Christmas. Though I’d never seen him face to face, never hid behind the living room door to watch in amazement as his black booted feet descended from the netherworld of chimney darkness to land like raven feathers on the hearth, still I believed without question in his solid reality. He knew what I wanted for Christmas, always. I didn’t need to write him a letter. I didn’t need to share my requests with my parents, something that for some reason I never quite understood, tended to cause them a bit of consternation.
Why did they need to know what I wanted?
Each year we would make the annual pilgrimage to visit the department store Santas, but being blessed with an imagination that was liberally sprinkled with a healthy dose of suspicion, no one could convince me those fellows were real. There were far too many of them for one thing. And it was a rare occurrence when even one of those chaps remotely resembled the genuine article. Too baby-faced and whiskerless, with beards that tied behind their ears. Or too bombastic and patronizing, lacking even the remotest twinkle in the eye that the real Santa Claus would most certainly have. Oh I still stood shoulder to shoulder with other children my age, as we wound our way through the sugar plum forests and candy cane villages of the toy departments in local stores, waiting my turn to relate to these red-suited impostors the things I most wanted for Christmas. It was a ritual not without amusement and I participated in the festivities quite willingly. But I knew, yes I did, that the actual Santa could only be seen in the silver light of Christmas Eve.
So every year, I would endeavour to stay awake and catch the old elf at his work. I would leave out the cookies and milk for his refreshment and toddle off to bed as usual, never hinting at my plans for a sleepless night.
Snuggled under blankets, eyes wide and heart thumping, I would lie awake in the darkness, my little ears tuned for the sound of sleigh bells, staring, unblinking, at the vertical crack of my bedroom door.
The longer I lay there the more terrified I’d become.
What would I say to him when we met?
Would he catch a glimpse of me and instantaneously evaporate into mist, leaving me stunned and present-less?
Or would he pack me off to the North Pole where I would become a toymaking elf, always wearing green, never to return?
Big thoughts for a little girl.
As the night grew frosty and still as the grave, I would strain to hear the hoof beats of reindeer from up above on my roof, my little body rigid with the increasing terror of my vigil.
And then - how suddenly it always seemed- the pale pink light of a winter dawn would nudge me awake. Awake to Christmas morn! And I would run, slipperless, down the hallway to the living room door and throw it open wide. There would be the Christmas tree shining and bright, almost laughing as it presided over a room full of presents.
The cookies were eaten, yes there were the crumbs!
The milk was drained from the glass!
Later on Christmas Day, when I was sitting amongst my new books and dolls, feeling richer than Croesus, it would hit me. I’d missed him again. Drat. Well, there was always next year, I’d say to myself. Always another chance.
But next year came and all the years after that, and still, ever tricksy, he eluded me.
But perhaps..... just perhaps....with Edward’s help....this year...
One never knows.