December 1996. It was the second Friday. Sweet Husband had been out of work for eighteen long months. I sat at the dining room table sorting through a pile of bills. Fifteen hundred dollars short. The checking account amounted to about thirty five.
I could feed the six of us for the weekend. And then what? Christmas was out of the question. Depression hung over the house. Dark and dreary. We had not decorated. No lights. No tree. No frivolous cookies baked. I was willing Christmas not to come. How would I explain to my children that this year Santa would fly by our house but not stop?
Sweet Husband sat in front of the television. Mindlessly clicking channel to channel. “Dad, are we putting up the lights this weekend?” “Are we getting a tree tomorrow Daddy?” The kids were home from school. Should I tell them now? No. I just couldn’t.
Dear God, I prayed over the pile of invoices. Help. Please.
I drifted. In and out. Tears. Panic. I felt helpless. Please. Please.
Friday afternoon traffic built up on front of the house. Our road is the only way through the national park. Commuters, shoppers, and truck drivers for the county all have to pass us on their way home. Friday evenings are the worse.
“Hon, you need to see this.” Sweet Husband came to me and took my hand. “It’s a good thing.” I was never sure back then. So many things, one after another. A broken washing machine. A flat tire. I had become accustomed, over the months, always waiting for the next shoe to fall.
He led me out front to the porch. At the top of our long drive stood a tiny Santa! Fat, red and jolly. Next to him, holding a cardboard sign that read HONK FOR SANTA stood his helper. My youngest son, seven, and his sister, eight, had found the old Santa suit in the boxes labeled “Xmas”. Our boy, dressed in the baggy red suit, complete with pillow tummy, cap, and white beard, was dancing and waving to the cars and trucks. HO HO HO! Merry Christmas! He shouted to the drivers. Merry Christmas! Sister raised her sign. HONK HONK! HONK HONK! Came the replies.
Glazed, hypnotic faces, dulled by driving, brightened! People laughed, waved, and smiled. And honked for Santa! The giant county truck drivers BAWAHHHED their big air horns when Santa pumped his little fist in the air!
Sweet Husband and I sat on the front steps and laughed. Really laughed. For the first time in months. The older two kids appeared and sat with us delighted. And then it happened.
We could hear them coming. BAWAHHHHH BAWAHHHHH! Miles down the road. The truck drivers were on their radios! They roared past, one after another, laying on their horns. All for Santa! Everyone, everyone laughing and honking! Horns blaring up and down the road in both directions.
Afternoon turned into evening and finally dark. We trooped into the house. Cold, excited, and happy. The weekend was spent hanging the lights, decorating the house. What the hell, right? It didn’t cost us a penny to brighten up the place. When we hung the stockings on the mantle I said another small prayer. I told the kids that maybe next weekend we could get a tree. Maybe.
Monday morning I sat again at the table. We hadn’t paid the mortgage. Or the credit cards. Or anything. We were flat broke. Busted. With out hope. I was working from home but my business was seasonal and Christmas was not one of the seasons. What could we sell to make ends meet?
I was still in my pajamas when the doorbell rang. I thought about hiding. Not answering. I peeked through the blinds and saw a glimpse of red. What the hell?
When I opened the door I was shocked to see a six foot Santa. A beautiful Santa. Like the one at the mall. Real beard and everything.
“I hear you’ve been a very good girl this year.” What? “I have a present for you.” He reached in to his black velvet bag and handed me an envelope. “Merry Christmas, Gracie Lou. From some folks who love you.” I watched stunned as Santa climbed into his red Ford pickup and backed out of the drive.
What? What? I opened the envelope. A beautiful card, unsigned. And two thousand dollars in cash. Two thousand dollars. In hundreds.
This is why, my dear OS friends, that I, Sweet Husband, and the kids all still believe in Santa Claus. And miracles.
Merry Christmas to you all! May God bring you happiness, health, and love.