Column: The year that Santa almost didn’t leave anything for me
One of my family’s traditions as I grew up was the Christmas Eve Errand.
Every Christmas Eve, Mom and Dad would find some reason to take my younger sister and me out for a while. Some years we would look at Christmas lights. Or Dad would need to pick up some forgotten item in town.
Inevitably, Santa showed up while we were gone. The parent who stayed behind never saw anything – usually he or she would come trotting from some back room in the house, acting surprised as could be and ushering us in to unwrap the gifts.
I sensed a pattern, and when I was 9, or maybe 10, decided to switch strategies.
That year, when Dad announced he needed to pick up something at Raley’s, I quietly demurred.
“Come on, Chris!” he insisted brightly. “We want you to come with us!”
I responded that I would just stay home this time, thank you. I had a book and was going to sit casually in the living room so I would not miss Santa’s visit.
My father cajoled. I resisted.
“Christina, get in the car!” he snapped a few minutes later. He was calling me “Christina,” which meant I was on the verge of serious trouble, but I held my ground.
The battle ended a few minutes later with me banished to my room, tears streaming down my face, where I settled down to pout and listen. All I could hear was my mother rustling around in my parents’ room, which was next to mine.
An hour might have passed before my father and sister returned. A few moments later, my sister shouted, “He was here! Santa was here!”
She ran down the hall to my parents’ room to deliver the surprising news to Mom. The commotion moved back out to the living room, while I began to seethe: Santa had been right out there, and I hadn’t even gotten to see him.
After a few minutes Mom told me I could come out to the living room, where my sister was dividing gifts. She seemed to have a big pile but wasn’t finding any with my name on them.
I looked and couldn’t find any, either. My parents shrugged and said Santa must be upset with me. I realized then my earlier defiance had probably blown my chances this Christmas.
My sister began opening her gifts, but Dad told her to wait a minute so he could get a bag to put the wrapping paper and boxes in.
He walked out to the back porch area and called, “Hey, what’s this?”
A mirror was leaned against the washing machine. I had asked for a mirror like that.
Dad opened the door to the breezeway. A pile of presents teetered there, as if left as an afterthought.
Behind me, Mom said, “I guess Santa was trying to tell you something.”
They helped carry the gifts into the living room, and we commenced our Christmas celebration. But I learned my lesson well.
The next year, after we’d washed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen Christmas Eve, I was first out to the car when Dad announced he needed to go to Raley’s. I didn’t even ask why.
Christy Chalmers is a staff writer for The Record-Courier.