Christmas Presence

The presence I miss most at Christmas is my father. He was the quintessential Santa Claus. He even looked the part from his round belly to his white beard to the twinkle in his eye . In fact, children who lived in our apartment complex would see him coming and ask if he was Santa. Even after his protestations, I think they walked away deciding they had better be extra good that day – Santa was clearly on a recognizance mission in July in his khaki pants and polo shirt. I believed in Santa way past most children because I knew what Christmas meant to my dad. He did all the shopping for presents and treats. He trimmed the tree…just so. Tinsel was hung with care and packages wrapped with precision and enough tape to bring a great deal of frustration to little fingers. (That part might be genetic as my children often stop in the kitchen for a paring knife before starting the gift opening). I knew in my little 11 year old soul that it was very important that I still believe. And so I continued to write letters to Santa while my friends laughed at me and I protested that I didn’t really believe. I did believe all right…I believed in my dad. One day changed all that when I was 12 and my mother called me to her chair where she sat day in and day out watching the neighbourhood but never interacting in it. She said “you don’t really still believe in Santa do you?”. Oh the blessed  relief! Here was the permission I needed to be honest and to join the ranks of the nonbelievers like everyone else my age. Hallelujah! It’s tough feeling like a liar, talking about Santa like I was still 5, pretending to buy into the myth and answer to all of my parents expectations. I was free! And I was…for about a 2 second count at which point my mother’s next sentence just about ended me. “You know, this is going to kill your father”. And I quickly realized I had become a pawn. It did not kill my father, although some of the magic died that day. But true Christmas magic can survive anything and soon, my older brother had a daughter and my dad’s inner Santa came alive once more. And years later I added four more grandchildren to the mix, albeit 3000kms away. I was now living much closer to the North Pole than my Santa dad, but he soon became Canada’s Posts best Christmas customer, mailing boxes and boxes full of goodies. It didn’t matter that I had learned from the best and was doing my own Santa duties, after a few years of almost duplicate gifts all around, I bowed to the big guy, passed out the Sears catalogues to my children, collected their Santa letters and sent them to my dad. While Christmas Eve was always a major event, my children looked forward to the time just before Christmas when the parcel cards arrived in our post office box. It meant we would have to go back to the house to get the car. There was no doubt in any of our minds that we would be able to carry them ourselves. There was even wrapped toys for the cats and later, when there were stepchildren, there was no evidence that they were any less loved by Poppa/Santa. A few years along the way we managed to gift him and mom flights out for the big day. Those years held the best presence…live and in person. Special Christmases to be sure. We’d have to look back at old photos to know what gifts were received, but we only have to look in our hearts to remember the presence that was my dad. Dad was gone way too soon and many years have passed. I have grandchildren of my own upon which to pass his Christmas magic. This year I get to play Santa as my granddaughter will be here Christmas morning but I am looking most forward to baking cookies and tobogganing and Christmas movie snuggles with a big bowl of popcorn. Poppa looks over at us from his place of honour – an ornament on our tree – as I serve up turkey and stuffing on the Old Country Roses china dinner set that is a treasured gift from my Santa-dad. The two cats will be found snoozing under the tree, each trying to strike their sole claim and oft scolded not to touch. There is presence here that money simply cannot buy nor Amazon deliver – even with prime. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and trust you will be a special presence in someone’s life. xo

1 Comment

  1. Omigosh, what a beautiful tribute to your “Santa.” Gorgeous story, Shaula, I literally have tears in my eyes. Here’s hoping you have a wonderful Christmas, and your cats behave, and your dad remains in your Christmas heart forever.


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