Yes, Chil’ there is Sandy Claus

Published 5:04 pm Saturday, December 20, 2008

Betty Kay told me there was no Sandy Claus.

She said it was just your mama and daddy. That they got up during the night and put toys under the tree and ate the cookies that you’d left for Sandy Claus.

I didn’t believe her.

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Mama wouldn’t ever eat cookies that bugs might have crawled over and, once Daddy got in bed, he didn’t get up until morning. Not even the night the barn burned.

“William, the barn’s on fire!” Mama hollered.

“I hear you,” Daddy said and turned over and went back to sleep.

My mama and daddy weren’t Sandy Claus … but I wanted to hear it from them.

“Is there really a Sandy Claus?”

Well, how does he get down the chimney? Don’t the coals burn him? How does he know where everybody lives? How far is the North Pole? Are elves magic? How can reindeer fly? Is there really a Sandy Claus? Really?

For the one hundredth time, Daddy would tell me about this little girl, Virginia, that asked her daddy so often that he had it put in the newspaper. “Yes, Virginia, there is a Sandy Claus.”

Well, I didn’t know who that little Virginia was. She wasn’t in my class at school. If she had been, I would have asked her. But, Daddy said something had to be so or they couldn’t put it in the newspaper.

But none of the stuff in the funny papers was real and that was in the newspaper.

So, I asked Mugi, my grandmother.

“Laaaawrd, back when I was a little girl we didn’t get nothing for Christmas except an orange and an apple and a few hickory nuts in our stockings,” she said. “Why, we didn’t even have a Christmas tree, just a few sprigs of holly on the fireboard.”

But what about Sandy Claus? I wanted to know about Sandy Claus.

When old folks started off with “Laaaawrd,” it meant that somebody was dying or near about to die or that they were going to tell a story about how far they’d had to walk to school or how they had to get up before the sun came up to milk the cow. I just wanted to know if Sandy Claus was real.

So, at the supper table, I started in again.

“Betty Kay said there’s no such thing as Sandy Claus. That it’s you and Mama. And, I think it is because nobody can fly all over the world in just one night and how could he get all those toys on that tiny sleigh. Is there really a Santa Claus?”

Without looking up from his newspaper, Daddy said, “No. There’s no Sandy Claus.”

Mama sat down hard in her chair. “William!”

“Well, she wanted to know and now she knows.”

My lip started to quiver and tears welled up in my eyes so fast that I couldn’t stop them before they spilled over onto my plate. I had a lump in my throat as big as an apple and I thought for all the world that my heart had stopped.

I pushed my plate back and ran outside.

I was sitting on the back doorsteps with my head in my lap crying when Aunt Beatie came around the corner of the house.

“Chil’ what you cryin’ for here at Christmastime?”

I told her there was no Sandy Claus. Daddy told me so.

“He probably told you that cause you’d worried him half to death,” she said. “You worry folks enough they’ll tell you want you don’t want to know.”

I looked up into the face of that dear, sweet lady who was as much of a grandmother to me as my “real” grandmothers. Except, she never said “Laaaawd, laaaawd.” She just always said “Now, chil,’” and put her arm around me.

“Is there a Sandy Claus, Aunt Beatie? Is there?”

“Yes, chil’ there’s a Sandy Claus.”

“Will I ever see him? The real Sandy Claus?”

“One day you will.”

Many years later when I had a little girl of my own, she kept asking, “Is there a Sandy Claus, Mama? Is there?”

And, I would tell her about a little girl named Virginia and how she asked so often that it was in the newspaper that, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

We were living in Ohio and it was one of those gray, December days when Lake Erie leaves its bed and hovers over the countryside. We were at a train show and hundreds of miniature trains hummed softly through villages with thousands of twinkling lights.

My little girl came over and pulled on my arm. “Mama, come see Sandy Claus.”

I looked across the huge room expecting to see a limp bellied Santa in a red suit choking out a feeble “Ho, ho, ho!”

But instead I saw a little ol’ man in a white, striped shirt with suspenders. He had a white beard and a broad little belly. His eyes twinkled behind his spectacles and his laughter filled the room.

“Come see,” my little girl said as she pulled me toward him. “Look!” She pointed to his belt buckle that was eye-level with her. On the buckle was S. Claus.”

“It’s really him,” she said. “It’s the real Sandy Claus!”

Santa Claus opened his wallet and showed us pictures of the North Pole, his reindeer and his workshop. He showed us pictures of Mrs. Santa and his sleigh and even of the little elves.

I smiled and thought of Aunt Beatie’s words, “One day, chil’ you’ll see Santa Claus.”

So now, when my little grandson asks me, “Is there really a Santa Claus, Granma?” I don’t say a single word about that little girl named Virginia.

I just say, simply, “Yes, chil’ there is a Sandy Claus.”