December 21, 2013: I Believe

I am pretty sure my brother, Matt, believed in Santa
as he tore open his gift and my parents looked on (circa ~ 1966)
I never believed in Santa. <sigh>

My non-belief in Santa is a dark secret of my childhood. I have no memory of ever believing. My mom tells me that on my second Christmas, I crawled out of my crib before anyone was awake and opened the presents under the tree. My vague recollection of this event isn't about the magic of Santa, but only of the pretty wrapping paper.

Our next door neighbor, Michael Wischnewski, told me there was no Santa Claus. I was three. He was thirteen. Mom was furious. The resulting impact to me: no memories of lying in bed on Christmas Eve, waiting in exhilaration for Santa as visions of sugar plums danced in my head. <another sigh>

That being said, I do remember trying really hard to believe. Growing up, I watched my friends experience the magic of Santa Claus as I tried to convince myself that this fanciful man existed. What I did believe in was the magic of Christmas. This was very real to me as a child. Christmas time was special. I was raised among a family full of warm hearts and lots of love.

One Saturday night before Christmas, we were greeted by Grandpa Gib as we walked home from church in the dark.

"I have a surprise for you," he told me and my brothers. "Jump in the car."

After glancing at Dad for approval, my brothers and I crammed into his car. Our guesses on his surprise were given no response other then the smile on his face. As Grandpa meandered through Remsen's downtown, he pulled up to the town co-op.

Grandpa worked at the co-op, so parking there did not come as a surprise. But the adventure that followed did.

Through a back door to the grain elevator, we followed our grandpa. He led us through the dark passageways with flashlight in hand. Stepping unto an elevator shaft, Grandpa told us to hold on as we were lifted to heights we had never been before.

As my brothers and I tried to figure out where Grandpa was taking us, Matt solved the mystery.

"The star! Grandpa is taking us to the star!!"

Atop the grain elevator shined a big, bright star. Each Christmas season we would gaze at this star in childhood wonder. It shone high in the sky over our town with a brilliant nightly reminder of the birth of Baby Jesus.

After stepping off the creaky elevator, Grandpa led us up a series of steps. As we reached the top and climbed out into the fresh air, we saw the most beautiful sight; the star shining just inches from us.

Once we caught our breath, we turned to see our little town from a height that soared high above the church steeple. I looked at my brothers and saw in their eyes the look of amazement and wonder that I was feeling.

Not a word was spoken as we silently gazed around us and took in the magic of our adventure. I looked at my grandpa and saw him watching us with pure joy.

We didn't find Santa Claus on top of the elevator that December night. But we did find the true meaning of Christmas in a shining star and a moment in time.

In my lifetime, I have experienced a magic of Christmas greater than any red suit or shiny nosed reindeer. The magic is in the blessing of the Nativity and in the love of a family. I believe.


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