By Sharon Chiasson
I was six years old and madly in love with magic. There was an Easter Bunny in the spring, witches in the fall and now, at last, Santa Claus at Christmas time. The aura of Christmas descended around me with the first flakes of snow. In response to the signal, all my energies zeroed in on the sparkle and promise of the season.
School and church were the only social outlets of my rural childhood. The church generally ignored Santa, to my dismay, while at school we pasted him on the windows, chirped happy songs in his honor and invited him to our Christmas concert. Everything I heard and did involved Christmas: the drawings, the paper decorations, the concert rehearsals. Conversation and quiet time were filled with the subject of Santa.
"How many more days?" We asked the same question many times. The teacher marked a square on the blackboard and kept whittling down the number of days to the "special night."
On the night of the Christmas concert, I sat wedged among other small children on a makeshift plank bench. Everything was so beautiful. The tree with its' paper trimmings and weary gold star sizzled before my eyes. I gaped in awe at the parade of halting, red-faced performers and loved the sound of the responsive, delighted audience.
The concert consisted of some solo recitations and songs, a play filled with miscues, mumblings and meanderings and a still vivid scene done in blackout. The back wall of the stage had been covered with blue paper to which were pasted some yellow stars and the silhouette of Bethlehem town. When the curtains opened, there stood an angel pointing up to the largest star. She wore a floor length blue gown and her beautiful long hair flowed down her back between two huge white wings trimmed with glitter. From off stage someone shone a flashlight on her while a chorus sweetly sang "O Little Town of Bethlehem." We knew the teacher had given her permission to change arms if she became tired and we waited to see if she would. Proving to be a durable angel, she stood statuesque through three verses.
Finally the last performer became part of the audience and the concert was over. Suddenly a bell tinkled, the door burst open and on a waft of frosty air Santa Claus came in. At once everyone started singing "Here Comes Santa Claus, Here Comes Santa Claus." He was tall, I had to look straight up as he walked past me. I couldn't believe it. Something made me get up and scramble after him. There was yelling and pushing to get closer. I could hear him talking to the people in front of me. Someone was telling him what they wanted for Christmas.
A hand pushed me forward. Santa looked at me and reached out. I pulled back and a voice behind me said "Go on." Santa put his arm around me and pulled me close to his face and asked me, "What would you like for Christmas?" I couldn't take my eyes of his suit and his beard, they were just like in my book. I looked up into his face, into his eyes. His eyes! They were Horton MacKenzie's eyes! I was stunned. His voice suddenly became Horton's to. I said something that I don't remember and scurried back to my Mother, a lump swelling in my chest. My Mother's face was smiling, so I kept the words inside.
As we were leaving, a big boy came to me and asked if I had seen Santa Claus. "It was Horton MacKenzie," I said. The boy raised his eyebrows and turned to his friend to repeat what I had said. They fell against one another laughing. Suddenly the big boy bent down and said, "The real Santa is too busy this close to Christmas and Horton is helping him out." I was glad to hear that, but I still felt the lump.
At home, in bed, I decided that every school had a phony Santa because the real Santa was probably too busy to go to any concerts. With such doubt filled thoughts, I softened the lump in my chest but secretly vowed anew to stay awake this year and make sure about this Santa business once and for all