I once encountered Santa Clause as I was lying in bed one very early Christmas morning. We lived in a 100-year-old farmhouse in rural western Pennsylvania. My parents slept upstairs, with my small bedroom downstairs in the front of the house. Only a curtain of beads separated my room from the main living area, so I could see and hear most things that happened when I was supposed to be sleeping.
It was just before dawn and the first glimpse of light seeped through the heavy, opaque plastic that covered our windows. A noise in the next room startled me awake; I silently lifted my head to better hear the rustles that I knew must be Santa.
My heart raced with anxiety—excited that Santa was there, but also frightened that someone, even he, had intruded our home. It was so close to morning, why was he still out delivering toys? I imagined we must be at the end of his route or perhaps he was behind schedule a bit.
I Once Encountered Santa Clause
Hiding under the thick pile of quilts that protected me from our cold house, I carefully ran through my list: Barbie Hair Salon, Barbie Make-Up Head, Barbie Car, Barbie Dreamhouse, and record player. I didn’t want to move and alert him I was awake. I had to breathe quietly and force myself back to sleep—certain if I didn’t, Santa wouldn’t leave my presents.
I tried to hush the questions racing in my mind: Why didn’t our Golden Retriever Tess didn’t bark at him—did Santa have magic over dogs to keep them quiet? How did he get in? We didn’t have a fireplace. Where were the reindeer? Would he feed them the carrots I left on the table? Would he eat the sugar cookies my mother baked? Was he at that very moment filling my stocking with an orange at the toe?
Slowly and softly, lying in my bed, I listened. I couldn’t hear anything else, but just to be certain, I would stay, unmoving, exactly where I was.
It was just long enough to fall back to sleep.