The following appeared in The Providence Journal. It's the first thing I ever wrote that was published. Of all the things I've written and published since, this remains my favorite. I hope you enjoy it, and Merry Christmas!
Recently, during my yearly pilgrimage to the rafters above the garage, I began a journey that ultimately led to the rediscovery of a long lost friend. The dust that had accumulated on the boxes that held my family’s Christmas treasures filled the rafters when I moved them. Stifling a sneeze, I carried the boxes down.
For years, our display grew with each holiday season, each year more grand than the one before. As my daughters grew, so did their expectations. What started twenty years ago with a candle’s glow filling each window became a magnificent celebration of light welcoming the start of a new Christmas. Santa was coming, and our lights would guide the way! Christmas was good.
The years progressed, my children grew and each year the lights slowly faded. Santa once more became a myth and Christmas magic became hidden deep in my memories. Work, commitment and appointments had taken place of holiday cheer. Who had time for Christmas? Living in a fantasy world during the holidays was something better left with children. The thrill that had once filled me during the holidays had long since passed. I still enjoy my friends and families company, but Christmas day had become just another holiday. I actually preferred Thanksgiving!
Scratching an itch while climbing the ladder back into the rafters, I was filled with sadness. I thought back to when I was young and still believed in miracles like Santa Clause. The loss in that belief was also the end of my belief in all things magical. For years I believed that miracles did not exist. Christmas is great but it certainly is not magic. Magic is for kids, and I am no kid.
Eventually I had kids of my own. As each child took her place in the world it became evident that magic did exist, and miracles could happen! The love that I felt for my children filled me with joy. Christmas was alive again, and with it, Santa was reborn! Our house was filled with Christmas music and decorations. The house reeked of Christmas. I have a lifetime of memories from those years, all precious.
Time flew by, my kids grew like I had, and now I was sitting in my cold rafters covered with dust. I rummaged around and found the box that contained the window candles. I left the rest of the decorations in the loft. The thoughts of Christmas’s past filled my head as I made my way down. Before finishing the job, I headed for the shower to rid myself of the itchy rafter dust.
Entering the house, I breathed in the scent of pine trees, cinnamon and all things that brought Christmas to mind. My wife had created the perfect retreat inside our home, just as she had every year we had been together. I could only wonder how she had never lost the Christmas spirit. I prayed that I hadn’t lost mine. “The Christmas Fairy”, my favorite Christmas song filled the house with music as I climbed the stairs. I hoped that a nice hot shower would relax me and for the sake of my wife, put me in a Christmas mood.
I stepped out of the shower and wrapped myself in my robe. The belt that held the robe together had gotten frighteningly short over the years. Perhaps after the Holidays I would watch what I ate. With music from downstairs filling my head, and the scents of Christmas coming from the candle my wife had placed in the room I began getting ready for the rest of the day. I applied a generous dollop of shaving cream to my face and took a long hard look at my reflection.
My eyes were twinkling. At first, I thought that the light from the candle caused it but I was wrong. I felt the twinkling come from my heart. My eyes were so full of life! My nose was red too. The redness could have come from the beer that I love, but I didn’t think so! My belly shook when I laughed at the image, but it wasn’t like a bowl full of jelly at all, in fact, for a guy my age it didn’t look all that bad. If I lost ten pounds or so and cut back on the beer…(oh never mind!)
There he was. Big as life. Santa! Standing in front of me with a face full of shaving cream and dressed in an old bathrobe. But he was Santa. He always was. As a boy, Santa lived inside of him. As a young man, he was Santa to his kids. Now, here was the best Santa of all. My love of Christmas will fill all of those around me, on Christmas and all year! Santa is alive. I have seen him. He is me, he is us. I hope that you will see him too. Merry Christmas!
Originally published December, 2002. Providence Journal