It was our first Christmas at my father's new pastorate, the First Christian Church in Aurora. We had moved in the late summer and I had started first grade at the two story school that housed grades one through 12 in this little town.
The weather had turned suddenly cold and sniffles spread like the vicious little monster muggers they really are. Me, I felt fine! The church pageant and celebration would start at 6 p.m. so all good little children could be put to bed nice and early. And wonder of wonders, Santa was going to appear at OUR CHURCH this very night before leaving on his big round the world tour. The excitement was deafening. I skipped, I sang every Christmas song I knew, I danced and I giggled the whole day long. I am sure my mom was going stark raving mad! Daddy was at the church organizing and I wasn't allowed to help. I really liked to help, but Daddy said it tried his patience.
At last it was time to go. We crossed the street and climbed the broad stairs. The heavy wooden doors were festooned with evergreen swags, holly and big red bows. Joy and sorrow flowed and ebbed side by side. This was the first full year after the end of the war and everyone wanted to make a whole new start. Forget the bad, remember the good was the byword of the year.
The choir sang gloriously, the tree sparkled and spangled, winked and blinked while we listened to the story of the very first Christmas gift.
Suddenly Santa appeared and sat himself in the big old throne chair beside the tree. His huge bag bulged mysteriously. Corners poking here, things curving there, with bright ribbons and colorful wrappings spilling out the top.
Santa had a list of names, and one by one he called us to the front to sit on his lap and listened to our requests and handed us a candy cane and a gift from his bag. I bounced and twitched awaiting my turn to tell Santa my Christmas list...the usual, a pony, some paper dolls...I liked to punch them out but was totally uninterested in playing with them, cowboy boots and a holster with a pistol that would shoot.
At last he called my name. I ran down the aisle and climbed on Santa's lap.
I could not utter a word. I was struck dumb. Nothing, not a whisper of a whisper came out. My face flamed and I put on my strongest grin and trotted back up the aisle to my mother. I could not even tell her what was wrong, but my silence had her wrapping me up and whisking me back across the street to my big tall bed.
It was the quietest Christmas ever. I had Vick's spread from ear to ear and down my chest, Daddy's sock was wrapped around my neck and pinned securely. Tea and toast were my Christmas eve snack. I did sleep silently through the night, and silently opened my gifts in the morning. I got paper dolls to punch out, a baby doll, and a cap pistol and holster.
I'll bet if I could have talked to Santa I would have gotten the boots and the pony.