NORMAN — My husband, Michael, and I have two sons almost five years apart. In 1992, the older son (fifth grade at the time) began to doubt the existence of Santa Claus at the same time we were trying to keep Santa real for our younger son. Our mantra was, “If you stop believing, Santa will stop coming.”
At the time, we were living in an old farm house with a living room measuring 30 x 40 (1,200 square feet in the one room) ... a huge room with a fireplace nearly big enough to roast a cow.
To keep the boys believing in Santa, I suggested we put some newspaper in front of the fireplace, so Santa could wipe his feet when he came down the chimney and we might see footprints in the morning.
The boys were OK with this idea, though the older one was still silently skeptical. When the boys were asleep, I started making “ashy” footprints on the newspaper using a pair of big rubber boots. Then Michael had the “big idea.”
Michael would get in the fireplace with only his legs showing and I would take a Polaroid picture and tell the boys we heard a noise and saw Santa going back up the chimney. Ho, ho, positive proof of Santa. A first attempt made it clear Michael was too big to fit in the fireplace, despite its large size. The job of being Santa became mine by default.
I must have had some wine that evening to let him talk me into this, but do it I did. Dressed in a red sweat suit and black rubber boots with white wash cloths folded over the top to look like fur, I began to climb inside the fireplace.
While the fireplace was big, the chimney quickly narrowed and it became obvious this was not going to be easy. Twisting and turning I tried to get my head, shoulders and arms up inside the dark space trying to avoid the sooty sides and praying I didn’t find a critter living in the chimney.