By Alicia Steer
The Norman Transcript
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.
“Hurry up and take the picture,” I mumbled. I received directions between bouts of laughter. “Move to the right, now left, forward, too much, go backward, lift your knee, no, the other knee.”
With every direction, Michael laughed harder and harder. His laughter was contagious, and soon my impatience turned into my own crying jag of laughter. With tears streaming down my face, I had a visual picture of just how ridiculous I must appear.
“Just take the %&$# picture!” I gasped. Finally, with the photo taken, I slowly unwound myself and backed out of the fireplace. We hovered over the Polaroid picture waiting for the image to appear. Success. Santa going up the chimney. A bit thin to be the real Santa, but we hoped the boys wouldn’t notice.
On Christmas morning, we told the story that Daddy heard a noise in the night and came into the living room, only to find Santa just finishing up. He grabbed the camera sitting on the kitchen counter and snapped a picture just as Santa headed up the chimney.
The boys were beside themselves with excitement. They wanted to tell everyone we had a real photo of Santa, but we limited them to calling family. Both boys remained “believers” for longer than we hoped. The older boy returned to fifth grade in January, telling his class he knew there was a real Santa because he had a picture to prove it.
Every year since then, the Polaroid of Santa has been a decoration on our tree, and every year, both boys, now 32 and 27, look at it with delight and remember how excited they were that Christmas morning. Now we have a grandson, and we feel sure the photo will be passed along as proof that Santa really does exist.
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