It was more than a decade after the end of World War II, and America was booming back and becoming rich and powerful. The wealth of the newly prosperous country had not yet reached the young veterans and their families. My hard-working, Navy veteran father was eking out a living working at a factory in Bluffton. He and mom rented a rickety shingle-sided old farmhouse on County Road 29 in rural Hancock County.
The pathetic circumstances of no running water and an outdoor privy did not bother us kids. I was age four, my sister age 6, and my brothers ages 7, 3, and a baby, lived there with my parents, in December of 1956. We were a scraggly, happy bunch of kids because we didn’t know what we did not have, and our mom and dad were always there for us.
That December was magical. We believed in Santa Claus, and he was coming to bring us presents. A few days before Christmas we were giggly and gullible with anticipation of good things to come. On top of all that, it had snowed a beautiful blanket of white glistening stuff all over that ramshackle house, yard, and northwestern Ohio.
It had been our custom to open gifts on Christmas Eve because my father, who was part Santa, could not wait until Christmas morning to see the joy on our faces from his and mom’s provision. My brother Michael, who was 7 years old and much wiser than I, had predicted that the man in the red suit was coming that night. As evening darkened and the sky was studded with a big bright moon, my father suddenly said, “I think I heard something on the roof! You all better go check out the bedroom window and see if you can see Santa and his reindeer coming.”
The whole herd of us (except for baby Randy who wordlessly looked at us all curiously) ran up the narrow stairway and headed for the window in our mutual bedroom.
There on the roof of the porch below the second story bedroom window were tracks of a sleigh and the tiny hoof prints of reindeer! We had missed seeing the one who was going to bring us the presents! We all strained at the window, hoping to catch of glimpse of Santa and his sleigh, but alas, to no avail.
Disappointed we trudged slowly down the stairway, thinking that Santa had only stopped briefly at our house, had passed us by, and all we got were his sleigh prints! But as we reached the first floor, there under the tree were a huge pile of presents! Our father said, “While you were upstairs, Santa came and you missed seeing him deliver all of these!” It was a joyful disappointment, and we tore into our packages with glee.
I still do not know how those hoof prints and sleigh marks appeared on the porch roof, but I am forever thankful for a pair of parents who loved us all dearly, and a father who loved to play Santa Claus. My parents continued to teach us more about the true meaning of Christmas, and the One who is and was the great Giver of all good things. My brother, who is still older and wiser than I, will probably argue with me about some of the above details. However, I still recall this most wonderful Christmas Eve, and I do believe, though my brother may be wiser, my memory is much better than his.