Most of us have vivid memories of Christmas mornings long ago when we got up early in heart-pounding anticipation.
Yes, he had been there. Between the moment we finally fell asleep and the time we woke up, Santa had stopped at our house, just as our parents had promised he would.
The cookies were gone and so was the milk. In their place was Santa's thank-you: a doll dressed in a fur-trimmed coat tucked into a dark blue wicker buggy. The doll and buggy were even more beautiful than what you asked for and dreamed about.
How Santa had carried such large toys and why he had stopped at our house when we didn't have a chimney were not considerations.
It was just part of the Christmas magic. And now, 70 years later in 2005, I still believe in the magic of Christmas and want to be enveloped in it.
And I believe in Santa Claus. Why not? He's a harmless old fellow who symbolizes laughter and joy. Who can't use more of those, at least once a day?
Just ask my Christmas weekend hosts at Fort Walton Beach, Fla., way north in the panhandle. They knew who would put out the crackers and cheese and Bloody Mary by the tree last night before we called it a night after hours of family reminiscing.
Would the adult Santa treats be gone this morning? Of course. Santa never failed us cousins when we were growing up. Why would he now?
In family recollections, we like to remember that he made a personal appearance at grandma and grandpa's house when we were children. It is one of our favorite memories that is reviewed every Christmas and never gets boring.
As we were all gathered in the parlor, the sound of sleigh bells came from the porch that stretched the length of the old farmhouse in Lenawee County, Michigan. The parlor gathering was more than family togetherness and a big turkey dinner, featuring the biggest bird from grandma's barnyard flock. It was special because the parlor was ordinarily off limits. The wide double doors into the parlor were only opened for certain occasions, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the saddest time of all, for grandma's funeral.
The tall man in the red suit and with a white fluffy beard came into the house through the dining room, brushing close to the cast-iron wood heating stove, and strolled through the wide parlor doors. It was an entrance that assured Santa center stage and a full view by the screaming children in the audience.
We cousins took turns on Santa's lap and stroking the silky white beard. We all wanted him to have one of grandma's sugar cookies and milk, fresh from grandpa's morning milking chore in the barn.
Years later, I was told that the person who wore the red velvet suit, had a robust ho, ho, ho, and on whose lap I sat was my fun-loving mother.
I didn't believe it then and I don't believe it in 2005. That Christmas in grandma's parlor, it was the real Santa who had come to visit a happy family celebrating Christmas. Then where were the reindeer, Mary Alice?
The reindeer? Oh, they were probably in the barn eating fresh hay for the long journey. They can fly, you know.
That, my friends, is the magic of Christmas in my memory book as it is this morning. May it be with you today and always.