Column: Ride on Jesus’ coattails this Christmas

by Father Mark Goldasich

Christmas is a time for stories.

While nothing could ever rival the story of the birth of Jesus, the continuing effects of the incarnation continue to impact the world. The following story — from an anonymous source — shows how contagious the true Spirit of this season can be.

The unnamed author writes:

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid.
I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb. “There is no Santa Claus,” she jeered. “Even dummies know that!”

My grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. Grandma always told the truth, and that truth went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her “world-famous” cinnamon buns. I knew they were world famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me.

“No Santa Claus?” she snorted. “Ridiculous. Don’t believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad! Now, put on your coat, and let’s go.”

“Go where, Grandma?” I asked. Heck, I hadn’t even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun.

“Where” turned out to be Kerby’s General Store, the one place in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me $10, which was a bundle of cash in those days. “Take this money,” she said, “and buy something for someone who needs it. I’ll wait for you in the car.” Then she turned and walked out of Kerby’s.

I was only 8 years old. I’d often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments, I just stood there, clutching that $10 bill, wondering what to buy, and who to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, friends, neighbors, the kids at school, and the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when suddenly Bobby Decker came to mind. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, who sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollack’s second-grade class. Bobby didn’t have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but we kids all knew that Bobby didn’t have a cough; he just didn’t have a good coat. I fingered the $10 bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one with a hood. It looked really warm, and he would like that. “Is this a Christmas present for someone?” the lady behind the counter asked, as I put my $10 down.

“Yes, ma’am,” I answered shyly. “It’s for . . . Bobby.”

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn’t get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat — a little tag fell out of it, and Grandma tucked that into her Bible — and then she wrote, “To: Bobby. From: Santa Claus” on the package. Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secret. Then she drove me over to the Decker house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever – officially – one of Santa’s helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby’s, and we crept noiselessly to the house and hid in the bushes by the front walk.

Then Grandma gave me a nudge. “All right, Santa Claus,” she whispered, “get going!”

I took a deep breath, dashed on the front porch, plopped the present down, pounded on Bobby’s door and then flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together, we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally, it did, and there stood a surprised and wide- eyed Bobby.

Fifty years haven’t dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering beside my Grandma in Bobby Decker’s bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well . . . and we were on his team.

By the way, I still have Grandma’s Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

Merry Christmas!

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