I have to tell you: Ol' Santa is a pretty amazing fella! I can hear those reindeer trampling on my roof even as I write! If there was no Santa Claus, how to you explain my son Mal's being home now from California after a year. No, don't tell me anything about there not being a Santa Claus. That's just not going to fly.

           Of course, my brother Wayne couldn't figure that out. When I was about 8, he tried telling me Santa wasn't real. I was telling him I sure was looking forward to seeing what Santa had in his bag of tricks, and he laughed and said,

"You crazy? There ain't no Santi Claus." But I just sneered at him and went about my business, still believing the way I always did.

Sure enough, he came as usual. Brought me a new silver bicycle with long handlebars and streamers. I won't ever forget that one. I'm sure it's Santa's best seller every year, and for good reason, too. It can take you to a lot more places than any other means of transportation an 8-year-old has at his disposal.

It was cold down here in Georgia that winter; and I bundled up with 17 flannel shirts and a jacket and gloves that came along with the bicycle, then hit the road.

That Christmas day I climbed every hill and rounded just around every curve in this little hometown. Those hills weren't easy, either, not for an 8-year-old. Sometimes it'd take a mighty big struggle to get to the top, and I thought my little legs would flat fall off a time or two. Kind of like a basketball team trying to pull out a win. I've sure been there a few times.

There was magic in that little bicycle. I'd just weave my way along 'til I got to the top. A minute later, I'd come roaring down that hill like a fire engine out of control.

I wouldn't even eat lunch on days like that, just rush in and grab something Mama would have laying out, some divinity or fudge or some of that frozen fruit cake Mama made that was the only fruit cake I've ever liked.

That night when my family sat around and drank hot chocolate with marshmallows, I looked at Wayne and went,

"Hm, what d'you know 'bout Santi Claus!"

He started to argue but decided against it.

It was a B.B. gun on Santa's next visit. Birds were pretty safe, but just about every can and bottle in Troup County became an endangered species that winter. That night when my family got together, I gave Wayne that same scowl from across the table! 

That went on all throughout my growing up years - that is, until I was about 12. Then Wayne gave up on Santa Claus and got to telling me something about birds and bees. (Yes, I said 12!) I knew he was crazy then. How could somebody who didn't even believe in Santa Claus believe in all that? I decided right then I couldn't believe anything the boy said!

Many years have gone by since, but I still think Santa's quite a fella. The way I figure it, somebody who is always around when they get to handing out bicycles and B.B. guns and toy soldiers and puzzles of "The Wizard of Oz" and train sets and racecar tracks and tape recorders and slenkies and the best candy in the world - well, he's pretty real to me

And if you haven't noticed, he's always nearby when those songs you love to hear the most pop up, like my favorites, "Away in a Manger" and "Silver Bells." And all those good, old movies - like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Home Alone" - come on, too, to make you feel warm all over like Mama's hot chocolate.

It's along this time of the year that you're reminded of some of your very best memories in the world. And folks who only smile a few times a year do most of it right around Christmas!

So now you know why I've decided it's just best to believe in Santa Claus. I'd believe in 'im even my son Mal wasn't home tonight.

True, my brother lucked up and was right on a couple of things he told me way back then. But he never brings up Santa Claus anymore. He gave up on that a long time ago.

Steven.bowen@redoakisd.org mailto:Steven.bowen@redoakisd.org>