*My column in the Dec. 11, 2011 issue of Cordillera Today
I used to worry a lot as a child on Christmas Eve when everyone would start going to bed and my grandmother would make sure the doors were locked for the night. It’s Christmas Eve, and my sock (we didn’t have those fancy Christmas stockings) would be hanging on the wall ready for Santa’s largesse for the year. Hours earlier, I would have struggled not to think of any bad thoughts walking back home from the church, I’d have been extra polite to elders, and perhaps even give extra to last minute carollers - lest Santa counts those last minute transgressions and put me on his naughty list instead.
I would worry about the locked doors because we didn’t have a chimney, and I was told, mainly by television, that’s how Santa Clause made his way inside your home. I knew I would get in trouble if I unlocked the doors, so I would move the sock and hang it by the window instead and this worry about how small my gifts would be since the space between the window slats were too narrow for that die-cast Voltes V action figure, or a skateboard.
I’d wake up the next morning to find the sock filled with candies, sometimes money, and I would forget about the skateboard and Voltes V and just be happy that the night before, Santa did not forget about me.
I don’t remember when Santa stopped sneaking in toys for me on Christmas Eve, I just remember being excited again when it was my children’s turn to try all they can to stay up to finally catch Santa. I felt tears in my eyes when one time, my youngest expressed his concern about how Santa would find his way to our house – it was Christmas eve and we have moved to a house with no fireplace, and there was I locking up the door for the night. This time, I left one window open, the kind that slides to the side leaving space big enough for big old Santa to make his way in.
Through the years, Santa never failed to show up at our house on Christmas Eve to reward my children’s good deeds for the year. Sometimes he would be so generous as to leave really huge toys, and at times you just know that he did his best to provide everyone with something to be happy about at all.
He would almost always leave a letter for each of my five children – reminding them that somebody cares about how they lived their life the past year, and advising them on how to make the coming year even better. There was that one year that he apologized for not being able to give something "big" – it hasn’t been a great year, he said – but hoped that the children would still find happiness in the humble gifts he managed to give them, and reminded them that this did not mean that he cared less at all that year.
Last year, I witnessed the time Santa stopped giving gifts to my two elder children. In the bright morning of that Christmas Day, they found a note from Santa explaining that now that they’ve grown up, it’s time they give up their slots for other children. Their younger siblings felt sad for them. But it really warmed my heart to see the two telling the younger ones not to feel sad at all for why they’ve stopped wishing for toys from Santa on Christmas Eve, and that this only meant that Santa would have more toys for them and other children.
Last year, my younger daughter got a wave board (some kind of a skateboard with only two in-line wheels instead of four) from Santa. But unfortunately, the wave board broke soon after she got it – the screw that held the wheels came off and we couldn’t find them or at least replacement ones that would fit. All year she hoped we’d get her another one. Her birthday came and we still couldn’t afford to get her a new one. Finally, just a month ago, we finally got to replace the broken toy – we were able to get her one that looked exactly like the one from Santa.
Then a funny thing happened – my wife found the missing screws of the broken one and was able to put it back together. My daughter decided to give it to her younger brother instead so they could skate together.
Then one night, while waiting for us to finish rehearsals, they brought out the two wave boards – the new one from us for my daughter and the repaired one from Santa for our youngest son. And when they started skating, my daughter noticed that the wheels of the wave board that Santa gave which her brother was now using lit up in different colors when they turn.
My daughter looked at her new wave board with wheels that don’t light up and then at me quizzically, and I told her that, hey, I’m only her dad, I could never top what Santa could give.
With a shrug and a smile, she got on her wave board, happy that her mom was able to put the one from Santa back together... and just happy for her brother who now has his own wave board.
Later that evening, over dinner, my youngest son tried to remember what Santa said in his letter to him through the years – particularly the one last year where Santa said that he hopes to finally catch him awake so they can have milk and cookies together.
I told him - no promises, but I’ll try to stay up with him to wait for Santa.