Together, we would wait near the windows in the living room, looking for any signs. With eyes filled with Christmas magic, we were certain every year was the year we would be ready for him, we would see him coming through the cloudy skies, we would hear the sleigh collide with a puddle, since it was never cold enough to snow on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. Together, we would spot Rudolph’s red nose so bright and figure out how Santa saw in the night that seemed to last for an eternity because he would have needed that much time to visit all the little girls and their little sisters in the world.
Then, it would happen. The tall, tall roof would quake. It sounded like an army of hooves was beating down, struggling to break before the bells jangled a tune of success, and marked the seconds before he walked in the front door. We knew he didn’t like to soot up too soon after suiting up for his big night, which was logical and it gave us a sense of priority. While he walked up the stairs, the roof rattled in time with his ho-ho-hos and the bag of goodies slung over his back.
“Merry Christmas, ‘tweethearts,” the old man would say with a heavy tongue through broken teeth. “Have you been good little girls this year?”
While he maneuvered from standing to sitting with gentle care, our eyes filled with magic would peer at one another thinking of all the terrible things little girls and their little sisters do, and in that moment find forgiveness. There was too much at stake on Christmas Eve to dwell on rivalries. Our heads nodded and our mouths squeaked out “yes” before Santa had to ask again.
We took turns sitting on his lap, touching his beard and asking him questions about the North Pole. He always had a doll and something more for us, and we provided him with a variety of homemade Christmas cookies and a beer. Being raised Catholic, alcohol was much more appropriate to have with a little cookie, and Santa never turned it away. It was the tradition, a very shorted lived tradition, and it was perfect.
Even when it all made sense it was perfect. Although a big sister might be tough every other day of the year, Christmas Eve is the exception. Out of desperation to share such a big secret, Dad had to learn it was Chub inside the red suit. He was very surprised to find out his old buddy was Santa and, together, we decided it was best if we told no one. So we didn’t, and Old Saint Chub came back every year until Christmas was spent in two different houses and there were no longer little hands to make candy cane cookies for the offering.
Old Saint Chub passed away some time ago, and we were living far away when he took the last sleigh ride in the sky. Every Christmas Eve, it’s tradition to look out the window with eyes filled with magic, if even only for a moment or two, and look for any signs. No one else can hear the reindeer landing, the bells, the laughter and the cheer. It’s Santa’s gift, and it lasts for an eternity because being little girls on Old Saint Chub’s knee ended all too soon.