Santa’s Grotto was buzzing with excitement in the Department Store as I browsed nearby, and I smiled to myself when I overheard one little boy say to his Mother
‘But how can Santy be in the Grotto when we just passed him outside the front door?’
‘Magic, Santy is magic, he can be all over the place, yep he can go wherever he likes, how else could he deliver the presents on Christmas Eve?’
The answer seemed to satisfy the little boy and in the middle of that busy store a memory of my childhood flitted through my mind.
I was back in the kitchen of our two up two down terraced house listening to my Mother singing along with Bing Crosby on the wireless, as she tackled a mound of ironing. From the narrow hall came the sound of one of my older sister bawling, and next minute she was in the middle of the room with tears streaming down her face.
‘In the name of God, what’s happened to you?’
With the fright of seeing my sister in such a state, my Mam almost forgot to lift the iron off one of my Dad’s army shirts,
‘Joanie Murphy in school said Santy isn’t real when I told her I’d been down to see him in Hawe’s Shop. And then...’
Another flood of tears came along with a bout of hiccups, but I remember how my heart thumped as thoughts flooded my mind it couldn’t be true, could it? I’d gone down to see Santy in Hawes shop too and told him I wanted roller skates with ball bearings
‘Stop crying and tell me what else did Joanie Murphy say’
My mother said as she handed a cup of cold water to Mary.
‘She said I was a right eejit, cos everyone knew Santy in Hawes was really Dad dressed up like Santy. But she’s lying Mam isn’t she, she’s only a dirty rotten liar, isn’t she?’
I remember how my Mam hugged her and whispered
‘Of course, she’s lying, shur do you think Dad could deliver presents to all the children in the world on Christmas Eve. Look, wait til Dad comes in from work and you can ask him yourself’
Mary wasn’t the only one waiting for my Dad to come home from work that day. I’d run upstairs the first chance I got to tell my younger brothers what Joanie Murphy had said, and they’d stared at me wide-eyed in disbelief. So, the four of us worried and waited in the hall while my Mother continued her ironing.
At last, the sound of whistling came closer and Dad’s heavy boots echoed on the pavement outside the house. We squealed with delight when he produced a bag of toffees for us. But then Mary asked him the question.
‘Dad, Are you Santy Claus?’
He burst out laughing, and I knew everything was all right.
‘How could I be Santy Claus’
Dad said as he pushed open the kitchen door and shrugged out of his heavy overcoat. But Mary kept on at him and told him what Joanie Murphy had said. In the end he’d told her she’d better not take any notice of what people said, because if one of Santy’s robins heard her doubting Santy being real, well he mightn’t call to our house at all.
But then a couple of days later, Dad came home from work and he told us he’d something to show us, something that would put our minds at ease about Santy. The next minute he pulled a photo out of his pocket and in the photo, there was Dad standing with Santy.
‘Now, how can I be Santy, if Santy is standing here beside?. Shur everyone knows there’s only one Santy’.