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The Year Santa Came to Town

The morning was cold and crisp. My Mom was in the kitchen stuffing the bird, Dad was frying up the eggs for Christmas morning brunch. I was setting the table. My brothers and sisters were all lurking about. It was Christmas morning 1981, I was 18 years old, and my younger brother had turned 16 that summer. In the months leading up to Christmas Day, my brother had taken great enjoyment in teasing my parents about wanting a car for Christmas. With 6 children in the house we knew this wasn't remotely possible. He would have to endure taking his turn driving the green Mercury station wagon complete with wood paneling. My brother either out of fun or desperation played the game right to the very end.

Christmas morning that year was much like the many before, steeped in tradition. Our Christmas had began the night before with Christmas Eve mass. Regardless of our late night, we always manage to start the day early. We began by unloading our stockings from Santa. My mother was still honoring the magic of Santa Claus since my youngest sisters were just 12 at the time. I’m sure the gig was up but no one dared say anything for my mother’s sake. The morning proceeded with brunch and then we would undress the tree. My mother never liked us to rush the day.

While she was finishing preparing the turkey, my brother began his banter about a car from Santa. He even went so far as to go to the front door to see if it was parked in the driveway. He opened the door and his eyes caught the attention of a package on the porch. There nestled up against the side of the house, wrapped in red Christmas paper was a present. A simple white envelope laid on top of the wrapped box, it read ‘The Kowalsky Family.’

We were all in a little bit shock when my mother opened the card. It was a simple Christmas card one that you could buy at any card shop, it was signed Santa Claus. Questions began to fly. What an exciting morning as the quest began to uncover the identity of our Santa. Phone calls to various family and friends were placed. However, everyone denied any involvement. Believing this was a one-time gift we left it alone. No one was going to own up to it. While I can recall the details of the morning most vividly, I cannot tell you what was in the box. It didn’t matter. The gesture was exciting enough.

The next Christmas another gift arrived and we began the investigation all over again. Still we could not unravel the identity of our mystery Santa.

For the next 30 years we have gathered together on Christmas day and each year a gift has arrived from our Santa Claus. That small gift, the magic of it appearing out of nowhere, a simple card signed Santa Claus creates in us a sense of wonder and excitement. The same feeling you cherish from the first Christmas you can recall of your childhood, the magic we all try to create each year for our own families.

For our family, Santa Claus is not something that is reserved for the young, nor is he a fictional character. I have been experiencing the spirit of Santa Claus along with the rest of my family for over 30 years. The gifts have arrived in various forms, some left on front door steps, some gifts have arrived by taxi, some were left at the back of the church on Christmas Eve, others delivered by a Santa-for-hire. We even moved one year, Santa followed us. The contents of the box never really matters. The arrival of the gift, the card with his signature are all we need to bring us back to the wonder of a child on Christmas morning.

After the first couple of years the questions and investigations stopped. We acknowledged and respected the gifts with the intentions with which they were given. His identity no longer became our quest. We gracefully accepted the gifts as they were meant to be with no expectation or reciprocation.

Each year when we gather on Christmas Day and one at time as we arrive, my mother will hand us the card and show us the gift. For those few moments we ponder our Secret Santa, appreciate his years of service to our family and his contribution to keeping the spirit of Christmas alive long after our childhood years have passed.

To all my readers I wish you a very Merry Christmas, may your day be filled with magic and wonder!