Roy Exum: My Runner-Up Story

Tuesday, December 26, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

As I go through my early Morning Readings each day, a stack of wonderful emails my friends and readers send along, and stories that are told around the campfire I hardly ever find there isn’t something I think you’ll enjoy. This Christmas Season I got an abundance of wonderful stories and the way I pick which to share is to run ‘em through my “cry meter.” Honest -- if one makes my allergies cause my eyes to water, I figure the great majority of my readers will have the same problem with their eyes.

On Christmas Eve I shared a glorious story that happened over 100 years ago – a boy’s dad taught him about Christmas. Believe it or not, I had been holding another story for Christmas Day before the Vietnamese “Napalm Girl” knocked me to my knees. That story perfectly exemplified the “hope” I want to share with so many of my friends who are having a tough time getting through the holidays.

But now Christmas is gone until next year and – in theory – I can’t share the wonderful tale of how an all-knowing grandmother convinced an eight-year-old that, yes, there is a Santa Claus. Praise God that Theory and Reality are sometimes not one and the same. There is no rule that I can’t share my First Runner-Up Story. I don’t know the author of “My First Christmas Adventure with Grandma” but as the writer remembered what had happened some fifty years after the adventure occurred, I hope I’ll remember this to my grave:

* * *

MY FIRST CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE WITH GRANDMA”

I was just a kid.

I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus?" she snorted...."Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.

For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that. "Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. "Yes, ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby."

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it.

Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were -- ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

May you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!

* * *

“When you stop believing in Santa Claus all you gonna’ get from then on is underwear.”

* * *

“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.” Chris Van Allsburg in “The Polar Express.”

* * *

“Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy; who gives himself by thought or word or deed in every gift that he bestows; who shares his joys with those who are sad; whose hand is never closed against the needy; whose arm is ever outstretched to aid the weak; whose sympathy is quick and genuine in time of trouble; who recognizes a comrade and brother in every man he meets upon life's common road; who lives his life throughout the entire year in the Christmas spirit.” – Edwin Osgood Grover.

royexum@aol.com


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