Santa gets to meet Santa in a delightful Christmas story by author Roumen Tchernev that reminds us to be thankful for what we have.
The snowfall is heavy. I don’t mean that it’s wet or comes in clumps. It’s heavy like a waterfall. Billions of snowflakes rush down to the ground full speed ahead. You may look up, but you can’t feel them through your hat or clothes. You just have that feeling of permanence, eternity and helplessness.
I hold the clapper of the bell with one hand to make sure it does not ring. In the other, I carry a large red bag with presents. It’s Christmas. In a minute, I will enter my own house through the front door. I will ring the bell and cry – “HO, HO, HO! It’s me, Santa!”
In the holiday hustle and bustle around the Christmas dinner, no one noticed me slip through the back door, having donned the perfect Santa costume to rival those of Children’s books and movies. Only my wife sneeks down with me to the basement to help me get dressed. Well, in fairness she does more than help. It’s hard for me to bend in this suit and cover my shoes with the faux leather boots that came with it. That’s a very important part of the makeover. I remember that many, many years ago, the shoes gave my uncle away and crushed my childhood belief in Santa. Every bit of my regular clothes is carefully covered by Santa’s suit, my face is sweating profusely under the artificial beard and wig, and I can not recognize myself in the mirror.
At home, I have four grandchildren, two daughters, two sons-in-law and, of course, my co-conspirator for over forty years – my wife. I have long experience replacing Santa Claus. Many years ago, my daughters learned songs and poems and recited them on my knee, in an awesome anticipation of a long-awaited gift. At that time they sang “My sweet, dear mother” and “A penny in every pocket”. Now it is my grandchildren’s turn. “There is no rest for Santa.”
“HO-HO-HO,” I ring the bell and walk in. The youngest grandson starts crying, the two four-year-old ladies are transfixed, jaws dropped. “Santa is here.” My eldest grandson can barely resist giggling. He had already learned the truth about Santa from two wise guys at school.
My family ushers me to the armchair, which was prepared in advance for this ritual. The eldest grandson will lead the way. He’s in on the game this year. He sits on my knee and answers some biographical questions. Next he will play a tune on the trumpet for Santa, but it does not work. He’s still cracking up and can barely play a note. Still, I hear 2 or 3 notes. Then, a gift and a kiss on the cheek.
Next. The first granddaughter, trembling, climbs on my knee. She tells me her name and the names of mom and dad. What will she perform? Of course, she will sing Jingle Bells … It’s in vogue! A gift. Her hands are shaking. I help her open the package.
“Oh, Santa, this is an Elsa doll,” a favorite Frozen character. Kiss. The kiss is genuine.
The second granddaughter: Jingle Bells once again; her whole being is quivering. Her little soul is ready to burst from her body with awe and excitement. “Anna!” Elsa’s sister, of course, another favorite doll. Dear Lord, what a kiss! It’s finally my tiny grandson’s turn. He’s crying and does not want to come near. He’s afraid. Finally, his mom picks him up and they sit together on my knee. The performance is a flop, but the gift is not!
I eat my cookie and drink my milk. That’s what Santa gets. I hurry off. Many children are awaiting their presents.
In reality, I desperately need to scratch under the beard, the wig has fallen over my eyes, and the plastic hairs tickle my lashes. Leaving and heading towards the back entrance I stop around the corner to fix my wig. Looking up it is still the same heavy snow and the vast, infinite sky. It’s dark and billions of hurried snowflakes pour over me under the pale lights of the neighbor’s windows. And then suddenly I see him. Just overhead, sitting in a enchanted sleigh pulled by reindeer.
“Hey, ho-ho-ho! Thank you for replacing me again this year. You’ve done it so many times now. Tell me, how can I repay you? What should I give you? Anything I can do for you?”
“Nothing” I tell him, “I do not want anything. Everything I have is just enough.”
My name is Roumen Tchernev and I am a first-generation immigrant in the United States from Bulgaria. Born in 1948 in the town of Silistra, Bulgaria, I came to America, following my two daughters who earned their graduate degrees and eventually settled in the United States.
I am a graduate of the Bulgarian Naval Academy and I sailed on a Merchant Ships as a second and first mate in my early carreer. Later I worked as Head of the Danube river port in my native town of Silistra, Bulgaria and Executive Director of the local tourist company. For 14 years now, I have been a mathematics teacher in several Kansas City public schools. I am now retired, but continue to work as a substitute teacher.