When we were little, Our Santa Claus lived at our house. Short, rotund and in control of a fire-engine red vehicle, Our Santa was jolly and generous with toys and gifts and constantly monitored our behavior throughout the year. But that was where the resemblance to Kris Kringle ended.
Our Santa had dark, curly hair and wore Coty’s perfume and crisp bluejeans, starched blouses of plaid and gingham and drove a new Ford pickup powered by eight cylinders instead of eight tiny reindeer. Our Santa was a woman in her prime, not some doting old man with a pack on his back.
Named for the jewel that represented her favorite color, Our Santa was our Grandma Ruby. Our mother was her only child and she belonged exclusively to us. She never called herself Santa, always trying to keep us in the dark, playing along with that North Pole legend. BUT WE KNEW!!
We knew where those three foot dollies, matching pedal cars, Easy Bake ovens and genuine Roy Rogers’ cap guns with tooled leather holsters came from. Every year the pile of loot surrounding our enormous Christmas tree grew in proportion to the newest addition to the family. In fact, even our Christmas tree came from Our Santa’s very own Christmas tree lot. But she was tricky. We never actually saw her unload anything from her rolling red sleigh. Other kids had to wait until Christmas morning to open their plunder, but not us. Our Santa started our Christmas Eve magic as soon as the sun went down.
Dressed in our holiday finery, we performed in the church Christmas pageant, worshipped at the manger and then loaded up in the old Desoto with our mother and toured the Christmas displays and lights in the fancy neighborhoods on Ocean Drive.
While we were gone, Our Santa and her helper, a tall blue-eyed elf we called Daddy, busily set up a bounty for nine children that a single child can only imagine. Some years the elf had to move the couch into the dining room to make room for the treasure trove.
When we returned home from light seeing and searching the heavens for a glimpse of the bearded guy and his reindeer, we entered a darkened and hushed house. The tree gleamed, O Little Town of Bethlehem played softly on the hi-fi and all our Christmas dreams had come true.
Mom put us into our pajamas, the elf stirred the Christmas fudge and Our Santa basted the turkey and whistled “Santy Claus is Coming to Town.”