“Next Saturday we are going to see Santa Claus,” my mom would say. All week long I was excited. I would get to meet Santa Claus and sit on his lap. I would have the opportunity to tell him everything I wanted for Christmas.
It was never a very long list, just one or two toys. One year, for example, I wanted a Daisy rifle. Not a real rifle but a toy. It was heavy like a real rifle, and it would make the sound of a ricochet when you pressed the trigger. It was amazing, and I really, really wanted it.
On the appointed Saturday morning I was going to see Santa Claus, I was up bright and early. My mom had laid out my best church clothes the night before. I would get up, dress, and head to a hot breakfast. Then I would have to wait forever for her to get ready. Not only was I in my best dress clothes, but she was also. She would get all dolled up. It seemed to take forever.
Mom never had a driver’s license.
She would take me by the hand, and we would walk to the bus stop. We took the bus to Journal Square where we would board the Path subway train to New York City. We would get off at 33rd street. The closer the train got to our stop, the more excited I became. The anticipation was overwhelming.
We walked up the stairs out of the subway, and there we were at Herald Square. The hustle and bustle of New York City was amazing. People everywhere. Traffic everywhere. Lights everywhere. The lights and decorations would dazzle me.
The chaos and excitement made me grip mom’s hand tighter.
We always went to Macy’s department store first. It was right across the street from Gimbels. These were the two multi-story department stores in New York at the time. Mom said, “Macy’s has the real Santa Claus.” Who was I to argue?
We would find the elevator straight away. We always had to wait in line with the other shoppers. I was so little, all I could see were shoes, legs, and purses. When we finally boarded the elevator, the operator would call out the next floor and what could be found there. Then I would hear, “Fourth floor, toys.” That was me!
Holding hands, we would step off the elevator.
What we saw was a magical wonderland of toys, lights, and Christmas decorations which overwhelmed the senses. It was so beautiful. Macy’s sure did know how to make Christmas shopping a memorable and exciting experience. I’ll never forget it.
We walked around the toy floor looking for the signs to Santa Claus. I wanted to touch every toy we passed, but mom would yank on my hand to be sure we stayed true to our objective.
As we turned a corner, there he was. Santa Claus’s area was decorated how you would think the North Pole would look. Snow, glitter, lights, a white fence, a throne made of gold and red velvet, elves everywhere, children screaming.
It was so wonderfully exciting.
Here was another line to stand in, but I never remember it being very long. Little by little we would mover closer and closer to Santa. Soon it would be my turn to sit on his lap and talk to him. And then it was my turn. My mom put me on his lap, and he looked into my eyes. I swear they sparkled like in the picture book.
He said, “Well, young man, have you been good this year?”
I thought, Do I lie? Do I tell him all the good things I did? Maybe now is the time to confess.
My mom said, “He is a good boy.” I love my mom.
Santa then asked, “What would you like for Christmas?”
He was so big and so real. I was overwhelmed.
I couldn’t think of one thing to say. So he kept talking, and I just stared in awe. I was thinking, I’m with Santa Claus. I’m with Santa Claus.
As quickly as it started, it ended. I was ushered off and back into the toy department. I stopped my mom by yanking on her hand and said, “I want to look at Santa again.” We stopped and looked back. He was magnificent.
My mom would make this trip to New York City with me every year. I bet we did it when I was five years old until I was maybe eight. This was our time together.
My mom loved me and wanted to be with me. She wanted me to experience the buses, the trains, the people, the smells of food, the lights, the toys, and, of course, Santa Claus. And she wanted us to experience it together.
And the angel said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”Luke 2:10-11
Yes! He is Emmanuel which means “God is with us.” He loves me and wants to be with me, just like my mom did.