HomeChesapeake Bay LifeWhat the World Needs Now is More Santas
Lynn Franklin, The Blue Diamond, Light Mystery

Lynn Franklin, Dachshund Wears Hat, Light Mystery

As we bid adieu to the holiday season, it’s often inspiring to reflect on holidays past before marching into the future.

Do you remember the first time you saw Santa?  Was he ringing a bell in the cold?  Riding in a parade?  Ho-ho-ho’ing in the mall?

I was maybe six years old when Santa lumbered through our front door, all jolly in his red suit, shiny black belt and white beard.  My brother, four, stared with Bambi eyes as Santa jangled a strap of bells, “ho, ho, ho’ed” and asked if we’d been good.  “Yes,” we chanted together.

He believed us.

While Phil gave Santa a list of what he wanted for Christmas, I looked outside.  No sleigh.  No reindeer.

“Where’s Rudolph?” ILynn Franklin, The Blue Diamond, Light Mystery demanded with all the indignation a six-year-old can muster.

For a moment, Santa’s eyes widened.  Then he threw back his head and laughed, a full-belly laugh that made his whiskers ripple.  I couldn’t see anything funny, so I folded my arms and waited for an answer.

Santa finally lowered his eyes and with great solemness said Rudolph was organizing the other reindeer for tonight’s flight.

Hmm. . .

Flash forward a dozen years.  I was a senior in high school, chomping at the bit like Santa’s reindeer, anxious for graduation and my entry into college.  Determined to prove my worth as an adult, I’d loaded my days with extracurricular activities.  Among these was volunteering at a nearby experimental school for children with “special needs.”

The concept was to bring together children who’d be outsiders at regular public schools into a single, sheltered setting.  The “needs” ranged from emotional to physical.  Children who couldn’t see rubbed shoulders with children confined to wheelchairs.  One young lady painted detailed watercolors using a brush gripped between her teeth.  A boy with severe Down’s syndrome couldn’t hold up his over-sized head, but he could offer a dazzling smile to everyone who passed.  A bright ten-year-old bubbled with enthusiasm – except after weekends when her drug-addled mother attempted a visit.

Then there was a little blond I’ll call “Lily” whose deafness prevented her from hearing her mother’s words, the twitter of birds or the singing of carols.

My job was to help teachers supervise the children in the cafeteria, where everyone gathered before classes.  We adults strolled the room, talking to the children while ensuring there were no fights, roughhousing or verbal bullying.  In the process, I fell in love with each child, wanted to embrace and protect them all.

Which may be why as the holiday season approached, the principal asked me to coordinate a school-wide party.  It would be a class-by-class event, maybe with carols and treats and, oh, did I know anyone who could play Santa?

Boy, did I ever.

Lynn Franklin, Light Mystery, The Blue Diamond

The Santa from my childhood was Bill Homze, a police officer who kept all of us safe.

The Santa from my childhood was “Uncle Bill”, a close family friend.  By day, Bill Homze patrolled our small Pittsburgh suburb in his police car, watching over children and teenagers as we tramped to and from school.  He knew every child’s name, where they lived, what sports or instrument they played, what mischief they might display.  Just the knowledge that Uncle Bill was on the job somehow made our world safe.

The thought of introducing the best Santa in the whole darn world to the children I’d come to love thrilled me.  And, yes, Uncle Bill would do it.

In preparation, I invited a select group of friends to sing carols.  One friend played the flute; another the guitar.  They promised to practice carols to accompany our singers.  Mothers volunteered to bake cookies and cupcakes, a local butcher donated small cartons of orange juice.  I solicited toy donations from other businesses and wrapped them in red paper for girls’ gifts, green for boys’.  From my babysitting money I bought a Hardy Boys mystery for our artist who loved to read.

On the day of the party, we gathered outside the school.  Uncle Bill greeted each volunteer by name, shook his string of jingle bells and led the way into the school.

Each class greeted our arrival with cheers and squeals.  While Santa handed out presents, my friends and I sang accompanied by guitar and flute.  Or at least, most of my friends sang.

“Why aren’t you singing?” I whispered.

“Don’t know the words.”

Don’t know the words to “Silent Night”?

My friend rolled her eyes.  “It’s not exactly a Hanukkah song, now is it?”

I felt my own eyes widen.  Yes, it was the holiday season.  But not everyone celebrated Christmas.  Yet these wonderful friends of mine volunteered to bring joy to these children.  Even if it meant humming along to songs when they didn’t know the words.

We added a Hanukkah song to our repertoire and now it was my turn to hum along.

In the class for older children, I slipped the wrapped book to the artist.  With a squeal she used her gnarled, club-like fingers to rip the paper.  Before we even left the room, her nose was buried in the book.

Finally, we came to the last class, sang our last song, passed out the last gift.  And then Lily approached Santa.  Tugging on his coat, she pointed to the string of jingle bells he held.

Lynn Franklin, Jeweler's Granddaughter MysteryMy heart clenched.  Until now, Lily had been laughing and giggling along with everyone else.  What would she do, however, when she shook the bells and couldn’t hear them?  I couldn’t bear to see Lily cry.

I opened my mouth to warn Uncle Bill, but he was already detaching the bells from his belt.  Lily snagged the end and shook the string furiously.  The bells jangled.

And Lily laughed.  Eyes wide, head thrown back, she jangled the bells and skipped around Santa.

Did the bells chime at a frequency that Lily could actually hear?  Or was she reacting to the feel of the things, the vibrations that surely tickled her fingers and raced up her arm?

Uncle Bill gave me a knowing wink.  Whatever Lily was feeling or hearing, Santa knew the bells would produce this reaction.

Santa knew.

So as we look forward to the coming year, perhaps we can all carry the joy of the holidays with us and channel our inner Santas in all our interactions with others, no matter how different they may be.

What about you?  Do you have special memories that you carry throughout the year?  Santas you’ve loved?  Holiday moments you cherish?  If so, please share them.

I love to hear from you!



What the World Needs Now is More Santas — 9 Comments

  1. What a wonderful story. This Chirstmas eve I heard a story from my mother’s childhood I had never heard before. We lost my mother six years ago, but still spend every Christmas eve with her mother (Granner) and her brother and sisters. They had help move thier Aunt and Uncle up to Colorado and were worried Santa would not find them. Much to their suprise Santa did show up – in a Taxi! Being Texas Hill Country kids they had never seen a real taxi and that it amazing Santa had used a cab driver to find them.

  2. A lovely stroll down memory lane, thank you. My favorite Christmas memory is from my 11th Christmas when the reality of it all finally sunk in, ever do slowly. I lived in a tiny apartment with my mother. By this particular Christmas we’d been in the apartment three winters. Each Christmas, we’d decorate a small tree and hang our stockings on a chair rail in the hall. Finally, as we hung the stockings this particular year, I asked, “How does Santa get in? We don’t have a fireplace.” I believe I was still expecting an actual explanation.
    My mother couldn’t keep up the ruse. I was 11 after all. How old we’re you, Lynn, when you figured it out?

    • Lovely story, Janet. And leave it to a child without a fireplace to poke a finger at the major flaw in the Santa story. You know, I don’t remember how old I was when I figured it out. What I do remember is Mom saying “Don’t tell your brother.”

  3. What a lovely post. I especially loved Lily and the bells. I hadn’t thought about using Microsoft clip art for the blogs. Thanks for the idea.

  4. I Love this post, Lynn. Beautiful Christmas memories. Your blog looks great. The clip art is such a good idea! Happy New Year!

  5. PS I’m from Pgh, too! We moved to Calif when I was 8. This is the first blog I’ve left a comment on with my iPad mini! Still learning how to use it!

  6. What a beautiful story Lynn! Thanks for sharing with everyone. My fondest memory of the true meaning of Christmas is when I was about 12 or 13 years old, I was in 7th or 8th grade at Wilkins Jr Hi and was one of seven children in my family. We didn’t have much money then and Christmas in my house was focused on my younger twin brothers, about 2 or 3. I really didn’t want anything, just wanted my little brothers to have a nice Christmas. After everyone open their gifts, there at the bottom of the pile, Santa had left a gift for me. When I opened the present, I had a new pair of shoes! Hadn’t really noticed how awful my shoes were up to that point, and with all the pressure of Jr. Hi, etc. but, I cherished those shoes. Happy Holidays.

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