Saturday, December 6, 2014

Real Santa Chapter 36 (18 days until XMAS)

SNOW WAS FALLING hard now and blanketed the countryside

like the white wool of a Christmas tree skirt. George stared at the

chimney of white frost. Sven and Yergen waved to him with their

rappelling ropes, hanging off both sides of the chimney like they were

standing on the ground. That he was going to go down a chimney

seemed unbelievable to George, and he blamed it squarely on Francis

Pharcellus Church.

Church was the correspondent who had written back to Virginia

O’Hanlon in 1897 and said there really was a Santa Claus. The

editorial he wrote was on Megan’s wall, and they read it together

every year. George had read it alone this year and wondered what

made a man write such a letter. He had researched Francis Pharcellus

Church and found out he was a Civil War correspondent who had

seen humans at their absolute worse. He had taken that damaged

faith in man and given another view of the world. He had pointed

out that the joy of the world is mostly unseen. His was an extremely

religious age which would soon give away to the modernism of the

twentieth century. But this war-weary man gave a spiritual platform

to the Dutch legend of Sinterklaas brought over in the seventeenth

century and Americanized by Clement Moore’s poem ’Twas the

Night Before Christmas, where reindeer were added and the method

of entry became the chimney.

George could feel Church’s pain as he wrote, “Yes, Virginia, there

is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and devotion exist, and

you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and

joy.” He could see the man in his study by gaslight, with his fountain

pen, giving meaning to a world gone mad. “Virginia, your little friends

are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical

age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing

can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds,

Virginia, whether they be men or children, are little.”

And there was the rub. This is what gave George courage to go

the distance and put his marriage and his financial health on the

line. This man who had seen the absolute worst of human beings had

been able to summon up a belief there was something better in the

universe. And George knew his pain. He had felt the pain when he

lost his son and daughter to the carnage of his first marriage.

And as he sat facing a ramp to a roof behind nine reindeer being

slowly covered with snow, he thought about what Church had wrote:

“There would be not childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to

make tolerable this existence.” That is what he failed to give Jeremy and

Jamie—the childlike faith and poetry every parent should give their

children. He had snatched away their childhood under the guise of

making a buck, and he would not commit this carnage twice. Megan

would have a childhood, and if he fell off the chimney or the roof,

then it was worth the risk.

What had Church said in the end of his editorial, a man who had

seen the hell of our bloodiest war. ”You may tear apart the baby’s rattle

and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the

unseen world which not the strongest man that ever lived could tear

apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that

veil and view and picture that supernal beauty and glory beyond …”

George looked at the monitor showing his sleeping daughter. It

was fifteen minutes to midnight, and he was about to push that veil

aside for her. He only wished Jeremy and Jamie were here. He would

love to push that veil aside for them too.


Books by William Hazelgrove