Santa first crossed my radar during an emergency landing in Reykjavik, Iceland. No kidding. There he was, an overweight dude stuffed into a baggy red velour outfit vanishing around a humungous Icelandic snow hill at 1 a.m in a raging blizzard.
“Look! It’s him!” I whispered to my mother.
“Santa! It’s him!”
She’d missed him. But not me. Five-year-olds never miss stuff like that. It was a sign. Santa was following us from Scotland to Canada, What a relief. When your parents cart you around the globe in the middle of winter you worry about details like Santa tracking your movements.
Two days later, while temporarily camping out at our friends’ home north of Toronto, someone switched on the radio.
“We interrupt this broadcast to advise listeners that NORAD is tracking an unidentified object. It’s coming our way from around Greenland,” the announcer reported. I got goose bumps.
“That’s funny.” The announcer sounded mystified.
A hopeful peek into the inky night beyond the snow drifting against the storm window yielded no clue at my end.
“There’s something leaping up and down…and there’s a fat guy…in …. It looks like a sleigh! Don’t worry ladies and gentlemen. NORAD is scrambling aircrafts to intercept.”
I was beginning to panic. It was Christmas Eve. What was the matter with these guys? What did ‘intercept’ mean? It sure didn’t sound good. I’d seen Santa filing his flight plan, now some wise guys in this foreign country were going to take him out!
Making a ‘phone call’ to the radio station, Mother explained that her daughter had seen Santa recently. That could be who it was.
Within the hour, the program was interrupted again.
“NORAD has confirmed the strange object is a sleigh loaded with toys pulled by flying reindeer! A fat man in a red suit seems to be driving – and having a whale of a good time!” Even the announcer was
getting excited. What a relief!
“It’s Santa Claus!” The announcer was positively jubilant. “He’s headed this way! You kids better get to bed!” Off I charged. I knew the rules.
Now, 50 years later, five-year-olds can probably track Santa unassisted on their iPhones.
But in the ‘50s imagination was a kid’s window on cyberspace … and the reception was always perfect. You could see it all clear as day.
In fact, my friend, Maxine, still recalls getting direct calls from Santa at her prairie home around 7 p.m. every Christmas Eve – and that was in the ‘40s. The town’s a ghost town now. But she’s been back.
She says: “There’s still something … different … about that place.”
Despite the tumbleweed and the prairie dust she still pictures the buildings. And, she’s impressed her great-grandchildren with tales of those phone calls.
Maxine and I have talked about it, and we agree. It’s like the old song says: “Me ‘n Gran’paw, we believe.” But, of course, we were there.
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
– Columnist Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is founding publisher and the former editor of the Cloverdale Reporter