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For the last 59 years, children all over the world have listened to NORAD’s Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve to make sure he’s on his way to their house.  I know that as a child I listened to it.  We had one of those huge old radios made of wood with gold colored knobs on it and a big half circle dial that lit up when the radio was on.  My dad would listen to the radio until late every night when he came home from work.  On Christmas Eve, as we were bouncing off the walls with excitement, he would call us over and turn the dial and we would hear that eerie crackle-static-hum-buzz as the station tuned to the report of where Santa was at that moment.  We would hush and listen intently and when told we had to go to bed before Santa could come, we knew he was on his way and off to bed we went.

This morning, a friend posted a link on Facebook (thanks, Kris) that lead me to a story of how NORAD’s Santa Tracker got started.  As I read the article, I fought a losing battle with my tears.  This time of year makes me teary anyway but when I read about the man that started it all and how it was actually an accident that it even started, I couldn’t help it.  It seemed like magic to me and, afterall, isn’t that what Christmas is about–magic?!

According to the article, it started with a typo in a Sears store ad in which Santa invited children to call him day or night.  The ad listed the wrong phone number.  The number that was listed rang a special phone which sat on the desk of Col. Harry Shoup, the commander of the Continental Air Defense Command (now known as NORAD).  It was a special hotline phone that only two people knew the number to, Col. Shoup and a 4 star general at the Pentagon.  It was December of 1955–in the middle of the Cold War–and the special phone on Col. Shoup’s desk was a hotline to inform of an air attack on the United States.  Imagine the panic and then the irritation when the hotline rang one day and Col. Shoup answered to hear the voice of a child asking if he was Santa!  Shoup was outraged when he heard the child, thinking it was a joke, then he realized that the little boy was crying and that the call was real so he changed his tone and pretended to be Santa for the little boy then asked to talk to the boy’s mother who told Shoup how they got the number.  Sure enough, as Shoup looked up the Sears ad, the hotline phone kept ringing with tiny voices of children all over the United States, wanting to talk to Santa.  Shoup got two of his men and assigned them to answer the calls and pretend to be Santa.  It became a joke within Shoup’s men and one day, when Shoup walked in to the air command center where there was a huge glass board that tracked every airplane that came into American and Canadian air space, he saw that someone had drawn a sleigh with eight reindeer coming over the North Pole.  The men offered to take the drawing down but the Colonel looked at it for a few minutes then called the radio station and identified himself as the commander at the Air Alert Center and reported that there was an unidentified flying object that looked like a sleigh.  The radio stations ran with it and began to call the command center every hour for a report of where Santa was.  And that’s how it started.

Be sure to go read the article I linked to above.  The story is told by Col. Shoup’s three adult children.  They go on to tell of how Col. Shoup began to get letters from all over the world thanking him for creating the Santa Tracker.  He was so proud of those letters that he carried them around in a locked briefcase.

I once had a little taste of how it feels to be Santa for just a little while so I can imagine how Col. Shoup felt being able to bring the magic of Christmas and Santa to children around the world.  It’s a pretty special feeling…a magical feeling!

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This story is of a very special sighting by none other than myself.  To this day I swear this really happened, even though I can’t explain it.

I will never forget one particular Christmas Eve, a night filled with magic.

We had all been sent to bed. The others were all asleep but I was wide awake. I listened to the sound of my parents in the other room, talking to my aunt and uncle, laughing, and having a happy time.

I moved and I turned carefully so I would not to wake my sisters sleeping in the bed next to me. I closed my eyes tightly, hoping that they would stay closed and I would sleep. I was afraid of not being able to sleep. My parents had reminded us, just before sending us to bed, that Santa would not stop at our house if we were not asleep. And so I lay in bed praying that I’d go to sleep so that Santa would come to our house. If I didn’t sleep and Santa stayed away, my brothers and sisters would find out that it had been my fault and they would be very angry at me!

It was no use. I couldn’t sleep. I was angry at myself for being so excited! I was keeping myself awake just by thinking about going to sleep! There was nothing to do.  The lights were off and the room was totally dark. I could not see anything. I couldn’t even move or my sisters would wake up. I made my eyes small so maybe  I could see things and at least keep myself busy looking around the room.

Finally I was able to see the chest of drawers  that held our clothes in its four drawers — one for each of my three sisters and the last for me. The second drawer held Irene’s clothes. She had left it open. It was almost closed, but not quite. There was something hanging out of the drawer. Perhaps whatever was hanging out had kept it from closing, or maybe Irene just hadn’t taken the time to close it all the way. She did that sometimes, because she’d get excited and forget to finish doing what she was doing.

Suddenly, I thought I saw something move! But everyone in the room was asleep except me! I looked carefully and saw it once again. There was something small moving. It was red and green. It looked like a tiny man. He was wearing a pointy hat and moved quickly and silently.

I kept quiet so I wouldn’t be spotted. Then another of these little tiny men appeared. They whispered to each other and moved to the dresser. I watched as they went through the drawer, pulling out our long stockings — one from each drawer. When they turned in my direction, I shut my eyes tightly.

With my eyes closed I heard a voice speak.  It was a light and friendly voice.  I carefully and slowly opened my eyes so I wouldn’t be spotted, just in case they were watching me. I couldn’t believe what I saw! There — in the room I shared with my three sisters — was a short round man with a long white beard and a moustache. He wore a red velvet suit with white fluffy cotton around the edges and on his feet, I saw black shining boots with a gold buckle.

 

Just as I was about to call out “Santa!” the round little man looked at me with a smile and a wink. He put one finger to his lips and with the other hand he sprinkled sparkly dust on my eyes.

The next thing I knew, my little sister was calling my name and tugging at my nightgown. “Hurry! Get up! It’s time to go open the presents! Hurry!”

I rubbed my eyes and looked around the room. Where was Santa? The darkness was gone too. The elves were gone. Santa was gone.

“Hurry! Hurry! Time to open presents. Hurry! Get up!” called Irene.

“Where’s Santa?” I asked, still trying to rub the sparkly dust out of my eyes.

“I dunno. Maybe he’s at home now,” answered five year old Irene.

I rubbed my eyes and looked around the room one more time. There were no elves and no Santa. I got up and followed Irene into the hall where the others were waiting for me so we could all go into the living room together to open the presents.

“I saw Santa Claus,” I announced proudly.

My brothers laughed. “Yeah! We saw him at the store yesterday too!”

“No! He was here! He was in my room last night. I saw him and two elves. They were in the room! You guys were sleeping! I saw him! I did!”

“What did they want? For you to choose all your own presents?” Carlos laughed as he looked at Richard and David. They just shook their heads and smiled.

My parents came into the hall and let us into the room with the big Christmas tree and all the presents.

“I saw Santa Claus! Mami! Deddy! I saw Santa Claus!” I ran to them to tell them but they just smiled at me and gently pushed me into the room with the tall snow sprayed  tree.

“He was in my room. There were two elves. They were getting stockings from our drawers,” I insisted.

“Oh! Really!? What were they doing with the stockings? They’re supposed to bring you things, not take them from you!” my oldest brother added.

“I don’t know. They were there. That’s all I know. They took my new white ones with the little flowers on them…but only one of them. Then they took Gilda’s that my Nino and Nina gave her for her birthday, the pink ones with little bows, but just one…” I continued to tell them excitedly, ignoring the tree with the presents that the others were already grabbing.

My parents said I could tell them later. I should open presents now. They didn’t believe me.

I was sad because no one believed me, only Irene and Gilda, the little ones. They believed me. No one else. Even the presents that I opened didn’t make me feel better. I just wanted them to know that I wasn’t imagining it. I really had seen Santa Claus! And I had seen the elves too!

As we finished opening all of the presents, Irene pointed. “Look! There’s my stocking! Why’s it there?”

We all looked and saw stockings. My new white one with the flowers … Gilda’s pink one with the bows … Irene’s blue one with little pink roses on them … and Sylvia’s white ones with candy canes…they were all there. Even my parents didn’t know why they were there. We got them and found them filled with candy, nuts, fruit, and coins. Just like in the books and the movies … we had gotten stockings from Santa for the first time!

My parents looked surprised.  They looked at each other . . .  then they looked at me  . . .  I smiled as I took my stocking.

“I told you I saw Santa Claus and the elves. They were taking our stockings from our drawers. I told you!”  I smiled as big a smile as I could, when  I said it.

I took my stocking and enjoyed the candy and nuts all day long. But what I really enjoyed most of all was knowing that I had seen Santa Claus. I was the only one that had seen him. I did not  imagine it!  I had seen Santa Claus. Santa Claus was real, and he had winked at me!

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Note: This was originally posted here in December of 2007 but I thought some might like to re-read it.  I hope you enjoy it.

When my kids were in elementary school, there was a dad that would put on the Santa suit each year and he’d be driven in on a fire truck during the middle of a fire drill when the entire student body was out on the playground. After wishing everyone a Merry Christmas through a loud speaker, the kids would go back to class and Santa would make the rounds to each of the classrooms. The kids loved it.

However, once the dad’s youngest son was gone from the school, we had no one to play Santa. It was 1995 and I was the PTA president that year. We asked a number of the dads that were active with our Foundation and with PTA. We asked our male staff members. No luck. Everyone said no. So we were faced with not having a Santa Claus visit that year. To top things off, one family that was new to our school, said they were offended by the Santa visits because they were of a different faith and their children did not believe in Santa Claus. For a while, we thought we’d just quietly put an end to the tradition. Then some other mothers spoke up and said that they would be just as offended by not having a Santa Claus. It was very difficult to please them all and we tried to keep in mind that the ones that we should really be trying to please were the children. So we had a compromise. We continued to look for a Santa Claus but instead of having him arrive on school grounds, during school time, we had Santa appear at our after school Santa Shoppe, a Christmas boutique for the kids to come buy gifts for their family. The idea was that Santa would sit in a chair in the side room which would be decorated appropriately and parents could bring their kids in to sit on Santa’s lap and tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas. One mom set up with a Polaroid camera in case someone wanted a picture.

One problem remained. We had no Santa Claus! I couldn’t stand disappointing the kids, and Christmas is MY DAY! My birthday is on Christmas and I love the holiday. So I was determined to have Santa Claus visit the children, even if I had to wear the suit myself. And that’s exactly what I did. I was Santa Claus that year. There was just one problem. My youngest child was in kindergarten and desperately needed to keep believing in Santa Claus. So how would I handle that? I finally got the idea to just tell her that Santa was very busy so close to Christmas and he had to have helpers and I had been chosen as one of his helpers that year. She was so excited! Her mommy was Santa’s official helper! We swore her to secrecy so none of the other kids would find out. She gladly obeyed!

That one afternoon that I spent inside the Santa suit was one of the best six hour periods I have ever spent. It was hot in the suit. The wig and facial hair were itchy. But that didn’t matter. I was Santa Claus and as such, I was the subject of every child’s fantasy! They came and talked to me and held my hand, sat on my lap and asked me to go for a walk with them. Every hour or so, my daughter would hold one of my hands and we’d walk around the main room of the boutique saying hi to the kids and moms and letting them take our picture. For just a little while, I was idolized by so many! There was complete trust in me as Santa. They all wanted to be around me. I felt like the Pied Piper!

If you ever get the opportunity to play Santa, do it! You won’t regret it. It is the best feeling in the world!

In this photo, we are on our hourly walk to meet and greet. My daughter is the little dark haired girl holding my hand.

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(This was originally posted on this blog in December 2007)

When my kids were in elementary school, there was a dad that would put on the Santa suit each year and he’d be driven in on a fire truck during the middle of a fire drill when the entire student body was out on the playground. After wishing everyone a Merry Christmas through a loud speaker, the kids would go back to class and Santa would make the rounds to each of the classrooms. The kids loved it.

However, once the dad’s youngest son was gone from the school, we had no one to play Santa. It was 1995 and I was the PTA president that year. We asked a number of the dads that were active with out Foundation and with PTA. We asked our male staff members. No luck. Everyone said no. So we were faced with not having a Santa Claus visit that year. To top things off, one family that was new to our school, said they were offended by the Santa visits because they were of a different faith and their children did not believe in Santa Claus. For a while, we thought we’d just quietly put an end to the tradition. Then some other mothers spoke up and said that they would be just as offended by not having a Santa Claus. It was very difficult to please them all and we tried to keep in mind that the ones that we should really be trying to please were the children. So we had a compromise. We continued to look for a Santa Claus but instead of having him arrive on school grounds, during school time, we had Santa appear at our after school Santa Shoppe, a Christmas boutique for the kids to come buy gifts for their family. The idea was that Santa would sit in a chair in the side room which would be decorated appropriately and parents could bring their kids in to sit on Santa’s lap and tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas. One mom set up with a Polaroid camera in case someone wanted a picture.

One problem remained. We had no Santa Claus! I couldn’t stand disappointing the kids, and Christmas is MY DAY! My birthday is on Christmas and I love the holiday. So I was determined to have Santa Claus visit the children, even if I had to wear the suit myself. And that’s exactly what I did. I was Santa Claus that year. There was just one problem. My youngest child was in kindergarten and desperately needed to keep believing in Santa Claus. So how would I handle that? I finally got the idea to just tell her that Santa was very busy so close to Christmas and he had to have helpers and I had been chosen as one of his helpers that year. She was so excited! Her mommy was Santa’s official helper! We swore her to secrecy so none of the other kids would find out. She gladly obeyed!

That one afternoon that I spent inside the Santa suit was one of the best six hour periods I have ever spent. It was hot in the suit. The wig and facial hair were itchy. But that didn’t matter. I was Santa Claus and as such, I was the subject of every child’s fantasy! They came and talked to me and held my hand, sat on my lap and asked me to go for a walk with them. Every hour or so, my daughter would hold one of my hands and we’d walk around the main room of the boutique saying hi to the kids and moms and letting them take our picture. For just a little while, I was idolized by so many! There was complete trust in me as Santa. They all wanted to be around me. I felt like the Pied Piper!

If you ever get the opportunity to play Santa, do it! You won’t regret it. It is the best feeling in the world!

In this photo, we are on our hourly walk to meet and greet. My daughter is the little dark haired girl holding my hand.

Santa Me

Another photo of me as Santa Claus. These are from my PTA President’s scrap book so I didn’t have control over the quality of the photos.

Me as Santa

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This story is of the first and only time my brothers and sisters ever got stockings for Christmas and of the first time even my parents looked surprised on Christmas morning.  It’s also the story of a very special sighting by none other than myself.  To this day I swear this really happened, even though I can’t explain it.

I will never forget one particular Christmas Eve, a night filled with magic.

We had all been sent to bed. The others were all asleep but I was wide awake. I listened to the sound of my parents in the other room, talking to my aunt and uncle, laughing, and having a happy time.

I moved and I turned carefully so I would not to wake my sisters sleeping in the bed next to me. I closed my eyes tightly, hoping that they would stay closed and I would sleep. I was afraid of not being able to sleep. My parents had reminded us, just before sending us to bed, that Santa would not stop at our house if we were not asleep. And so I lay in bed praying that I’d go to sleep so that Santa would come to our house. If I didn’t sleep and Santa stayed away, my brothers and sisters would find out that it had been my fault and they would be very angry at me!

It was no use. I couldn’t sleep. I was angry at myself for being so excited! I was keeping myself awake just by thinking about going to sleep! There was nothing to do.  The lights were off and the room was totally dark. I could not see anything. I couldn’t even move or my sisters would wake up. I made my eyes small so maybe  I could see things and at least keep myself busy looking around the room.

Finally I was able to see the chest of drawers  that held our clothes in its four drawers — one for each of my three sisters and the last for me. The second drawer held Irene’s clothes. She had left it open. It was almost closed, but not quite. There was something hanging out of the drawer. Perhaps whatever was hanging out had kept it from closing, or maybe Irene just hadn’t taken the time to close it all the way. She did that sometimes, because she’d get excited and forget to finish doing what she was doing.

Suddenly, I thought I saw something move! But everyone in the room was asleep except me! I looked carefully and saw it once again. There was something small moving. It was red and green. It looked like a tiny man. He was wearing a pointy hat and moved quickly and silently.

I kept quiet so I wouldn’t be spotted. Then another of these little tiny men appeared. They whispered to each other and moved to the dresser. I watched as they went through the drawer, pulling out our long stockings — one from each drawer. When they turned in my direction, I shut my eyes tightly.

With my eyes closed I heard a voice speak.  It was a light and friendly voice.  I carefully and slowly opened my eyes so I wouldn’t be spotted, just in case they were watching me. I couldn’t believe what I saw! There — in the room I shared with my three sisters — was a short round man with a long white beard and a moustache. He wore a red velvet suit with white fluffy cotton around the edges and on his feet, I saw black shining boots with a gold buckle.

Just as I was about to call out “Santa!” the round little man looked at me with a smile and a wink. He put one finger to his lips and with the other hand he sprinkled sparkly dust on my eyes.

The next thing I knew, my little sister was calling my name and tugging at my nightgown. “Hurry! Get up! It’s time to go open the presents! Hurry!”

I rubbed my eyes and looked around the room. Where was Santa? The darkness was gone too. The elves were gone. Santa was gone.

“Hurry! Hurry! Time to open presents. Hurry! Get up!” called Irene.

“Where’s Santa?” I asked, still trying to rub the sparkly dust out of my eyes.

“I dunno. Maybe he’s at home now,” answered five year old Irene.

I rubbed my eyes and looked around the room one more time. There were no elves and no Santa. I got up and followed Irene into the hall where the others were waiting for me so we could all go into the living room together to open the presents.

“I saw Santa Claus,” I announced proudly.

My brothers laughed. “Yeah! We saw him at the store yesterday too!”

“No! He was here! He was in my room last night. I saw him and two elves. They were in the room! You guys were sleeping! I saw him! I did!”

“What did they want? For you to choose all your own presents?” Carlos laughed as he looked at Richard and David. They just shook their heads and smiled.

My parents came into the hall and let us into the room with the big Christmas tree and all the presents.

“I saw Santa Claus! Mami! Deddy! I saw Santa Claus!” I ran to them to tell them but they just smiled at me and gently pushed me into the room with the tall snow sprayed  tree.

“He was in my room. There were two elves. They were getting stockings from our drawers,” I insisted.

“Oh! Really!? What were they doing with the stockings? They’re supposed to bring you things, not take them from you!” my oldest brother added.

“I don’t know. They were there. That’s all I know. They took my new white ones with the little flowers on them…but only one of them. Then they took Gilda’s that my Nino and Nina gave her for her birthday, the pink ones with little bows, but just one…” I continued to tell them excitedly, ignoring the tree with the presents that the others were already grabbing.

My parents said I could tell them later. I should open presents now. They didn’t believe me.

I was sad because no one believed me, only Irene and Gilda, the little ones. They believed me. No one else. Even the presents that I opened didn’t make me feel better. I just wanted them to know that I wasn’t imagining it. I really had seen Santa Claus! And I had seen the elves too!

As we finished opening all of the presents, Irene pointed. “Look! There’s my stocking! Why’s it there?”

We all looked and saw stockings. My new white one with the flowers … Gilda’s pink one with the bows … Irene’s blue one with little pink roses on them … and Sylvia’s white ones with candy canes…they were all there. Even my parents didn’t know why they were there. We got them and found them filled with candy, nuts, fruit, and coins. Just like in the books and the movies … we had gotten stockings from Santa for the first time!

My parents looked surprised.  They looked at each other . . .  then they looked at me  . . .  I smiled as I took my stocking.

“I told you I saw Santa Claus and the elves. They were taking our stockings from our drawers. I told you!”  I smiled as big a smile as I could, when  I said it.

I took my stocking and enjoyed the candy and nuts all day long. But what I really enjoyed most of all was knowing that I had seen Santa Claus. I was the only one that had seen him. I did not  imagine it!  I had seen Santa Claus. Santa Claus was real, and he had winked at me!

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