Monday, December 22, 2008
The Little Bootblack
As you may have guessed I've written several of these posts as Christmas gifts to my children. I'm delighted that others are reading them too. But please don't let your youngest children read this one if they are still waiting for Santa. Yarntangler.
We were delighted when Mom and Dad drove up from New Mexico to join us for Christmas in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1983. Dad had been quite sick that year and they wanted us to know he was recovering well. We had made special plans for their stay. The older boys were all busy with their paper routes and snow shoveling jobs when they arrived.
Little Skooba was the only one there to greet them and within a few moments he’d been given a rare responsibility, one he’d waited for all of his 5 ½ years. Dad looked at him seriously and asked if he would polish his cowboy boots. Skooba looked at him with a toothless grin and nodded. He took the boots and the shoe shine kit and sat in the back hall for the next hour making them shine.
The following day, Skooba and I walked the six blocks to school in spite of a wind chill factor that made it seem like 25 below, when Dad’s wimpy New Mexican Datsun wouldn’t start. I was the kindergarten Room Mother, so I’d be staying there with him to bring him home. I helped the children make mitten shaped name tags that would double as ornaments, and told them they could wear them all day. As they practiced their songs I went down to the office to help our special guest get ready.
Soon a familiar “Ho Ho Ho” rang out in the hallway. The kids were beside themselves with excitement when Santa walked into the classroom. Their teacher, Mary Bilstead, and I stood back and let him lead the next few minutes. He walked around the room and looked at all of their papers and drawings on the walls. He admired their decorations and looked at the class family tree with all of their names and information written on bright green leaves.
Then the children sat on the floor in the reading corner, while Santa took his place in the chair.
One after another, the children sat on his lap and he chatted with them for a few minutes. Skooba and his friend Ty sat near the back of the group and I kept my eye on him. He kept edging to the end of the line and Mary and I exchanged nervous glances. Suddenly, I saw a look of confusion cross his face and then he sat back, somewhat sadly.
Turning our attention back to Santa we saw him lift a little girl onto his lap. “Well, hello, Tameira, Happy Birthday!” There was an astonished gasp from the students and a guilty one from Mary. She had been so busy that day that she had forgotten to pull out the Birthday Crown and badge for Tameira. As she hurried to retrieve the special items from her desk, Santa led the class in singing Happy Birthday.
Skooba looked completely baffled then delighted in turn, and a few minutes later he hesitantly sat on Santa’s lap. Although he was earnest, his subdued demeanor had me worried. Santa looked up at me and I shrugged.
We stayed twenty minutes or so after school to help clear the mess from the party, and Skooba and I caught a ride home with another teacher. When we arrived, we found Mom had made hot chocolate for us.
Skooba sat on the dryer with his cocoa, watching his Grandfather through the window, as he and Geezerguy tried to get his car going. The car faced the window with it’s hood open. Eventually Geezerguy was able to get it to turn over just as Dad slammed the hood closed. Mom and I went into the living room where I told her what had happened. When Dad went to take a nap on Skooba's bed before supper, Skooba stood in the door of his room and simply studied him.
Later, after dinner, we were sitting in the living room admiring all the presents that were already piling up under the tree. Skooba was sitting on his Grandfather's shoulders combing his silvery hair and beard with an extremely pleased expression. When Dad got up to make a cup of tea in the kitchen, Skooba went to stand in front of Mom. She put down her knitting and gave him her full attention.
“Grandma, do you know that your husband is really Santa Claus?”
She smiled at him and answered quite seriously, “Yes, I do Honey, but that is a very special secret. How did you find out?”
“He must have gotten his Santa boots wet in the snow. He was wearing his cowboy boots. I couldn't figure it out at first. I thought what those 3rd graders told us might be true, that Santa isn’t real.”
By this time all three of his brothers (who were at least six years older than he) were staring at him. “Well, how did you figure out that Grandfather is Santa?” asked Jugglesorcerer. “I never knew that.” “Me either.” said both Sage Words and Lone Duck
“Well I thought and thought about it. I thought maybe Grandfather was one of those helpers like at the mall. But then I figured out that only the real Santa would know it was Tameira’s birthday today. Even Mrs. Bilstead didn’t remember!”
He grinned when he realized he had figured out something none of his big brothers knew. Something so big it was bursting to get out. “You guys can’t tell anyone. We are the only people who know Santa’s secret identity!”
As far as I know, until today Skooba has never told anyone his most important secret. It’s okay, Honey, Grandfather says now you can tell Bridey. She’s family!
See ya down the road,