It didn’t seem particularly extraordinary that late December evening at 528 Maple Lane. Members of my family were gearing up for Christmas. Our usual silliness and routines were  from my perspective as a nine-year old in the late seventies. Seasonal smells of treats in the oven and the sounds of light chatter from other rooms, imbued every corner of the house. It was taken for granted that all was well and there would soon be gifts waiting under the tree on the morning of the twenty fifth -just a couple more nights to go.

It had become somewhat of a tradition that Bill Herrera -a friend of my teenage sister Paula, would swing by in a silly Santa costume, to entertain my little brother and I. The doorbell rang, and we were off to the races. I’m not sure when we realized it was Bill, but I do remember being especially obnoxious that last year -pointing out his eyebrow-color and saying “Santa isn’t real”. We were excitable, Ted and I, and especially so that night.

Amidst our escalating hyperactivity and increased boisterousness, Bill suddenly took a calm and serious tone and asked us to sit down. There was a change in his voice that indicated something important was about to be said and I recall it almost like the prophetic words of a mystic.  He said in enhanced molossus foot: “The spirit of Christmas IS REAL…”. I sat ruminating for a good while.  There was a profound impact and something subtly changed for me that day.

Continuing and having gone to the bookshelves, Ted verified Bill’s statement with cited examples of the Santa Claus tradition from our world book encyclopedia -our go-to source of truth in those days. “It must be true” we agreed.

Some time after that winter, I heard that Bill had died in car accident. Though I never had the chance to see him again, through these years I still pause and recollect what Christmas is and what it means to make a gift of one’s self. I now have a Santa suit of my own, which can be seen on some December evenings, when I drop by friends homes and continue the legacy.

I’ll always remember Santa Bill; “The spirit of Christmas IS REAL…”.

It didn’t seem particularly extraordinary
A late December evening at 528 Maple Lane
Acting goofy as was usual with my family
We kept ourselves entertained with candy canes

Mom cooking something while we were all getting merry
Unboxing ornaments that we had left  to hang
The Batmobile lost a wheel and Robin laid an egg
Was the song we sang when the doorbell rang

The suit and the beard were silly but still
No gift wrapped present can reveal
The were the words of Santa Bill
The spirit of Christmas is real

Somewhere It had become somewhat of a tradition
When the profound friend of my big sister came
A fool, I joked as he provoked my contrition
The impact made I still hear him say

The suit and the beard is silly but still
No no gift wrapped present can conceal
I’ll remember Santa Bill
The spirit of Christmas is real