October 25, 2021

Is There Really a Santa Claus?

Charles D. "Pedro" Williams, MD, FACR

Christmas was Pedro’s favorite time of the year. Mama would start gettin’ ready early by puttin’ aside egg money, puttin’ up preserves for the market and takin’ in sewing for some extra money. We thought we were richer than we were and in many ways, we really were!

Mama would bake extra pies, cakes and puddins, and kin folks and friends from all over would come to help celebrate the holidays and eat Mama’s food. One time Mama was serving some banana puddin’ and Pedro asked, “Will the dessert hurt me or is there enough to go around?” Mama said that it was the Christmas season and there was plenty for ever’body. Later she asked Pedro’s friend, Emmett, if he wanted a second helpin’. Emmett told her that his mama said for him not to get a second helpin’, but she didn’t know how small the first helpin’ was gonna be.

Pedro always looked forward to the church play at Christmas. He usually got to play the donkey, ‘cept for the one time they used a real donkey. At the Christmas play, ever’body practiced their parts. One time, Robert was asked, “Who made you?” and he was supposed to answer, “God.” However, the question was asked three times — “Who made you?” — and nobody responded until Thelma said, “The little boy that God made was home with the chicken pox.” The play later concluded with the Off-Key Children’s Gospel Singers.

In 1949, school let out for Christmas, and Pedro and Emmett were riding the school bus home talking and thinking about Santa Claus. Emmett said that he had tried to be good and wanted a BB gun. Robert, who was listening to the conversation, said that last year on Christmas Eve he heard Santa Claus holler and mumble, “dadgumit” when he stumbled over his dog in the dark.

Pedro had gotten old enough, big enough and bright enough to know that if Santa Claus was going to bring him his favorite toys, he needed to pray real loud so Mama, Daddy and Grandmama could hear him. He also knew that it helped to turn down the pages in the Sears & Roebuck catalog in the outhouse. Pedro wanted to believe in Santa Claus, just like Emmett, who was younger.

Christmas morning arrived and there it was, the shiny new bicycle just like Pedro wanted. He also got some fruit and a brand new Little Red Ryder BB gun with some Daisy BBs. Pedro couldn’t wait to show Emmett and headed to Emmett’s house. Upon arrival Emmett looked over at Pedro, barely able to speak, and said, “Pedro, Santa Claus didn’t come. Either I’ve been bad or he ran out of toys.”

Pedro could see the hurt in Emmett’s eyes and hear the disappointment in his voice. Without thinking, Pedro replied, “Emmett, Santa did come. He thought you were spending the night with me and left your BB gun at my house. I was bringin’ it to you.”

Emmett grinned like a baked possum and the excitement of a bug in a tater patch. Emmett hugged Pedro and Pedro hugged back. It was then at that moment at nine years old that Pedro once again learned there really is a Santa Claus.

On the way home on his new bike (without his BB gun), Pedro kept thinkin’, “Please Mama, don’t be mad,” and she wasn’t.