Tuesday, December 21, 2010


It seems that with growing up the magic of Christmas is compressed into a few hours over the course the 24th and 25th of December. When you were a child the entire season was filled with magic every day. Each day seemed to last eons while you waited for the longest night of the year to arrive where you would lie in bed twitching like a heroin addict in withdrawal waiting fort your parents consent for you to rush down the hall and behold the wonder the entire child calender sat upon.

When I was a child my family always went to the Elks Lodge Christmas Party; their Santa was the real Santa (he wore cowboy boots how could he not be the real Santa?), and the party was always fun. One year after the party the family was meeting up at either my Grandma's house or Dick's Cafe*. I was going to ride with my Uncle Russ. Uncle Russ had Toyota pick up and I took every opportunity afforded me to ride in a truck of any kind. While driving to meet up with the family I talked with my Uncle Russ about Santa and the reindeer. Uncle Russ told me that when Santa visited St George for the party he kept the reindeer at the Ence Feed Lot with the horses. My brain was wrinkled. I asked my Uncle Russ, with the most hope filled eyes of the 1980s, if we could go see them. He obliged.

*If you never ate at Dick's Cafe I weep for you, even though now I am working on archiving the mammoth environmental clean up effort that went in to fixing the property it was on.

When we got to the feed lot he parked the truck so that the headlights shown down the hill onto the hooves and legs of the horses giving the illusion of reindeer. Brain wrinkled a second time with the euphoria of true Santa zealot. This was my first brush with real celebrity. I had not only sat on THE Santa's lap, but now witnessed the physical evidence confirming real Santa status.

The magic of this story is not solely in what happened that night, but what happened for the next 20 years. Even during my most nihilistic teenage years I never stopped believing I had seen reindeer that night. When my belief in Santa waned you could still not convince me I had not seen reindeer that crisp, St George, December, evening. Family would try to tell me that all I had seen were "hooves and legs", but I was totally undeterred in my faith in my vision of Prancer and Blitzen.

The story became family legend, there had to be a meaning to it. We asked my Wise Uncle John** what he thought the moral of the story was and he said "It's simple you can see what you want to see in anything. You can choose to see magic and wonder or you can see horse crap and hooves." I think that is true, but I feel like this story represents the broader theme of holding on to the magic of our own youth. The time before we knew how hard and unfilled with wonder the world can be. Christmas is the time where for a few short hours we can recapture that sense of magic and wonder and believe the things we wish were true about society are true. That elves watch over our secret good deeds, that reindeer take flight with speed greater than a 747 and that miracles happen because the world is what we thought it would be when we were 5.

** John was never "officially" called Wise Uncle John, but it is fitting and I like the ring of it so I am calling him that from now on.


Britta said...

Lovely post, Colt. Tom has had to remind me several times about keeping the magic alive for our girls - I don't ever remember believing in Santa - probably due to 2 older sisters who told me the truth early. I hope my girls believe for many more years.

Kari said...

"Christmas is the time where for a few short hours we can recapture that sense of magic and wonder and believe the things we wish were true about society are true."

Yep. Exactly.

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Sandy said...

I love this story!