Little siblings at the Christmas treeThe thing I remember most about Christmas was Dad waking us kids up with his shooting at Santa:

“Wait! Stop! DON’T GO! My kids want to meet you.”

We would hear some sleigh bells jingling, but every year was the same thing. By the time we would get down stairs, the Old Guy would be gone, along with the Toll House cookies and milk we had left for him.

I joined the Navy after graduation from high school and, after some specialized schooling found myself in a patrol squadron as a crewman on a P-3 Orion out of Jacksonville, Fla. My first deployment took me to Thule, Greenland (which was anything but green) on ice patrols. We flew up bays and down sounds, looking for places where springtime had begun to weaken the sea’s frozen covering. Ice-breaker ships, following our instructions, would break a path through those weak places so supply ships could take food and clothing to places like Thule and Sondrestrom.

I was in charge of communications on those flights and therein lies my tale.

One day, we had an opportunity to fly over the North Pole, and while dialing around the radio dial, I happened upon a voice talking to someone about reindeer needing to be fed extra rations so they would have the strength in a few months to pull an overloaded sleigh through the skies around the world. I had difficulty containing myself; after all, if there was really a Santa Claus and he was really on my radio …

Sure enough, he admitted to the charge. My being there was as much as surprise to him as his being there was to me, and we chatted briefly –his workload and my flying speed prevented a long conversation – but I told him what I desired would be under my tree, and passed along some wishes for some other young folks of my acquaintance.

The deployment ended, we returned home, and Christmas called me to visit Mom and Dad for the holiday. One afternoon, there rang a phone call from a cousin. I’m guessing Wendy Sue was about six, or thereabouts, and eagerly awaiting the annual visit. Unfortunately, her brother, being older and therefore, he thought, wise, had been attempting to convince Wendy Sue that Santa was not real. He had seen Mommy kissing Santa, he said.

Fortunately for Santa, my credibility was better than her brother’s. Wendy was glad to hear proof of what she knew – that Santa would be stopping at her house Christmas Eve.

The little girl grew up, married and became a parent. When last we spoke, she said she still believed in Santa. I’m glad for her kids.

Not so glad, though for the many kids in and near killing fields around the world. It is difficult to keep from crying out loud at the pictures, especially from Syria, of children who have become, with a deliberateness rarely seen even in war, targets for alleged grownups who have unlimbered their tanks and rockets to transform homes into graves.

On a more peaceful note, and closer to home, police, fire and other emergency responders will stand ready to care for their neighbors. PennDOT and municipal plow jockeys will be ready, in case Christmas is made white, to clear the path.

Let’s remember all of us who cannot be home, and others who have no home. And our own warriors who have volunteered to stand between us and the bad guys.

Merry Christmas – or whatever name each of us puts on this season of wishful celebration. And a heartfelt wish is for more Wendy Sues.