Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chasing Santa

“Grandpa, what are you doing out here?”
He was standing in the snow
leaning a couple long 2x4’s
against the house.
“I was chasing Santa Claus,”
he explained.
“Almost had him too.”
He handed me one of the
biggest sleigh bells
I’d ever seen.
Then he showed me
two long, straight depressions in the snow.
Santa’s sleigh had taken off
seconds before I burst out the back door
in hot pursuit.
Grandpa was a right jolly old elf
but not the one I was chasing.

We walked back inside
recounting our versions of the evening.
Grandpa stayed home to ambush Santa
while the rest of us
drove around looking for him.
After 15 or 20 minutes, someone yelled,
“LOOK!  Rudolph’s nose!
He’s heading toward Grandma and Grandpa’s house!!”
We whipped the car around,
blazed home, and ran inside.

In the living room,
presents spilled from
the outstretched limbs of
the glittering Christmas tree.
Kids and grown-ups alike
dove into the pile,
divvying up the loot and ripping open packages.
But I kept running.

Just ahead I heard jingling and laughter.
My heart and step quickened
as I strained to lay hold of
or even glimpse
the mystery
cloaked in red.
I was close, so close…
but not as close as Grandpa,
who plucked the jangling fruit
now in my hand.

It was still in my hand
as I fell asleep that night
while my new toys lay elsewhere,

But in the morning, the bell was gone.
“It’s a magic bell,” my mother explained.
“Santa’s bells are so special
they only stay for the night.
Then they disappear.”

Years later, I learned
Grandpa had no idea
I was chasing him
as he ran out the back door
ringing that bell.
No one expected me to do that.
He barely had time
to get the 2x4’s out of the snow.
The sleigh bell was a gift from a German friend.
It seemed there was
an explanation for everything.

But what made me
dash past presents
in pursuit of something
I’d never seen?

I suppose
truth always rings
just ahead of us
and gives us reason
to run.

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