Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Virginia and I Believe

by Shannon Baker

Why yes, as a matter of fact, I do believe in Santa Claus. I apologize to all my Jewish friends who are sick of Christmas stories and all the miracles and tales as sweet as my grandmother’s fudge. (I just made a batch of that to celebrate the season.) 

A long time ago in a country far, far away, I was a young mother in western Nebraska. To say our area was rural would be like calling M&Ms Christmas candy. (See, reference to Grandma Baker’s fudge for real Christmas candy.) We lived in the land where towns with the population of 2-300 people sat 30 miles apart on a long, straight highway, because that’s how long a coal train could run before it needed more water.

 It so happened that this particular Christmas was a cusp year. That means my oldest daughter was nearing the age of suspicion. This might be her last time believing in Santa. Ever. Once you stopped accepting the existence of the Man in Red, cynicism and the drudgery of a normal life followed. Back then we didn't know the term for people who didn't believe in Santa anymore, now we know they are Muggles.

My daughter decided this year, Santa must bring her the girl gift of the season, the P.J. Sparkles doll. My daughters never played with dolls and I knew a hard plastic doll with shiny blonde hair whose scratchy pink dress lit up with flashing lights wouldn’t change her mind. (Not playing with dolls might be because they learned mothering skills from me. Being a mother probably didn’t sound like all that much fun to them. It’s past your bedtime. Go to sleep.)

But if Santa must bring P.J. Sparkles, then that’s what he’d do. I started shopping early, visiting the K-Marts and Alcos in the “bigger” towns within a two-hour drive of us. No go. I got on the phone (remember, this was way before Cyber Monday and stores didn’t offer on-line shopping even if my dial up connection would tolerate it.) I called Cheyenne, Rapid City, Omaha. Toys-R-Us, Target, Wal-Mart. Everywhere. No P.J. Sparkles. 

Christmas eve dawned and I knew that in 24 hours my daughter would be scarred by the realization there was no Santa. It was too soon for her to grow up and join the rest of us, letting go of belief.

Dejected, I went about my busy day at our feed store.

Then a friend called. “What was the name of that doll you couldn’t find?”

“P.J. fricking Sparkles.” Only maybe I didn’t use such nice vocabulary.

“You’re never going to believe this but I found one.”

I nearly dropped the Christmas fudge I’d made from Grandma Baker’s recipe. “What? Where? No way!”

But she had found her. The little dickens sat in Lucy’s Jumble Shop, the next town over. Thirty miles away, tucked on the top shelf in the dark southwest corner of the dusty shop that carried everything from needles, shirts, Tupperware, pans, sheets, winter boots, ropes, spurs, and heaven only knows what, the last P.J. Sparkles in the civilized world waited for me to claim her.

Why would Lucy stock the hottest toy of the season and hide her in the back, when Lucy hadn’t added any new inventory since Jimmy Carter’s administration?

Because Santa put her there for me. 

Turns out, my daughter had already given up on Santa but didn’t want me to know. She looked at P.J. Sparkles for about five minutes and that’s all the attention P.J. got until I gave her to the rummage sale two years later, still looking sharp in her pink, scratchy dress.

But me? I believe. 

I will always believe.


Beth Groundwater said...

Aaaaw! You are a good mom, Shannon!

Shannon Baker said...

But not such a good speller, right Beth?