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It was the Christmas season of 1978, and my 6-year old son, Daryl, and I were living in a small town in Southern California. Daryl was outside playing with some neighborhood children, and I decided it would be a good time to get some extra house cleaning done. My chores were interrupted when I heard the screen door slam and saw my son standing at the door with tears streaming down his sad and dirty face. One of the older neighborhood boys told him there was no Santa Claus. Daryl was devastated.
"How can there be no Santa Claus?" Daryl asked me. "We have pictures of me and Santa together...remember?" "We saw Santa at the mall." While I did my best to explain that perhaps not every child believes in Santa, I knew I had to do something to restore the joy and magic of the holiday season for my son. That night, I came up with a plan that I hoped would be the perfect way to bring back the excitement of Christmas to Daryl.
On Christmas Eve, after Daryl had gone to bed, I took a ladder from the garage and climbed up onto the flat roof of our little one-story stucco house. I hung a huge row of sleigh bells around my neck so that my hands would be free to hold the ladder as I climbed up onto the roof. I moved upward as slowly and carefully as I could, in an effort to make no noise that might give me away. Once I got on the roof, I stomped all over the rooftop, jangling those bells and "Ho Ho Ho-ing" in my deepest, most manly voice until I was completely out of breath and quite giddy from trying to keep from giggling. I kept wondering what my son must be thinking as he heard the commotion up on our roof. Suddenly, I noticed the light flash on in my son's bedroom. I gingerly laid the bells on the roof top, then quickly and quietly climbed down the ladder and ran into the kitchen. A bit out of breath, I attempted to look as composed and nonchalant as I could as I waited for Daryl to come looking for me.
Daryl appeared in the kitchen doorway, looking wide-eyed with wonder. Before either one of us could utter a word, the doorbell rang. We went together to answer the door. I'm sure Daryl must have thought it was Santa at the door, having discovered that we didn't have a chimney or fireplace. But, to my chagrin and great surprise, there stood two policemen! One of my neighbors, coming home from a party, had seen me on the roof. However, in the darkness of the evening, she didn't recognize it was me and called the police to report seeing an intruder! I was mortified. Obviously, with my son standing next to me, I couldn't tell the policemen that I was the one making all the racket on the roof, and in the confusion of the moment, it never occurred to me to send Daryl to his room.
I stammered as I tried to lamely explain "who" might have been on the roof, and at the same time, nodding my head toward Daryl and winking furiously, hoping the policemen would take the hint that I couldn't really go into details in front of my son. They must have thought I was a wacky 28-year old woman with a terrible tic in one eye, a horrendous speech impediment and serious neck spasm, as I tried to tell them that it was probably just Santa Claus on the roof.
We laugh about the story now, but at the time, nothing about that evening seemed humorous to me. However, all's well that ends well. The two police officers finally caught on to my prank and left shaking their heads and laughing, and my son returned to his bed to dream of sugar plums, visits from Santa and the beauty of Christmas.