By Robert P. Simpson
There is nothing like the wonder in a child’s eyes on Christmas Eve. In the olden days it may have been visions of sugar plums, but for me it was visions of an American Flyer Lionel train huffing and puffing down the track. Keep your sugar plums – I’ll dream of trains!
Santa made my dreams come true when I was 4. To the joy of my mom and dad, I pulled them from their warm bed at 6 a.m. on Christmas morning to see what the big guy had left circling around the tree. There may have been other presents that year, but I don’t remember any of them.
By the time I was 5, I had forgotten about my American Flyer. My friends that year were asking for ponies. Some of my optimistic, “I believe in Santa,” friends even asked for a Shetland pony. Not me. I wanted a horse – a a big, tall, strong black stallion.
My dad explained on Christmas morning that Santa couldn’t fit down the chimney with a horse, but I wasn’t buying it. My pony-less friends in the neighborhood had their doubts, too. We discussed the situation often during kindergarten recess.
I made a plan. I made out my list and drew a picture of a kitten and a puppy. I wasn’t particular. Santa could decide. I told no one about my list.
On Christmas Eve in my sixth year, I put my plan into action. I poured a glass of milk and left it on a table with three cookies in front of the tree. But I was as skeptical as a kid without a black stallion could be. So I went to the vegetable bin of the refrigerator, ripped open a bag of carrots and carefully counted out eight carrots for those reindeer.
And then I did something I regretted for years – I counted the carrots still left in the bag, wrote the number on a sheet of paper, taped the paper to the fridge, and went to bed.
The next morning the milk was gone, the cookies were nibbled and the carrots were missing, and I just had to know. I ran to the kitchen and slung open the fridge and pulled open the vegetable bin. I sank to the floor and counted the carrots in the bag. I counted them twice and checked the tally against the note I left on the fridge, and then I started to cry.
“What’s wrong?” my mom asked.
“There’s 22 carrots in the bag!” I cried, “There were 14 last night!”
“Don’t you see? There are no reindeer!” I couldn’t bring myself to tell her what else I had figured out.
And then it happened … a sound from the far side of the tree.
I bolted around the Douglas fir and there he was, the cutest little black and white kitten, peering timidly from inside a shoebox, with a tag that read, “To Robert, from Santa.” I named him Charlie.
I sat on the floor in front of the couch watching my sisters open their presents. Charlie sat on the couch behind me and scratched an itch on the top of my head.
I scratched my head, too, for years, about that Christmas morning.
I think about that morning every Christmas season, and whenever I eat carrots. I make it a point never to count the carrots on my plate, or in the refrigerator vegetable bin.
I don’t need to count carrots. I’m a believer – in Christmas!
Robert P. Simpson, a Williamsville lawyer, no longer counts carrots.