Every year, just before Christmas, the local Rotary Club do a thing. They drive a tractor pulling a float around the area where I used to live. The float is decorated with lights and on it, on a sleigh, sits a bloke dressed up as Santa Claus. The float drives by the houses playing Christmas songs and Santa waves at the houses. You can hear it before it arrives. The music floating across the chilly air and drifting into your home. The past few years it’s come around when the children have been in bed, and last year I didn’t spot it at all, but did I care? No. Because it’s actually a bit rubbish.
This year my ex was out and I was putting the children to bed. T was getting snuggled under his duvet and I was carrying K, who wanted to give her brother a kiss while he was in his bed. Suddenly, we heard this music. Both children asked ‘what’s that daddy?’ Darn. It was the bloody crap float thing. Not that I said that at all.
I couldn’t tell how far away it was but I said, ‘Well. Why don’t we go to K’s room and have a look out of the window and find out?’
T got out of bed and we all went into K’s room. We pulled up the blind and T climbed onto a chair so he could see what was going on. I didn’t put the light on in the room and I held K in my arms so she could see what was going to happen.
The music got louder and it was obvious the float was going to pull into the road.
‘What is it daddy?’
‘Let’s wait and find out. It’ll be here in a moment and then you can tell me.’
I could feel their excitement. The flashing lights reflected on the houses around the bend and it was obvious that in a few seconds it would come into view.
As I’ve said, I’d seen it in previous years but this time I saw it for what it was, for the first time. Something quite special. In the darkened room with my daughter on my hip and my son holding my hand I saw it for the first time. Through their eyes.
The music playing as Santa pulled past the house, on his flashing float, waving, was ‘When A Child Is Born’ by Johnny Mathis.
‘A ray of hope flickers in the sky, a tiny star lights up way up high’
My children didn’t scream or shout, or leap about excitedly. They watched in awe.
“Daddy! It’s Father Christmas!” T whispered. I think he was careful not to shout so not to break the spell.
T&K waved at Santa.
I knew that at the end of the road it would have to turn around and would pass the house again, so we waited and saw Santa pass by again a couple of minutes later. My children waved. I had tears in my eyes as this, this simple bloomin’ thing that in the past I’ve never got, suddenly got me. Right there. The music played, this song was one my mum loved when I was a boy – ‘a child that will grow up and turn tears to laughter.’ I was with my two children and they were both experiencing, fuck, we ALL were experiencing something. If not magical for all then for me certainly something emotional. Not from the brain but totally from my heart. T&K waved at Santa and, I swear, he looked up at the window and saw us. “He saw us Daddy! He saw us!” And he waved again. T&K waved again. I waved too.
And the float passed the house, and the music drifted into the distance. ‘All across the land, dawns a brand new morn. This comes to pass when a child is born.’
I closed the blind and put Keela to bed with a kiss. I carried Tiernan to his room and put him into his bed, tucked him in, and kissed him.
As I walked downstairs I hear T singing ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ and I thought for a second. I didn’t spend Christmas with my children last year. But this year I will be seeing them for some of the day, and then I thought again, about that moment, in a darkened room, when we were watching Santa pass by? Usually the bloke on the float is some dark-haired dude with a false beard. But this time it was different. This time the man we all saw through the window was older. Much older. With a big white beard that didn’t look false. And he didn’t look like he had padding, just a big tummy. His suit looked the most red red, and the white bits were the whitest of whites. And he looked at us and waved. He looked at me. He waved at me.
It wasn’t him was it? Was it really him? Thinking of this precious moment with my children, totally unexpected but utterly unforgettable, I can only think that it must’ve been.
Thanks for reading and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.