— Editor’s note: The following story is intern Rebecca Croomes’ stylized account of Santa Claus’ recent visit to Athens Elementary School and The News Courier.
It was a surprise indeed when Santa Claus himself stopped by The News Courier last Tuesday to pick up letters and give me the one-on-one scoop of a lifetime.
You might be skeptical of any old guy claiming to be the Jolly Old Elf, but something was different about this particular old guy. In he swept wearing a red suit with white fur trimmings and white silk gloves. A large leather belt with a gold buckle that said “Santa” in fancy cursive script had me convinced he was the real deal. The sleigh out front was simply icing on the cake.
I ran up to the newsroom to grab paper and pen, but Santa stopped me.
“I came by, because the children have been sending so many letters asking to see me,” he said. “It would be terribly rude if I don’t comply with their request.”
Athens Elementary School would be the place for us to go, I suggested, because it was so close by.
At the school, we tried to surprise Miss Murphy’s kindergarten class before they went to lunch, but as we walked down the hall, the jingle bells tied to his belt were kind of a dead giveaway. While children darted in between rooms, it was hard to ignore the cries of “Santa!” as they rushed off to tell all their friends.
He sat down on one of those chairs that are too small for anyone but kindergarteners, but he didn’t appear to mind as he went around the group asking what they wanted.
Of course every child had been at his or her best all year and Santa thought so, too.
We walked out of Miss Murphy’s room, but the other teachers were so happy to see us, well, happy to see Santa more than me, that they asked him to peek into their rooms to say hello to their students as well.
We visited every kindergarten class and the special education class; all the while Santa was expertly handling every gift request and question about his life thrown at him.
We came back to the newspaper office where now I felt was my chance to ask the big questions.
First one, I had to know, have the children of Limestone County been well behaved this year?
“For the most part they were,” Santa said. “I like to see them do good in school. I try to tell them there’s nothing in the world you can’t be in America if you apply yourself and do the work. Sky’s the limit to what you could be.”
Getting down to the heart of the matter, I wanted to him to know the children were worried Santa might get sick if he ate all those sweets on Christmas.
“Santa does good with the cookies, he knows when to quit,” he reassured me.
He then began to tell me of the process by which a child’s Christmas happens. Over the year, he receives millions of letters through “special mail.” The things children want most this year are iPads and the iPod Touch. Young boys want Spider-Man and Batman toys, while little girls want princess castles and Barbie dolls.
Once he knows what they want, he’ll send the elves to monitor the kids as Christmas approaches. Sometimes the children will leave snacks or gifts for their elves, which they send back to the North Pole for the other elves to share.
“The reindeer are resting and getting fed good hay and wheat so they can be strong to do the trip,” Santa said. “Mrs. Claus is at home watching them.”
On Christmas Eve, the sleigh, one of many Santa’s had over the years, will be filled with toys before he straps in and takes off.
The children who don’t have chimneys always wonder how Santa makes it in to leave the gifts.
“Santa has a secret key that works on any lock,” he said.
Santa had to leave. He was off to visit the nursing home. The big kids enjoy seeing him just as much as the little ones, he said. As he got up to leave, he asked what I wanted for Christmas.
“A pony,” I replied instantly.
With a jolly laugh — I didn’t check to see if his belly did the whole ‘bowl full of jelly’ thing — he got into his sleigh and flew off.
Now it’s time for all the boys and girls to be extra good, and time for me to go build a stable in my backyard.
— Special thanks to the Santa of North Alabama and Athens Elementary School.