Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Leroy's Christmas

I don’t expect many of you to believe this story. Most of you (up to and including my friend and editor) will probably dismiss it as nothing more than a flight of fancy or a dream brought on by an overactive imagination and/or too many Christmas cookies before bed (like some people seem to think!). All I can do is hope that my friends will believe me when I say that what you are about to read absolutely happened to me.

It was one year ago, on Christmas Eve. I was staying with my good friends, the Moss Family in their home in Kentucky, the Duck House. It was, as all Moss Family Christmases are, a wonderful holiday and I was having a terrific time with the music and the food and the seventy-eight different versions of A Christmas Carol they had on DVD…okay, maybe not that many, but it’s a lot. And I was very excited when they said I could spend the night of Christmas Eve in the living room, sleeping on the couch. It was very comfy and the decorations were the best nightlight a penguin could ask for…but I had a special reason for wanting to sleep in there.

“You won’t see Santa!” Templeton said.

“You don’t know that,” I argued. “Maybe I’ll wake up just in time and see him just as he’s going up the chimmney!”

“It just doesn’t seem likely.”

“Well…maybe there’ll be a Christmas miracle!” Hearing this, he just sort of shook his head and gave me the kind of smile I always imagined Christopher Robin giving Winnie the Pooh when he called him a “silly old bear.”

For a guy who hangs out with a talking penguin, he’s surprisingly skeptical.

Anyway, that night I was curled up all cozy and toasty warm on the couch with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head…which was a little disconcerting, since I don’t actually know what sugarplums are. But then, something happened. I’ll never know what. Something woke me up. I sat up with a start. I looked around the room. The digital display on the cable box read “12:00.” It was midnight, Christmas Eve: The most magical hour of the year. The one moment when the world holds its breath and, for an instant, nothing is impossible.

(I may have stolen that bit from someone else, if so, I’m sorry)

The world outside the window was covered in snow and lit by a beautiful silver moon. The lights on the tree sparkled like multicolored diamonds. In fact, everything was very much the way it was when I went to bed…or couch…except for the undeniable fact that I was not alone.

Someone was sitting on the couch next to where I was curled up!

He was…ya know? I had this whole thing planned where I was gonna describe him and slowly reveal who it was, but let’s not waste everyone’s time. You know who it is! It’s Santa! I woke up and Santa was sitting slumped on the sofa with his eyes shut.

I thought he had fallen asleep, for which I could hardly blame him, with all the work he has to do. Then I thought of how awful it would be if he slept through Christmas and little kids didn’t get their toys. So I poked him with a flipper and he opened his eyes right away.

“Oh! Oh, Leroy. I hope I didn’t wake you when I sat down.”

“No, sir, Mr. Santa, sir,” I said, wanting to show the proper respect to one of my all-time favorite humans. “I just thought you had fallen asleep and I…”

“No, I wasn’t sleeping. Just resting, and thinking…” his voice trailed off, and there was a strange quality in his voice.

“Are you all right, sir?”

“Well…to tell the truth Leroy, I’ve been thinking about giving it all up.”

“What? What do you mean, Mr. Santa?”

“I mean coming down here and flying around handing out gifts every year. I’ve been thinking it might be time to call the whole thing off.”

“But why?”

“I started giving out presents at Christmas…oh, more years ago than I can even count. I always thought I was doing a good deed. Being generous, charitable. I never thought it was about the things  I brought, but the spirit in which I gave them. But now I think maybe I’ve just been kidding myself. Maybe I haven’t been doing anybody any good after all.”

“How can you say that, Santa?”

“Well, just look at the state of the world! Brotherhood, faith, charity, benevolence and optimism are at an all-time low, while greed, deceit, selfishness and cynicism flourish. I try to look for the good in the world, but every year things seem to get worse. With all the problems in the world today, maybe people don’t even need Santa Claus right now.”

“Santa…with all due respect…that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”

“Beg pardon?”

“Maybe there are a lot of problems in the world. Maybe people are greedy, selfish, cynical and all that other stuff you said. Maybe we aren’t treating each other as well as we should. But the solution isn’t less Santa Claus. It’s more Santa Claus! Don’t get me wrong, we really appreciate the presents you bring us, but you do something every year that’s way more important than toys and candy: You set an example. You show us how to be better people. And I promise you, sir…it’s working! Because every Christmas, people like me, who believe in you, and who love you, follow your example. You know whose house you’re in, don’t you? These people don’t have a lot of money, they have to struggle sometimes. But they always have a good Christmas because they care about each other and they do for each other. They know that it’s not the gifts that make a merry Christmas, but the act of giving! So, for heaven’s sake, get up off your big, red butt and get out there and do what you do best!”

For a moment, Santa just looked at me, and I was beginning to regret what I had said. But just when I was starting to think I’d be getting a stocking full of coal every year for the rest of my life, he smiled, maybe the nicest smile I ever saw, and laughed. “You’re right, Leroy! You’re absolutely right. I will keep coming back every year. But only on one condition.”

“What’s that, Santa?”

“That you help me.”

“Me? Help you? How can I do that?”

“By doing your part to keep the spirit of Christmas alive all year round. Will you do that for me, Leroy?”

“I sure will, Santa!”

“Well, I guess I’d better get going. Got a lot of stops to make and…oh, I almost forgot. I haven’t given you your Christmas present yet.”

“Oh! You don’t have to give me anything, Santa! Honestly, just getting to talk to you is the best gift I could’ve gotten.”

“Come on, Leroy, isn’t there anything you’d like?”

“No, no, no, no, no, no…well, there is one thing…”

The next morning, I awoke with the sun. It was a beautiful Christmas morning. For a moment, I thought I had dreamed the whole thing…until I looked down and saw what I was holding in my flippers. It was the present I had asked Santa for! It was real! It really happened! Of course, the family didn’t believe me. They thought it was a dream, just like I did…but none of them could explain how I got that limited edition box set of Creedance Clearwater Revival autographed by John Fogerty!

Thanks Santa, and Merry Christmas!


With Special Thanks to Red Skelton


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