Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Is Daddy Santa Claus?

The following appears in the December issue of Chicago Parent, but had a little inspiration from my buddy Andrea over at Maybe It's Just Me.

When eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote The New York Sun in 1897 to question whether or not there truly was a Santa Claus, the response resulted in one of the most celebrated holiday letters of all time. Francis Pharcellus Church penned the iconic words, assuring the young girl that, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…he exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist.”

Oh how I wish Mr. Church was around today. No, I do not need him to persuade my youngest son, Joey, that there is a Santa Claus. Joey knows that to be true. Rather, I wish he could convince my seven-year-old that his father is not secretly moonlighting as St. Nick himself.

The root cause for Joey’s suspicions is directly tied to his dad’s frequent absences on Christmas day and Christmas Eve. Working as a Chicago firefighter has perpetuated my son’s belief that his old man covertly relies on his emergency home entry skills to deliver toys throughout the world. In Joey’s imaginative young mind, my husband streaks through the night sky, perched high atop his shiny red fire truck pulled along by eight flying Dalmatians.

He may also believe that the other firefighters are exceptionally tall and burly elves.

It is not as though my husband is the jolly sort. In fact, Big Joe is quite possibly the grumpiest person ever to have lived. To quote a classic line from A Christmas Story, “My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium, a master.” That is Big Joe.

Despite his over-worked and cantankerous demeanor, this same guy strives to give his sons everything his screwball wife thinks they should have. He often accepts extra work to help pay for ice hockey, piano lessons, and chess tournaments. He is exceedingly generous, opening his wallet for every neighborhood fundraiser and local kid selling candy for baseball. I roll my eyes when I do laundry, finding fistfuls of the latest charity raffle tickets. I have also never quite forgiven the man for turning over his brand new $40 Christmas gloves to a homeless person several winters ago.

It got me thinking about Mr. Church’s letter again and his strongest argument. “The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.” I have never actually seen my husband save a life as a paramedic. I have never seen him race inside a burning building. I have never seen him march towards a horrific accident scene while maintaining complete composure and professionalism. I have never seen it, but I know it is true.

Perhaps little Joey is onto something. Santa Claus and my husband have never been spotted together in the same room. Big Joe devours fresh baked cookies and cold milk like they are going out of style. And his clothes? I cannot tell you how many times they’ve been tarnished with ashes and soot.

Yes, Joey. There is a Santa Claus. And he just might be your dad. But should you secretly wake up one Christmas Eve to find him agitated and throwing tools across the living room while assembling a new drum set or train tracks?

Please cover your ears.


  1. I love this. Tell Big Joe that he has a fan in me.

    Also, I miss you. We need to get together soon.

  2. Big Joe sound like my dad. Good men, just like Santa.

  3. Big Joe sounds like good people to me.
    And also a little like one of the Walton's.
    Think I will just call him Joe.

  4. Love this. Eight flying dalmatians. :)