As far back as I can remember, there has been an elf who has visited our house right around the holiday. Now I know most people believe Santa is the boss and does all the heavy lifting, but he’s just the figurehead. As with any multinational corporation, it’s the people behind the big guy that actually do all the work. And when you’re talking about Santa, there’s a lot of behind.
Growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, we really only saw Santa once. That’s when I was 5; it was the night he fell off our roof and Mom had to call the fire department.
Back then we didn’t have 911, but for some reason Dad had posted the fire department number on the lime green refrigerator along with the other frequently called phone numbers: the police department, old Doc Sam, and Southside Hospital. Looking back, I guess we did get into trouble and got hurt a lot while growing up.
Mom said it was an accident. Not that we got hurt or into trouble, but that Santa fell. At least that’s what she said, but we know the real truth. My brothers and I heard the argument clear as a bell just before he fell. It was as if Santa had been in our living room.
He said, “Stomp around up there? It’s too steep. What if I fall?” Ten minutes later, Mom called the fire department and told us that Santa had just fallen. Right, Santa fell off our roof. We were young but not dumb. We knew the real truth. Rudolph pushed him.
Like I said, we only saw Santa that once. And no, it wasn’t because we were bad. It was Dad’s fault. Every Christmas Eve after The Great Santa Fall of 1965, Dad built a huge fire in the fireplace. He said it was to knock the chill off the house, but we knew the real reason. Dad didn’t want to pay another ambulance and hospital bill for Santa.
The fire raged all night and burned through the holidays. It heated our house, but did something else. We knew it kept Santa from stomping around on our roof and possibly falling off again. Luck for us though, Dad had the elves leave our presents.
And we weren’t the only ones on Flamingo Street Santa bypassed. Down the Street Bully Brad was bad all year and didn’t get presents. The only gift he ever got for Christmas was a stocking full of coal.
How did I know, you might ask? Simple, all the snowballs he threw at us after Christmas had big chunks of coal at their centers.
It wasn’t all bad, though. After being pelted, we collected them all up and went inside. We’re the only kids on Flamingo Street who could honestly claim that they heated their house with snowballs. Elves couldn’t even do that.
When The Boy was born, it was my turn to carry on the elfin tradition. Santa still didn’t come down our chimney, though. At the time, we heated our house with a wooden stove. As I think back, it sure would’ve been good to burn some of Bully Brad’s snowballs for heat. It was a lot easier throwing snowballs on the fire when I was a kid than splitting wood as an adult.
Now, 23 years later, it’s finally time for The Boy to become one of the Christmas elves. I guess he needs to do a couple of things first: fall in love, get married, and have a couple of kids.
On second thought, he can hold off on becoming an elf for a couple more years. I’m not quite ready to be called Grandpa Elf.[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]