As a military brat growing up, my family and I moved around the country — a lot. By the time I graduated from college, I had attended 13 different schools in two countries and at least six states (it's easier than you'd think to lose track of where you've lived when you move that much).
Every Christmas after a move, I would wonder to myself if Santa would be able to find us. Every year, my Christmas-loving parents would assure me that Santa got our forwarding address and we wouldn't miss out on his yearly visit.
I remember laying in bed in Connecticut after putting out milk and cookies for Santa (along with some carrots for his reindeer) when I heard a dozen or so loud thumps on the roof of my house. The sound was unmistakable. Santa had found us.
I pulled the blankets up over my head and pretended to be asleep so Santa could do what he needed to do — he is busy enough visiting all the kids in the world without having to double back to houses where children were awake for his first visit.
A few minutes later, my mom and grandmother came rushing into my room and told me to look outside. That's when I saw it.
Rudolph's glowing red nose in my back yard. I imagine he was hungry, nibbling on some grass, halfway through his trip around the world. Then, I kid you not, I saw Santa run through my back yard. Rudolph chased after him, and moments later I heard the sleigh take off from the roof of my house, followed by the tell-tale 'ho ho ho!'
I only wish my dad and grandpa were awake to see it.
A couple years later we moved to Spain. Like any other eight-year-old would have been, I was understandably nervous Santa wouldn't be able to find my sister and me. I mean, finding a family who has moved from state-to-state is one thing, but asking Santa to find us in an entirely different country? That's a pretty tall order.
My sister and I didn't think it was possible. Maybe there was no such thing as Santa after all.
My parents, being the Christmas lovers they are, reassured us that Santa did exist, and they would be willing to help us prove it.
My dad is a whiz with a camera and anything electrical.
Christmas Eve, the four of us put together a grand plan to catch Santa in the act of leaving presents.
My dad put a camcorder on a tripod aimed at the fireplace. He ran a tripwire from the camera down across the room and across the mantle.
He explained that when Santa came down the chimney, he would have to touch the trip wire somehow leaving the fireplace. That would cause the camera to start recording, so if Santa came down that chimney, we would have proof — once and for all.
We put out the annual buffet for Saint Nick and his reindeer, then went to bed.
The next morning my sister and I raced out into the living room to see if our master plan worked. We popped the tape out of the camcorder and into the VCR and sure enough, there was Santa! The four of us watched as he emerged from the chimney with his bag full of presents... and found the trip wire.
He picked up the string, and carefully followed it back to the camera, looked into the lens, shook his finger at us, winked, and the screen went black.
Unbelievable. He did exist.
We must not have made him too mad, we didn't find any coal in our stockings.
Years later, those are two of my very favorite memories — memories made through a child's eyes that I will cherish forever. Someday, I hope my children are lucky enough to have a few similar encounters. Thanks Santa.