When Grandma Took on Santa Claus
December 20, 2009 1 Comment
Christmas Eve, 1968. I was 6 years old, and I still believed in Santa Claus.
We had driven all the way from Grand Forks, North Dakota to Pueblo, Colorado, just in time for the Family Christmas Party—my mother’s side of the family, all good Italian Catholics, with lots and lots of children. At the party, Santa was handing out gifts to the children, calling their names one by one. I squeezed my grandmother’s hand as Santa Claus held up the last gift from his sack, my gift I wondered would it be a new doll? A new book? I couldn’t wait to hear Santa call my name, Diane Williams. With a hearty ho-ho-ho, Santa called out, “Theresa Coffee.”
I felt as if I had been “sucker-punched.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked up at my grandmother, my big Italian nana. “Nana, Santa forgot me.” My nana took me up in her strong, fleshy arms and hugged me, whispering, “Oh, no—Santa did NOT forget you!” She passed me to my parents, and then my grandmother, my nana—worked the crowd.
My parents tried to distract me, but I saw my nana approach Santa and have a short, quiet chat. And then she walked over to her younger brothers, my great uncles, with a sad, determined look in her eye. Soon her brothers went off to work the crowd, too.
A few minutes later, a sheepish-looking Santa approached me, with my nana, grinning like a Cheshire cat, at his side. “Little Diane Williams,” Santa bellowed, “I’m sorry, your gift was stuck at the bottom of my bag.” And he pulled out a wad of bills—over $50—a small fortune to a 6 year old in 1968.
I guess those Mafia connections paid off.
I learned several lessons from my grandmother that day. I learned that sometimes you have to advocate for people who are less able to stand up for themselves. I learned that you don’t have to “settle for,” that you can change the outcome of your situation. And most importantly, I learned that words can be almost magical in changing reality. That day, my grandmother’s few, small and quiet words were more magical than Santa himself.