By KIM POINDEXTER
I read somewhere that most people have more memories about Christmases past than any other life activities, except for special family vacations. I suspect this is because most of us get gifts on this holiday, although we’re more likely to recall fondly a new car in the driveway than a new toothbrush nestled in a stocking next to an M&M-filled plastic candy cane.
My siblings and I always looked forward to the Lifesavers Sweet Storybook. These tasty tomes contained 10 rolls of the holey candy – two each of the mixed fruit, plus wild cherry, butter rum, and then “wint-o-green” and “pep-o-mint.” We crunched through the wild cherry first, then went for the mixed fruit. Being Southern Baptist, we were a little tentative about the butter rum after one of our grandmothers implied they contained alcohol, thereby rendering their consumption a sin. At that time, we didn’t know “scotch” was a type of booze, or “butterscotch” might have lifted a few small eyebrows as well. As for the pep-o-mint and wint-o-green, those either fossilized in the back of a closet, or my parents battened upon them, like they did the licorice and other undesirable candy in our trick-or-treat bags a couple of months earlier.
Before we decided to let him do his thing hassle-free, we used to try to catch Santa in the act. A few cookie crumbs on a plate and an empty glass of milk were not enough for us, so one year, my sister and I conspired to confront the jolly old elf. I was 5, and my sister 3, so I was the mastermind behind the plot. (My family will tell you I’ve always been the mastermind behind every plot, a tradition that continues to this day, but you should not listen to them, because they – like every other Poindexter since time out of mind – are prone to exaggeration.) Lisa and I lay awake in bed until 2 a.m., when we heard the front door creak open, and someone shuffle into the living room. We then heard the crinkly sound that only Christmas wrapping paper can make, and other stealthy movements. It was time to make our move.
We tiptoed down the dark hallway, and when we were about halfway there, we heard a flurry of activity, and someone quickly went out the front door . The tree lights were on, and we could see telltale shapes under the tree, indicating Santa had begun his work – and been rudely interrupted. That’s when we detected the sound of low voices coming from our parents’ bedroom, and footsteps of someone proceeding down the hall. I quickly shoved my sister into the coat closet, and as I pushed the door shut, I heard a muffled scream – the kind emitted by someone with a sock, or a fist, in her mouth. That’s when I noticed two of her fingers jutting from the doorjamb. I opened the door, the restrained wail abruptly halted, and the fingers withdrew into the recesses of the closet. We waited, barely breathing, until the snoopy parent retreated to the master bedroom, then ran back to our own room.
That was proof enough for me that Santa was for real. And we had other evidence, too.
Probably the year before, my grandmother on my dad’s side told us Santa had dropped off a few extra presents at her house. She showed us how some of the shingles on the roof had been chipped, apparently the hooves of cavalier reindeer who gave no thought to whether the homeowners insurance would cover the damage. And there was more. Grandma pointed to a pile of feces on the lawn and sagely identified it as “reindeer doodoo.” I felt she had overplayed her hand, because the fresh coils looked an awful lot like the poop produced by my uncle’s Weimaraner.
Several years later, when we had moved to Fort Gibson but were still young enough to be making prank phone calls and playing with dolls, my sister swore she heard hooves on the roof one Christmas Eve. A few days later, I was playing outside and noticed a raccoon crossing from the garage roof onto the limb of one of the pecan trees. Another year, Lisa insisted she kept hearing sleigh bells. This was an especially cold winter, and because my dad was afraid of the open-flame stove in our upstairs bedroom, we sometimes slept on cots in the master bedroom, downstairs. Funny thing was, I heard the bells as well – intermittently, just for five or 10 seconds at a time. I didn’t think much more about it until I heard the same bells on Christmas night. I knew that Santa, if he existed, would have to be back at the North Pole by then, and besides, the jingling seemed to be coming from below one of the windows of the bedroom, rather than from the roof. When I went to the window to investigate, I could barely make out our German shepherd. That dog was always outside the window of whatever room our family was in at any given moment, and she had dug a hole outside my parents’ bedroom. There she was, lifting a hind leg to briskly scratch around her collar. The rabies tag striking the buckle was making the noise.
Although some of these bits of purported evidence have turned out to be red herrings, there are other signs St. Nick has been making his rounds in Tahlequah: No one seems to be able to keep a bottle of scotch for very long this time of year. And really, who can blame the guy.
Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.