My mother was furious but couldn’t do much about it – there was no use in shutting the door after the horse had left the barn. But she was even more upset that her six-year-old continued to mourn the loss of Santa Claus.
A few weeks later, we drove to Shreveport to spend Christmas with my father’s family, which meant staying at my grandmother’s house. From my perspective, my grandmother was Christmas magic 365 days a year. I adored her and she adored me, and all was right with the world. Even with the loss of Santa.
As we neared Shreveport, my father asked me was there any way I might believe in Santa Claus again. By this time resigned and embittered, I said the most outrageous thing I could think of. “I’ll believe in Santa if I get a puppy for Christmas.” Everyone laughed. I wasn’t getting a puppy for Christmas.
On Christmas Day, we drove to my aunt and uncle’s house for the family get-together. Presents had been opened earlier that morning at my grandmother’s. As we sat in the living room, my uncle mentioned that Santa Claus had made a special stop at their house the night before.
The cynical six-year-old rolled his eyes. Right. Like I was going to fall for that again.
My uncle went to a back bedroom, and returning, guiding something with his foot. As he rounded the sofa in the living room, I could see what he had.
A beautiful puppy.
I didn’t have to ask. I knew who the puppy was for.
Struck dumb in wonder, all I managed to say was,”There really is a Santa Claus.”
He was a collie-German shepherd mix, He had the markings of a collie but the form of a shepherd. My father and uncle had found him at the city pound in Shreveport.
We named him Skipper.
My mother still has a photograph of me and Skipper in our backyard in New Orleans. I’m kneeling with my arms around my dog.
He was the best Christmas present ever.
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