Every Christmas, I remember all family that has come and gone, but there is one memory in particular that comes to me strongly each year. My grandma, Ida, lived in Manning, Iowa in the mid west of the US. My family lived in Oregon, so it was rare that we would be in Manning,Iowa at Christmas. Christmas in Iowa is really cold. You want a white Christmas? Go there. You want to freeze? Go there. You want a very small town? Go there.

I don’t recall exactly how old I was, but I know I was a teenager, way past believing in Santa. I remember vividly the colourful Christmas lights on the houses on my grandmother’s street. The lights would shine in the dark night and frame each house perfectly in a snowy, bright perfect picture.

It was Christmas Eve, and the family was all getting ready to go to the Children’s Christmas service at church. There was a lot of bustling about, looking for coats, adjusting our Christmas clothes and organising everyone to leave. My grandma said something to me like, “It’s a good thing we’re going to the Children’s service so Santa can come.” She had a twinkle in her eye. I thought it was cute that she thought I might believe in Santa, but I didn’t give it another thought.

After returning to Grandma’s house after church, Grandma said to me, “Oh, I think I’ve just seen Santa going down the street.” My teenaged self couldn’t work out why she was still going on about this. She said to me, “Melissa, go and turn on the lights on the tree, won’t you? Maybe Santa is around.” I went into the lounge and leaned over to turn the lights on the tree that stood beautifully in the front window. After turning the lights on, I rose to look out the window, expecting to see the lights of the house across the street. Instead, there was, standing in front of the window, staring at me, a man in a red suit with a white beard steaming up the front window saying “Ho, Ho, Ho!”
I did what all teenaged girls do- I screamed.

My shrieking brought the whole extended family into the lounge, and along with them, my grandma with the twinkle still in her eye. She said “Did you see Santa?” I was speechless. It was magical.

As it turns out, Santa was actually a fireman named Joe…and I think he was a well known Santa in Manning- but not to us Oregon kids.

This Christmas season, don’t forget to expect the unexpected and find the magic wherever you are. If you know someone whose Christmas is looking less than magic, see if you can add a bit.

From us at Planning for the Next Season, Merry Christmas.