We ignored Mom as she told us to get ready for bed. Only one living room light was on and the Christmas tree was standing tall in all its wonder.
But no presents were in sight.
“Santa Claus will not come until after you go to bed.” And as much as we wanted to continue with our play, we knew Mom was right. After gathering our things, we headed for our bedrooms while taking one last look back at the living room — the magical place full of smells, colors, and light, on the night before Christmas.
A lone plate was on the coffee table. On the plate were cookies, plain yet plentiful. And next to that plate was a full glass of milk.
A nearby note read, “To Santa, From the Lowes.”
Mom explained to us that Santa would be hungry when he arrived at our house. He was working hard, all night long. To find a snack at our house would make him very happy.
We no longer questioned the contents of the meal. “Why not a tuna sandwich?” and “Wouldn’t he rather have a piece of fried chicken?” had been answered once and for all in Mom’s usual, matter-of-fact way:
“Santa’s favorite thing to eat on Christmas Eve is milk and cookies. So that’s what he’s going to get.”
Okay, Mom. You know best about this whole Santa thing.
I had no doubt that Santa Claus was the one bringing us presents. Of course he was. Mom said so.
And somehow she made sure that the older siblings didn’t spoil it for the younger ones. Mom loved Christmastime and made sure, despite our circumstances, that Christmas was a joyful and magical time of year.
“Santa will come in the house, bring our presents, have his snack, and then be gone.” She said it, and that’s what we expected to happen as we I slept through Christmas Eve.
We walked into the living room and over to the plate on the coffee table. Awestruck, we looked at the couch with its rumpled look, the plate with its crumbs, and the glass holding a few swallows of milk. A miraculous day had begun.
It’s a precious memory when I think now of how my mother must have felt watching our reactions. Something as simple as a snack for Santa was a gift she could give her children, a way that she could place a little smile, a little joy, into our tough little lives.
I’m sure her heart warmed over as her gift was received.