My phone rings.
“Hello?” I say.
“Yes. Hello, ” says the child’s voice. “Is this Mister Sean?”
“Speaking. Although please don’t call me ‘Mister Sean,’ because it makes me feel like a PBS children’s host.”
“Oh. What am I supposed to call you?”
“Please, call me Your Honor. Who am I speaking to?”
“Hi, my name is Rachel.”
“Nice to meet you, Rachel, may I ask you a question?”
“How old are you?”
“And how did you get this number?”
“Your wife gave my mom your number. She said I could call you. Is that okay?”
“Perfectly okay. What can I do for you?”
“Well. Um. My brother told me Santa Claus is fake.”
“He did what?”
“Uh-huh. And then I started crying. And my mom told me I should talk to you because you sometimes talk to kids. But nobody knew how to get ahold of you.”
“So how did you manage to reach me?”
“Well, my mom’s cousin said she knew your wife’s uncle, so my aunt called her friend in Century, and then she called a lady from Andalusia, and her cousin gave us your wife’s brother-in-law’s number, and anyway, now I’m talking to you. I have a question to ask.”
“Do you think Santa is real?”
“Do I think Santa is real?”
“Of course he’s real, Rachel. Why would you even ask?”
“Because I don’t know what to believe anymore. May I ask you another question, Mister Sean. How do you know he’s real?”
“Well, for one thing, Rachel, I’ve met him.”
“You’ve met Santa? The REAL one? Because the one at the Dillards is fake.”
“First off, the one at Dillards is not fake. And the one at Super Target isn’t either.”
“No, ma’am. These men are all Sentinels Of Santa. ‘SOS’ for short.”
“That’s right. These are men imbued with the legal authority of Santa, and all the fiscally affirmed rights thereof. These agents of the North Pole undergo rigorous training to earn the rank of Sentinel.”
“Yes. And once they are promoted to SOS, they are charged with the responsibility of gathering Christmas requests from children all over the nation, and delivering them to Santa.”
“It’s sorta like the NASCAR pit crew. They might not be Dale Earnhardt Jr. himself, but they dang sure rotate his tires. So they’re pretty close to the head honcho.”
“Wait. I’m confused. I just want to know if Santa is real. My brother said Santa is just a lie people make up for kids.”
“Rachel. I know this will be hard to hear. But your brother is—no offense—a nincompoop.”
“Someone who doesn’t believe in Santa. Anyone who doesn’t believe in Santa is a major mouthbreather.”
“Listen, Rachel, are you a churchgoer?”
“What kind of church do you go to?”
“My mom is Presbyterian and my dad watches football.”
“Okay. So do you know what saints are?”
“Yes. I do. They won the Superbowl before I was born.”
“No. Different saints. Saints are people with an exceptional degree of closeness to God.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means they’re people just like you and me, only they are super focused on doing good stuff for other people. This has earned them the title of Saint. They’re really nice folks, and we recognize them as special because of their selflessness.”
“You mean, people like my grandma?”
“Well. Usually, saints are, technically, dead.”
“My grandma is only 73.”
“So she has a long way left to go.”
“Are you saying Santa is a saint?”
“Yes. I am. He was named Saint Nicholas. He was a bishop in ancient Greece, modern-day Turkey. Now, I know this is a lot to process, but try to keep up, Rachel. Saint Nick is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, unmarried people, and students in various cities and countries around Europe.”
“What is a pawnbroker?”
“Never mind. Saint Nick got his reputation through the habit of secret gift-giving. It was how he got his kicks. He gave presents to people. He accepted no credit.”
“The Dutch called him Sinterklass.”
“The Mexicans call him Pancho Claus.”
“The Chinese call him Shen Dang Lao Ren.”
“The Irish call him Santy.”
“People in Austin, Texas, call him Willie.”
“The Russians call him Дед Мороз.”
“How do you know all this?”
“The Norwegians call him JULEGRØT.”
“The Swedish call him Tomte.”
“Is this true?”
“The point is, Rachel, the whole WORLD can’t be wrong about Santa, can they? Saint Nick was all about love and kindness. That was the whole basis of his life. Does that sound fake to you?”
“Well. I don’t know. I just want to know where all my bike came from. I just want to know if Santa is a real man, or if it’s all just an act.”
“Alright, Rachel. How about you try this? Get your mother to drive you into town. Go to Dillards. Buy a nice present.”
“Now. Give that present to someone who really needs it. Someone truly in need. And do it in secret. Without accepting any credit. Just like Saint Nick.”
“Now tell me something. After you’re finished doing that, and you’re feeling good inside, all warm and squishy, like you’ve just won the lottery…”
“If someone’s snotty brother were to call you a fake, would you really care?”
“You’re right,” she says. “I always knew my brother was an idiot.”
“Let’s not use that word.”
“Sorry, Your Honor.”
Susie - November 28, 2022 9:22 am
OMG, Sean, this has GOT to be one of your best.
Carol from GA - November 28, 2022 9:43 am
Well…. there you go! Too funny!
Diana - November 28, 2022 12:10 pm
Debbie g - November 28, 2022 12:32 pm
I love it!!. Thank you 😊 💓 for making my morning and the rest of the day. Yes there really is a Santa Claus 🧑🎄 🤶.
Susie - February 24, 2023 10:00 pm
Almost as believable as there is a god.
Anne Arthur - November 28, 2022 12:42 pm
We are right now in the phase where two grandkids are doubting the reality of St. Nicholas. I’ll work along your lines. Thank you.
Marsha Hamby Savage - November 28, 2022 12:46 pm
Fantastic reading. You make my day many times during the week. I share your posts on my Facebook page for my friends to read your words and hopefully sign up for your newsletter. I call it my morning coffee and read. Sometimes I have one, sometimes nothing, but most times I have one or two newsletters that I “must” share. Your almost always one of them! Thank you for your writing and your giving nature.
Linda Lewis - November 28, 2022 1:22 pm
What a delightful story. It’s perfect for this Christmas season. Reading it warmed my heart and made me smile. Merry Christmas.
Debbie g - November 28, 2022 1:37 pm
Sean. We love you!!! Merry Christmas
And love to all us too❤️❤️❤️
Robert Sheppard Smyth - November 28, 2022 1:50 pm
One of your most memorable,THANKS
Stephen - November 28, 2022 1:54 pm
David from CA - November 28, 2022 2:04 pm
Ho! Ho! Ho! 👍👍
JoAnne Bowes - November 28, 2022 2:29 pm
Sean, brilliant ! You convinced me!
David - November 28, 2022 2:50 pm
Probably made that little girls day!
Patricia Gibson - November 28, 2022 2:51 pm
Santa is very real!!!love it!
Sheri K - November 28, 2022 2:58 pm
I’m thinking that seven year old is a bit lost with some of your terms, BUT us adults are sure laughing!!! Love it! Good morning Sean and Jamie!
Faye - November 28, 2022 3:04 pm
Love and laughter!! Nothing more to wish for…
Barbara - November 28, 2022 3:21 pm
As always. A goodun.
sjhl7 - November 28, 2022 3:33 pm
Perfect! Thank you, Sean.
Stacey Wallace - November 28, 2022 3:34 pm
Thanks,Sean. That made my husband and I laugh. Yea, Rachel, there is a Santa Claus. Love to you, Jamie, and Marigold.
Ralph - November 28, 2022 3:34 pm
Sorry to have to say it, but you’re the fake! I think you should have called her a 10 yr. old, cause I don’t know of many 7 yr. olds that would understand that much. But that’s ok, keep your stories coming! I enjoy most of them!
Joan Mitchell - November 28, 2022 3:41 pm
You have written another treasure. I think you are an SOS. Merry Christmas Sean!
Beverly deJarnette - November 28, 2022 4:06 pm
One of your most precious notes!!!! Thank you, Santa❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
Skeeter - November 28, 2022 4:34 pm
When my kids asked me, I said, “Santa is as real as I am. Am I real?” When they said, “Yes.” I said, “Well there you go then.”
Perri Williamson - November 28, 2022 4:41 pm
Literally, if you’re not talking about Jaime, this is your best column to date. It’s hysterical. So southern we don’t even have to fight about sweet or unsweet cornbread, because on this point I’m right all day long—SWEET!
You owe me for my dry cleaning bill. I got a little carried away laughing. And perhaps some topical analgesic from slapping my leg so hard.
Seriously. The Braves may as well have one the World Series this is so good.
And quit listening to the naysayers. I need to know what’s going on with the real celebrity—Marigold!
Quit flitting all over the place and fill us in. Her fans want to know, your honor.
MAM - November 28, 2022 9:09 pm
That was awesome, and I was 7 years old a LONG time ago. I tried hard to keep up, but I understand why she didn’t. That had to be one of your most inspired! Thanks, Sean!
Linda Moon - November 28, 2022 10:24 pm
Thank you for your gift of story, Saint Sean. I’ve believed in you from the first time I read a story of yours and received many gifts of live music and storytelling from you since then. Christmastime’s a’comin’!
Debbie - November 28, 2022 10:25 pm
Love this! I tell my kids (45, 41, 40 and 34) If you don’t believe, you don’t receive! I’m raising two granddaughters who are 8 and 9. I’m sure the question about Santa is coming soon. I dread it. We are Christians and know the real meaning of Christmas. Santa is a fun game.
Melissa Brown - November 28, 2022 11:46 pm
You are so good – l loved this sweet story. Hope you have a Merry Christmas 🎅
Rebecca Soude4rs - November 29, 2022 12:53 am
Yes, Sean Dietrich, your honor, you got it right again!
Joan Beasley - November 29, 2022 1:19 am
Loved this ❣️
You are so talented!! I’m going to share this story with my little nephews.
Plus I look forward to more of your writings.
imcdbw - November 29, 2022 1:42 am
Sean Dietrich, you are a good, good person! I love how you handled that! Bravo! Bravo! Bellissima!
ocasey - November 29, 2022 2:10 am
Alllen - November 29, 2022 1:18 pm
I have PROOF that Santa is real. He keeps putting things on my credit card every year! And after the grandchildren arrived it has only increased every year.
Dawnie B - November 29, 2022 7:39 pm
macblair1936yahoocom - November 29, 2022 10:22 pm
Did not receive anything on Tues, anybody else??????????
Joan Vibert - November 30, 2022 6:04 pm
Susie - February 24, 2023 9:57 pm
Sean, you have a great gift of humor, especially tongue-in-cheek humor. Why shouldn’t kids believe in Santa!? And that he makes us to every house on Xmas Eve. Why not! It’s almost as believable as god hearing every mumbled prayer, after all, Amirite?